Friday, February 27, 2009


A day in the life

Tom Johnson has an interesting post on Quick Reference cards that has double value. For one, it gives good advice on what to do and what to avoid. More importantly, though, it is a great snapshot of what a technical communicator's life is like. I highly recommend it to my academic friends to share with your students, especially those who have not yet started working in the profession. It's not a depressing snapshot, but it does provide a splash of reality in the face.


In the never-ending cube versus office and office versus home discussions, I often hear the argument for the need for a quiet place in which to concentrate. For a lot of my career, the people who invented the stuff I documented have worked in the chaos of common work areas with couches and foosball tables. But to document their output seems to require quiet and to edit that documentation requires greater quiet.

I have no beef with any of that, but it reminds me of an observation I have made about sports, namely that we are wildly inconsistent with our expectations of crowd noise. For example, in baseball the pitcher throws the ball ninety miles an hour at the batter and puts all kinds of curves on it, but the crowd is hysterical "Batta, batta, batta, suhwiiiing batta." In tennis, the server throws the ball to himself and we are all "Quiet, quiet, quiet, everyone, he's SERVING."

In golf the ball isn't even moving and the player is trying to put it into a hole in the ground (not very likely to be dodging around) and again, "Quiet, quiet, quiet, everyone, he's PUTTING." But a quarterback has to hit a moving target while monster-size opponents try to give him a concussion and again, the crowd is screaming.

No point here, just a pithy, Friday morning observation. Life is good these days.


Margaret said...


I think the need for quiet to concentrate on writing or proofing vs the the ability to concentrate and accomplish something in a malestrom is something instilled at a young age. Growing up in the post WWII baby boom in a small house with 6 kids, I learned to do my homework while my brother had a baseball game on the radio (before everyone used earphones), my sister played pop records or the top 40 radio program, and the little kids amused themselves in various high-pitched ways as little kids always do. (But I had friends whose mothers made sure they had a quiet room to do their homework in.) Consequently, I can shut out tv and other noises around me and concentrate on reading something to the point that my family has fun saying outrageous things about me and betting on how long it will take me to notice.

It's nice to concentrate in quiet, but some of our kids are so used to being plugged in to ipods and mp3 players that they can't do homework without that background.

To each generation its own, I guess. Different job environments require different adaptations. Not everyone thrives in chaos!

Anonymous said...

For me, it depends on what I'm working on. Planning or architecting or critical thinking requires a quiet environment. Executing on the plan, I like the stimulation of conversation and, yes, foosball around me.

Interesting observation about sports/noise. I was tempted to speculate that there's a corrolation between the need for adrenaline and the noise factor, but I think you'd benefit from adrenaline in tennis, too. Perhaps not as much as in football though.


Alistair Christie said...

Personally, I can work in a noisy office without any problem. I seem to be able to tune out conversation so that I just don't hear it. However, I can't tune out music.

It's quite common for the software developers I work with to listen to music, on headphones, while they work. If I listen to music, I'm *listening* to it and no work gets done.

Weirdly, although I can tune out all the conversations going on around me, as soon as someone mentions "documentation" or "help system" or "the manuals" - zap! I'm hearing every word of it.