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Basic questions for in-the-field programmer

Posted on 2004-09-19
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These are going to be easy points for someone, so you know, but please make it as worthwhile as you can.

So I'm a student at a local university and I am enrolled in a technical writing class where, this week, we have an assignment to interview someone actually working in our field of study (in my case, as a Computer Science major, that would be you folks) and ask them some basic questions which we'll write up.  I had someone already lined up, he was supposed to get back to me, and then he fell off the face of the earth.  There's not time enough to find anyone else (i.e. due asap) and I don't know people to call, so I figured this would be the next best thing.

I need someone who is currrently working in the programming field to answer a few very basic questions and give me a little background on where they work and what they do there.  You can post it as a response here, or you can email it to brian@pyrames.com.  Either way, I'll get you your points.

So here's the Q's:
1. What communities do you belong to?
2. What form does your writing take (memos, letters, proposals, etc.) and who are the audiences for these documents?
3. What is the most important thing that I should learn from my technical writing class?
4. Also, briefly, what is your background and your current place of employment?

Thanks again.  Normally I wouldn't go for this sort of thing, but I need this grade and I'm not about to lose out because of someone else's mistake.

-Brian Whitmer
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Question by:pyrames
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PreachDotNet earned 500 total points
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I work for an organisation who is implementing RFID chips at the pallet level, Walmart is driving the development of RFID forward and many companies need some form of bespoke solution to the problem.
I made the transition from VB6 which I've been programming in for years and was impressed with the shallow learning curve and extended benefits.  I am also glad VB programmers now have the wealth of tools available that C programmers had.  (contentious i know)
So my remit is to program a Pocket PC solution to capture the RFID tag data and develop our in house database beyond the subjective barcode (this is a can of coke) to an objective item by item system (this is can of coke no. 43 from batch 27 built on 1/1/2004).
I don't tend to belong to any agencies, although I am exempt from the British Computer Societies entrance exams due to my degree.  I find these groups are generally reactive to the environment and offer little of benefit to practical programmers.
I generally write draft proposals for works processes, works processes change as systems are introduced and these need to be outlined.  As I examine the field I have become the expert in my area within the organisation, so it is also my remit to propose solutions to clients.  On a frequent basis I will submit a report to management outlining where we are, what we hope to acheive and any new developments in the field.
At the outset of a project I will write the system brief, cost benefit analysis and functional requirements, during the project I will submit reports on milestones met.
The most important thing you will learn will be to express yourself clearly and concisely, you will also learn to differentiate between items you would like to see implemented and those that must be implemented.  It is difficult to separate yourself from the system.  Of course to differentiate you will need to put forward arguments that back up your proposal.
Very early on you will learn not to obfuscate (why is that such a long word)  There is a huge tendency in the software development lifecycle to use jargon, as our problem domain is always defined by non technical staff, and all our proposals go to non technical staff it is important to speak in clear plain english.
I hope that helps.
I shouldnt really be helping you with course work but as the required delivery requires outside consultation I don't believe your gaining an advantage using EE.
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by:pyrames
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No, you're not doing me any favors I, don't worry.  This isn't cheating.  I just needed a topic of material to write about, and I was hitting quite the dead end in that respect.  Thanks for your help.

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