Archive for April 18th, 2007

I’m a journalist, so in an interview I’m usually the one asking the questions. Today, I experienced a role reversal when Samartha Vashishtha published an interview with me in Indus, the online magazine for the India Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. I’ve been interviewed several times before, a couple of times for pod casts and a few more for mainstream publications needing some quick expertise about free software, but for some reason, this time I felt queasier than most.

It’s not that Vashishtha misrepresented me, or anything like that. He doesn’t make say anything I wouldn’t have said. He conducted the interview via email, and, so far as I can see without going to the trouble of a detailed comparison,his largest change was to add exclamations marks. I don’t use many exclamation marks myself – nor many initial capitals, being a lower case sort of person – but no great matter if he did.

On the whole, he did a very professional job, The sense is there, and I even got a plug in for free software, explaining how it would help the developing world in general and India in particular to meet the industrialized world on an equal footing.

I also mentioned that free software projects are also a great place for technical writers to gain experience, since most developers have little interest in documentation and generally welcome anyone willing to undertake the task.

Still, I was a little reluctant to do the interview at first. It’s been three years since I last did a technical writing assignment. In fact, it was the monotony of my last major contract that made me desperate enough to take the leap into journalism.

Besides, how could I be sure that anything I was saying was relevant? I occasionally drop by the Techwr-l mailing list to see what old acquaintances are saying, but I can’t pretend to know the trends in the industry anymore.

Even more importantly, I’ve moved a long way down my road since my last technical writing contract. A large part of the time I was a technical writer, I was facing some of the worst times of life, so on the whole it’s an era of my life that I’m not eager to revisit.

Maybe this uncertainty explains why I sound so stuffy and so full of opinions in the interview. I don’t normally sound that way. (or, if I do, my family and friends are polite enough to pretend otherwise) But, even talking in generalities, perhaps I was circling too close to the bad years, and knew it.

Most importantly, the whole time I was writing my responses, I kept feeling distinctly unsettled. Being a journalist yet being the one interviewed was disorienting, like standing between two mirrors and seeing one of the infinite reflections starting to move independently. I don’t feel important or proud to be interviewed — just dazed at the role reversal involved.

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