What is a 'Programmer Writer'?

A programmer writer (sometimes known as a programming writer) develops documentation that developers need to do their jobs. This encompasses writing technical references as well as guides to programming techniques and sample code to demonstrate the techniques. To develop documentation, the programmer writer researches features and functions, writes code to figure out how things work, and translates the knowledge gained into written documentation.

Some of the attributes of a programmer writer are:

  • A passion for technology and for software that uses those technologies.
  • Possess good programming skills in languages such as c, c++, c#, Java, Visual Basic (VB), and others.
  • A natural curiosity about how things work.
  • An enjoyment of learning.
  • Self-confidence to ask a developer for information and the willingness to research the issues before talking to the developer.
  • The ability to ask for help from others and to be able to say "I don't know" or "I don't understand."
  • Good communication skills — both written and verbal.
  • Strong problem-solving skills.
  • Excellent time management skills and the ability to meet tight deadlines.
  • Tenaciousness in keeping up with continually changing code and interfaces.
  • Adaptability and flexibility to work with schedules and priorities that change frequently.
  • The patience to deal with changes that occur during the course of the project.
  • An ability to learn quickly.
  • Self-directed and a strong self-starter.
  • Is an advocate for the customer and for user education.

Tasks that a programmer writer may perform as part of his or her job:

  • Writing sample applications, if none exist to demonstrate specific technologies or techniques.
  • Reading code to understand how things work.
  • Figuring out how programmers will use the application programming interface (API).
  • Translating implementation specifications to reference information.
  • Spelunking through header files to validate reference information.
  • Completing drafts for technical review.
  • Incorporating feedback from reviewers.
  • Fixing errors that have been found in the documentation.
  • Working with editors during edit passes and handling queries that editors raise.
  • Talking to testers, developers, and engineers from developer support to get information.
  • Managing assignments to meet schedules.
  • Developing tutorials around samples.
  • Participating in team meetings with developers or documentation team members.
  • Staying informed by keeping up on e-mail from aliases that provide information about project issues and status.

The programmer writer (programming writer) job title seems to be a creation of Microsoft, though many technology companies (companies such as Amazon and Bea Systems) seem to be adding the job title to their ranks. Microsoft has been standardizing on the programming writer title recent years.