Philip Sugg

I’m a technical writer with a background in software, the humanities, the arts, and startups.

These pages document the various pieces of my professional life. They’re also a chance to reflect on my experience for future use.

If you find something here helpful or interesting or want to talk more, please do contact me. I hope to reach at least a few people through this site that I would not have met otherwise.

So far, my professional life has been devoted to the idea that it is possible to combine the rigor and depth of a specialist with the imagination and open mind of a generalist. This has been true through a PhD in the humanities, and a career in software. [more]

I have spent a lot of time developing one of the most multipurpose and flexible skills there is: the practice of research. Research is about building a scaffolding for your ideas when there are no teachers around. Most pursuits are too niche, too undefined, too in situ to have one. [more]

My career in software has taught me about the advantages and difficulties of automation. To automate something is to make the routine stuff happen more easily, and the non-routine stuff more difficult: harder to see, to understand, and to bring into being. [more]

Maybe I care about good technical writing because automation puts so much knowledge beyond the reach of ordinary comprehension. If I had to summarize tech writing in one sentence, it would be this: technical writing is about slowing down, taking apart, and opening up what is happening--so that there is a chance of understanding it.

I’m also a writer in a more general sense. I write because it is the most associative form of thinking I know: the best way to go deep quickly, and to make connections between impressions, arguments and ideas that don’t normally get to talk to one another. I believe the open web, given the right conditions, can still be one of the most liberating places to think out loud. [more]

I believe that anyone who works with technology needs to get his or her hands dirty, no matter the role. To that end–and because I enjoy it–I do a lot of tinkering with software tools old and new, picking up skills with long-term value even if they have no immediate professional application. [more]

The people I admire most are ideas people. By that I mean not people who “have ideas” and then let others do the work, but rather people who do the work and are led to reflect on it, who have an active mind that ventures beyond what the task requires. The richest ideas come through the conduct of everyday life, when practicality enlivens a restless creativity. There’s value in stepping back from work and going deeper into an idea, to develop it for its own sake; and there’s value in an idea that opens up new forms of action. I’ve done both at different points in my life.