A techwriter dies and goes to heaven…

Originally posted on The Humane Experience blog; reprinted here with permission. By Michael Hughes.

Mike Hughes

A techwriter dies and goes to heaven and she finds herself at the pearly gates before St. Peter. He looks over her record and decides she is worthy to enter heaven.

“We’ve upgraded our services recently,” he tells her, “so that you now have access to a more personalized heaven experience. Since you are a technical writer, I’ll show you several versions of heaven behind some of those doors over there that have been expressly designed to enhance the technical communicator’s heaven experience.”

“Wow,” the techwriter replies with excitement.

“The only problem,” St. Peter tells her, “is I just got a text message from the boss and I have to handle it. I’ll be back in a few minutes and then I’ll give you a tour of your heavenly options.”

With that, St. Peter steps away, leaving the techwriter standing in front of three doors. Her curiosity gets the better of her and she opens the first door. There she sees a work station with a bazillion-pixel, high def screen, screaming CPU with graphical coprocessors, loaded with all of the latest authoring tools and a high-speed connection to the UWW (Universal Wide Web). She tries a Google search and instead of getting two-million hits she gets just five, and they are the perfect five.

“This is way cool,” she thinks to herself.

She decides to see what’s behind the second door. There she finds a cosmic Starbucks. Instead of walls and windows, the table are open to the entire universe and you can almost touch the planets and the stars. Instead of paper cups, the coffee is served in deep blue china mugs. She sees a person putting sugar into her latte (in heaven sugar has no calories) when a tiny paper clip walks across the table and knocks on the mug with a sound of tiny knuckles on glass–tink tink tink!

The paper clip speaks, “I see you’re trying to sweeten your coffee, can I …”

At that point the person fixing her coffee picks up the paper clip, takes a rubber band, and shoots the paper clip out into the vast emptiness of space.

“How cool is that,” says the techwriter.

St. Peter hasn’t returned yet, so she looks behind the third door. There she sees a technical communicator in a meeting room with developers and she is discussing a user interface being projected onto a screen at the front of the room.

“For one thing,” she says to the developers, “you’ve used ‘data base’ as two words in the title but as one word in the actual screen. Our style guide says database should be one word.”

There is a general round of approvals and one of the developers says, “That’s why we need technical communicators on the team.”

The technical communicator at the front of the room continues, “And if the user doesn’t put the right date format in the date field, you pop up a rather cryptic error message. I think you should just put in some client-side scripting that accepts the user’s format and converts it to the format the database requires.”

Once again, a general round of approvals and someones says, “Of course, it takes a technical communicator to see it from the user’s side. We were too focused on the back-end requirements.”

And then the technical communicator says, “I have a report from a usability test we did with real users doing authentic tasks with this UI. I can make the results available to you.”

Once again, enthusiasm abounds around the table and someone says, “This is why we need technical communicators on the dev team, they keep us focused on the user, and they have real data to back it up.”

At this point, the techwriter hears St. Peter returning and she hurries back to the gate.

“Well,” St. Peter says, “let’s show you some options for your personalized heaven experience.”

“Oh, St. Peter,” she says, “I can save you some time. I found my technical communicator heaven; it’s behind the third door.”

St. Peter looks disappointed. “Oh no,” he says, “there’s been a misunderstanding. That’s not technical communicator heaven; that’s the door to developer’s hell.

Interview with Michael A. Hughes; Author of “A Research Primer for Technical Communication”


5 thoughts on “A techwriter dies and goes to heaven…

  1. Reblogged this on Notes from the Metaverse and commented:
    While I don’t do theology on this blog (or much of anywhere), and I definitely would replace the coffee with Diet Mountain Dew Code Red… I’d be pretty comfortable in any of these scenarios. Don’t want to brag (OK, maybe I do), but I have actually heard some of those words from devs!

    Happy New Year to all!

  2. Pingback: A techwriter dies and goes to heaven… « The Xenohistorian Weblog

  3. As a search engine optimization professional, I found this story equally appropriate to the SEO craft. We work with a lot of businesses whose websites fail to communicate their value proposition to both customers and the search engines. It’s all about communication!

  4. Amusing, but the feedback she gives the developers is the province of the usability expert. Tech writers may get handed that poisoned chalice work to do, but it’s nothing to do with technical writing.

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