Hi, I'm Tom Johnson, a technical writer in the San Francisco Bay area.

In case you'd like to know a little bit about me, I'm a technical writer currently based in Seattle, working for Google. (Previously, I was at Amazon and a couple of startups in the Bay area.)

On this blog, which focuses on technical writing, I write about topics such as the following:

  • Technical communication
  • Swagger and OpenAPI
  • Agile
  • Tech comm trends and news
  • Learning
  • Information usability
  • Quick reference guides
  • Tech comm careers

For more details, see the tags list. For more details about me, see My life story, or reflections on what shaped my life's career trajectory.

My main interest this year focuses on how to simplify complexity. Main strategies for simplication involve enabling movement between macro and micro modes (such as through workflow and task maps), aligning with industry language and defining terms, abstracting away potentially unnecessary or advanced information from first-level views, and more.

Were You Always a Technical Writer?

Like most technical writers, I stumbled into technical writing after working in other fields. I previously taught writing for a couple of years at The American University in Cairo (Egypt), and then I worked as a copywriter in Florida.

After a while, I realized I needed more money to support my family, so I turned to technical writing and started working for a financial company, Raymond James. To my surprise, I found that I actually liked technical writing — a lot more than copywriting. Technical writing combines my love for writing with my fascination for technology.

I worked at Raymond James for a couple of years before heading out west to Utah, where I worked for the government, a non-profit organization in Utah, and then moved to California to work for a startup company called Badgeville, Experian, and now Amazon. By the way, the views on my blog are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

What's Your Educational Background?

I earned my undergraduate in English at Brigham Young University in Utah. After BYU, I earned an MFA in literary nonfiction at Columbia University's School of the Arts in New York City.

My degree in literary nonfiction carries over to the writing style on this blog. At times, I try to infuse my posts with story and literary devices, weaving narrative with exploration of a topic. My favorite genre is the personal essay. Some of my good posts, I like to think, are like mini-personal essays.

Do You Have a Personal Life?

Yes, I'm married and have four children.

me and my family

We like to explore different places, such as this old log cabin in the Redwoods.

Tom Johnson, log cabin in Redwoods

My wife, Shannon, also has a blog (called Seagull Fountain). We met at BYU in the Writing Fellows program — she was an English major too. (In case you're curious, we used to be Mormon, but now we are not.)

What else should I know about you?

Unlike many vendors and consultants, I'm a technical writer in the trenches, working for a company. This context helps me relate well to issues other technical writers are experiencing.

I like to keep an open mind and try new techniques and processes. Sometimes I change my mind on topics, so always keep the post date in mind.

Why do you write so much?

One of the most frequent questions people ask me is why I write so much, or how I find the time to write so much.

For answers to why I write, see this related post: Why I'm So Visible.

As for the time, we all make time for our hobbies, right? Even writing 30 minutes every couple of days will lead to a couple of posts a week.

My favorite quote about writing is by Erasmus, a 16th century Dutch renaissance humanist. He said:

The desire to write grows with writing.

This principle is even more true on a blog. When you write a good post, you get immediate feedback. The impact inspires you to write more. Blogging has so many more elements to it than mere writing. Blogging involves search engine optimization, publishing and blog platforms, social interaction and community, the world wide web, and more. Blogging makes writing a game.

My second favorite quote is Walt Whitman. I once saw this on a bicyclist's grave site:

Free from limitations and imaginary lines.

Actually, this is an adaptation from his poem, Song of the Open Road. The actual line is, "From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines." But when I die, this is what I'd like put on my gravestone.

When I write, I like to explore outside the boundaries of conventional thought and practices. I like to question assumptions, try new tools and methods, and look at problems in new ways.

How Do I Contact You?

If you have a question for me, or just want to drop me a line, send your feedback to the e-mail address below.

Tom Johnson
tomj[email protected]
Seattle, Washington, USA

You can also contact me through other methods on my Contact page.