TechWhirl Special Writer Yehoshua Paul uncovers the real story of the genesis of technical writing and engineering… and it may not be what you think.
In the beginning God created a technical writer and an engineer.
And the technical writer was without tools, and the knowledge gap was very deep. And then God decided to make things more complicated.
On the first day, God said: “let there be light,” and the engineer developed light, and added in a darkness feature. And God called the light Day, and the darkness Night. And the technical writer sent an e-mail saying: “this is not good.”
“The darkness feature makes no sense. How are users going to use darkness? There is a lot of potential harm for users, and this feature may be abused by users looking to take advantage of it to pillage and murder. You need to add documentation explaining how to use Light properly, with a warning about Darkness.”
And God ignored the e-mail.
On the second day, God said: “let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” And the engineer was confused because water was not included in the specifications. However, the engineer improvised, and developed water, which was salty, and added a firmament, which separated the fresh water from the salty water. And the technical writer sent an e-mail saying: “this is not good.”
“Why do users need a firmament? The firmament makes it extremely difficult to access fresh water in clouds. Also, salty water poses many health risks, and there is a chance users will get sick and die from salt water consumption. This needs to be explained in the documentation, and corrected in the next version.”
And God ignored the e-mail.
On the third day, God instructed the engineer to create dry land to contain the water. However, the land had to contain both salt water and fresh water, and include a feature that allowed users to grow stuff. And so the engineer created dry land, and put the salty water in oceans and seas, and added fresh water rivers and lakes. The engineer designed the earth so that it could bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its own kind, which could then be seeded in the earth. And the technical writer sent an e-mail saying: “This is not good.”
“The engineer neglected to label the oceans and lakes. Users are going to confuse the two. Also, fruits and plants are a great idea, but why poison ivy? I recommend creating a list of bugs so the engineer knows what needs to be corrected, and add it to the help (BTW, when is it due?) for confused users.”
And God forwarded the e-mail to the engineer who ignored it.
On the fourth day, God said: “let there be lights in the heaven so that that annoying technical writer will stop bugging me about the dangers of darkness.” And the engineer designed two great lights, or rather one great light – the sun – and one lesser light – the moon – but rather than fix the moon, the engineer added stars. The engineer set these lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, to control Night and Day, and to separate between Light and Darkness. And the technical writer sent an e-mail saying: “This is not good.”
“Why was I not included in the design meeting? The clouds the engineer created on the second day often hide the stars and moon. How are the users going to use the stars and moon if they can’t see them?”
And God forwarded the e-mail to the engineer who responded: “that’s what electricity is for.” And the technical writer was confused.
On the fifth day, God said: “Let water bring forth life.” And the engineer created whales and plankton, and birds of the feather, and lots of other things that moved on land and in sea, and also bugs. The engineer added a reproduction feature, allowing animals to mate and reproduce. And the technical writer sent an e-mail saying: “This is horrible!”
“Why did the engineer create mosquitoes? And the dodo seems to be kind of a useless feature. However, that’s not the worst of it. The method of reproduction that the engineer chose is extremely controversial! There are many users who are going to find this feature offensive, and boycott your product.”
And God fired the engineer and the technical writer.
On the sixth day, God decided to create Man by himself. Man had many bugs. He complained a lot, and was often lonely. God then created woman to keep man company, but she was worse (hormones!).
On the seventh day God rested. He hired Marketing, and Marketing wrote a user guide called the Bible and all was well.