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New post in Simplifying Complexity series -- Principle 11: Be both a generalist and specialist at the same time

by Tom Johnson on Nov 30, 2018
categories: simplifying-complexity podcasts

In my Simplifying Complexity series, I added a new post called, Principle 11: Be both a generalist and specialist at the same time. I also recorded this essay as a narrated podcast.

Listen here:

You can read the essay here: Principle 11: Be both a generalist and specialist at the same time.

How exactly does the topic of being a generalist or specialist tie in with simplifying complexity? Here’s an excerpt:

Do technical writers, who are typically only familiar with the subjects we write about, need to become engineer-like specialists, focusing in on a couple of domains in depth, so that we can write, edit, and publish more knowledgeably in these domains? Is specialization the only way to handle complexity? Will I need to become a specialist to survive as a technical writer in the future?

Note that this content has undergone multiple iterations:

In this third version, I expanded the research in places, provided better organization in my analysis, and tried to integrate some more personal stories in places. I also narrated it as a podcast. Overall, this still remains a challenging topic, and the length of the article probably shows.

Also, if you’re viewing the essay on my Simplifying Complexity site, you’ll notice that I increased the font a bit. I don’t know if my eyesight is getting worse or what, but while reading it I kept squinting and decided to simply make the text more readable.

I feel like I’ve let this essay occupy quite a bit of attention on my blog lately. With each iteration, I’ve gathered feedback from you through surveys and used the information to write the next version. I don’t always push content through multiple revisions like this. Many blog posts are one-and-done efforts. But this particular topic has been the focus of multiple presentations this year, so it receives continual attention and improvements.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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