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Newsletter: Why engineers need to write, tech writers in pop culture, 101 subreddit, Cambrian period of AI (April 4, 2023)

by Tom Johnson on Apr 4, 2023
categories: technical-writing ainews

The following are a few interesting links related to tech comm I've been reading this week.

Why Engineers Need To Write, by Ryan Peterman

Ryan Peterman says that as he moved up to a mid-level engineer role, he started writing more. He found that writing helped him scale his influence—guiding other writers, providing reviews of code, authoring design docs, and more. He notes: “At the end of the day, you can only ship so much code by yourself. You can have much more impact by influencing others to ship what matters most. Writing is the most scalable way to influence others.” The article is short and sweet but perfectly underscores the influence that writing, aka documentation, can have on engineering. Writing provides a powerful influence on the engineering coding activities all around us.

Fabrizio Ferri Benedetti has a thought-provoking post about the absence of technical writer roles in media. TV shows are full of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, but tech writers, if ever present, seem to be oddballs. Their absence in mainstream media only furthers confusion and lack of understanding of the tech writer role. No one quite grasps what we do. Perhaps with more media representation, the story could change.

New technicalwriting101 subreddit, started by Bobby Kennedy

If you browse the /r/technicalwriting subreddit, you probably get tired of seeing newbie posts asking the same questions over and over. A new space is now available: /r/technicalwriting101. New tech writers can ask all the beginner questions they want. Bobby Kennedy, one of the moderators, introduced the subreddit as follows: “There’s an active subreddit r/technicalwriting that sees the same questions from the ‘tech writing curious,’ despite a number of pinned posts covering many issues for newbies. / So this is a place to ask away, pinned posts or not!” For example, are you curious what a day in the life of a tech writer is like, how you break into tech comm, whether your portfolio is any good, or how you acquire experience to get your foot in the door? These questions are welcome here.

The Cambrian Period of AI, by Lachlan Gray

Lachlan Gray compares the rapid acceleration and growth of AI innovation to the Cambrian period’s explosion of life. Before the Cambrian period, life continued for millions of years without much change. Then seemingly all of a sudden, many new life forms started to emerge and change. In the case of the Cambrian period, abundant oxygen enabled the burst of life. Will AI tools provide a similar oxygen boost to enable us with new capabilities? Given the innovation in the past few months, it seems we’re in a unique, Cambrian-like time with the technology. Gray concludes, “Tying it together, a big diversification is likely coming, and it will almost certainly be extremely multifarious in objectives.” The diversification trajectory echoed a point I made in an earlier post titled Technical diversity/pluralism/fragmentation in tech comm. Although some think AI could displace tech writing jobs, a Cambrian-like explosion of new life in technology, leading to big diversification, could likewise provide many more tech writing opportunities.

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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