By Robert Delwood
Lead API Writer
Change is possible but we're going to have to whine a lot.
A few years ago there was an odd situation at airports. There'd be 50 taxis and 50 people and yet both groups would have to wait up to an hour. You'd think the obvious solution was that each person would get directly into a taxi. The problem would be solved in five minutes. Instead, there was a system in place that guaranteed to make everyone wait. Each customer could only get into the first taxi, and everyone else has to wait their turn. In fact, you'd get in trouble if you tried picking your own taxi. I'm not sure what it was designed to do. The net result didn't move efficiently. Even though everone had a vested interest in moving. The customers want to get to where they were going. The taxi drivers wanted fares and come back for more. The airport wanted to clear the congestion. Let's call this system broken. We'll get back to this in a moment.
I have always maintained that technical communicators are among the most put upon groups. Specifically, we'll never get the tools we need. In contrast, developers get all the tools they want. Perhaps because they're the very group who can write their own tools, but more likely it's because they're a large enough group that third parties support them. We're neither. Until each writing group has their own developer, we're seemingly stuck in a rut. By tools, I mean both high level and low level ones. High level tools are those applications like MadCap Flare, and Microsoft Word. Low level ones are those tools that would be unique to each writing group, idiomatic to individual writers, but may even be one off tools. It's clear why no business would write something for a single usage. And as for the other tools, we already have Flare so what's the problem? We need more and better tools. So as a group, we have to ask one question: What can we do to get more tools?
It turns out, plenty. We have to learn to make our needs known. We can do this in three ways.
Then again, maybe one person can change an industry. Going back to the taxi story, Garrett Camp cofounded Uber when he noticed a problem in the then current system. The idea is simple: Use cell phones to make cars come to you. Better yet, it's one of those ideas that make you say "I could have done that." It's admirable because they're using resources we all have but in a new way.