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My podcast about writing with Ellis Pratt on Cherryleaf

by Tom Johnson on Dec 13, 2018
categories: podcast-guest technical-writing

I recently chatted with Ellis Pratt on his Cherryleaf podcast. The episode is called Podcast 49: Should you specialise? Interview with Tom Johnson. We chatted about a whole bunch of topics, not just the should you specialize question in the title. Topics include purposes for writing, the influence of blog and podcasts, long and short forms of content, evidence for trends, what employers are looking for in jobs, unicorn candidates, how to define yourself, and more. If you like podcasts, definitely listen to this one.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or go directly to the Cherryleaf post: Podcast 49: Should you specialise? Interview with Tom Johnson.

Alan Houser noted on Twitter that this podcast is “unusually introspective, always insightful”:

Here’s a list of some of the topics discussed:

  • Why I write so much on my blog, and purposes for writing
  • How the personal essay format fits so well into blogging
  • Blogging as a means of discovery versus simply expressing knowledge
  • The influence of blogs and podcasts, and how this leads to presentations and workshops
  • Why a 1,000-word mediocre post might lead to more clicks on ads (the negative influence of social media on writing)
  • The growing influence of voice and why I’m reading my longer posts
  • The original reason for my series on simplifying complexity, and where there was more disagreement/controversy
  • Finding evidence for trends to know which direction we’re really moving
  • Why academics are also looking at trends (so they can prepare their students for success in the workplace)
  • Why job ads often look for candidates that don’t exist, such as someone who can program in 5 languages and who also has strong writing abilities
  • Why it’s so difficult to measure writing as you’re evaluating candidates during job searches (and why checking boxes for technical skills is much easier)
  • Ellis’s perspective as a recruiter in determining what companies are looking for in candidates
  • Why deep technical knowledge is essential for writing in the developer domain (if you want to avoid merely being an editor/publisher)
  • How you define yourself – as a generalist, doc tooling specialist, programming languages, API documentation, or other area?
  • Why API documentation is getting simpler in part through standards such as the OpenAPI specification
  • Why people don’t always value writing, and how tech writers are embracing different specializations as a result
  • Strategies to reduce complexity by separating tool knowledge from content knowledge

Here are links to some of the articles we discussed:

You can find more podcasts from Ellis at Cherryleaf > Podcasts.

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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