Friday, November 12, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Being a Tech Writer

I was in the process of writing a nice post about Christmas, and then something obnoxious and work-related happened.

As I've expressed previously, I really like my job. It's easy and convenient. I work from home, I work whatever hours I want to, and the pay is like three times what I was making at Macy's. So, I mean, it's a really good job, and I am grateful that I have it.

That does not mean, however, that it's not insanely annoying at times.

I'm a technical writer. I write scripts for software training videos that get sold to various companies who are changing or upgrading their software and want their employees to be able to say that they've been trained in whatever software. I started out writing for Excel, and it was fine. Recently, though, we've switched to SharePoint. SharePoint is an online shared server kind of a deal. A company buys a SharePoint server, and then everyone in the company can add document libraries and image galleries and do all kinds of collaborative work. I can definitely see how a SharePoint server would be extremely helpful to a company that wants their employees to collaborate and for all the important resources to be available in a central location. It's a good product, and I'm sure there's a hell of a market for it.

Writing for it is terrible. You see, I write at least ten scripts a week. Each writer is required to do at least five, I try to do at least ten because I get paid per produced script and Lord knows Nate and I could use the money.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge there are only three editors. Three editors to edit everything, and the company I work for produces videos for several different kinds of software concurrently. As a result, sometimes it takes them a while to get to scripts that I've written. This was not a problem with Excel.

It's kind of a problem with SharePoint, and I'll tell you why. SharePoint is user-driven. Anyone working on the project has access to our demo site and everyone has the ability to change anything they want. So if I write something, and it doesn't get looked at for two weeks, the site could be completely different from the one I wrote about.

I've had to write a single script three times now for that exact reason. Someone added something to the page I was describing after I wrote the script, so I didn't see it, but it was there when it was edited. So I had to re-write the script to add that feature to it. Then, by the time it made it through editing again, that feature had been deleted. So I had to go in and take that part out. And it would have been fine the first time if the editors were looking at the scripts in some kind of a timely manner, but they aren't.

What really gets me, though, is that if an author is given revisions from an editor, the project manager wants them done within twenty-four hours. I cannot tell you the number of times I've revised a script the day the editor looked at it, sometimes within the hour that the editor finished with it, and then it sat there for five days before anyone looked at it again.

Again, I'm glad that I have this job. It's a job that I honestly enjoy, which is weird. I like that I can be productive and contribute to a project, but sometimes it makes me nuts.

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