When Addison Kliewer, a former participant of the iFixit Technical Writing Project, agreed to be our next featured alumni, we were thrilled! Addison, now a bona fide technical writer, has continued to contribute to the iFixit community well beyond his participation in our university-based education program. It always warms our hearts to come across a student who really embraces the ethos of repair, and Addison is a shining example.
Addison participated in the iFixit Technical Writing Project (iTWP) as a graduate student while attending the University of North Texas for his Master’s in Professional and Technical Communication. Turns out that was just the beginning of his journey with iFixit: Even after his class project ended, Addison stayed busy! Since graduating, he has created over a dozen additional repair guides, made troubleshooting and device pages, and improved many other guides on the repair wiki.
Addison is a technical communicator through and through; given his family history, it’s practically an inherited trait. Inspired by his parents, who also started their careers as technical writers, Addison enjoys helping people by sharing his knowledge and expertise. He also developed his spirit of sustainability at home—growing up in a family of seven, he learned the importance of sharing resources.
Portions of the Q&A have been edited for clarity or conciseness.
iFixit: Tell us a little about yourself.
Addison Kliewer: I’m from the northern part of Austin, Texas, called Round Rock.
I loved reading as a kid. I poured through my parents’ bookshelves and proudly proclaimed, “I’ve read every book in this house.” My mom would take us to the local libraries, and I enjoyed reading my dad’s Hardy Boys collection.
I attended Austin Community College for my first two years. While there, I took a class with Dr. Brinda Roy, who talked about interpreting content on a deeper level until it splinters and breaks to reveal meaning. Challenging the purpose and intent of each component of technical content is something that I still use today.
As I got to the end of my undergrad degree at the Forty Acres, I wanted to do something with the writing, reading, and research skills that I had picked up in University of Texas’s English Honors Program. From there, I went on to the University of North Texas to study technical communication further. One of my graduate courses at UNT, Principles of Technical Communication [with Dr. Erin Friess], participated in the iFixit Technical Writing Project.
iFixit: Where do you work now?
Addison Kliewer: I work at FieldRoutes, a software company specializing in supporting field services businesses.
As a technical communicator, I create and maintain written and video guides for various FieldRoutes products. I work with engineers, UX designers, and product managers to gather information and write clear, concise support documentation. This documentation shows our customers how to use our products in a way that’s easy to understand.
I also serve as a content designer, offering feedback on copy and content that goes into the product.
iFixit: Tell us about your experience with iFixit’s Technical Writing Project.
Gateway Solo 1200
The Gateway Solo 1200 laptop was originally released in 2001.View Device
Addison Kliewer: My team and I worked on the Gateway Solo 1200. I wrote the Battery and RAM replacement guides for the laptop. I enjoyed working together with my teammates. I felt that it simulated productive co-writing pretty well. I enjoyed working with the iFixit team and getting their feedback. It added a professional feeling to the project.
iFixit: What did you find most valuable about the experience?
Addison Kliewer: It was a great project that spurred my interest in writing repair documentation.
iFixit: Are there any skills that you gained while doing the iTWP that you use in your current job?
Addison Kliewer: My team members and I had to own each part of the project. This sense of responsibility translates over to my FieldRoutes team, where I own a part of the product documentation. In the iTWP, we applied rigorous guidelines on creating guide images and other visual elements, such as markup. Even though I work in software, I still try to be strict and consistent with best practices for my guides.
I included my work with the iTWP in my portfolio. I also used it as one of three projects I had in lieu of professional experience. My manager mentioned being familiar with iFixit during the interview, and I believe that conversation helped me get my foot in the door.
iFixit: What are the biggest challenges you face when writing repair guides?
Addison Kliewer: Knowing what problems users have with a device. I often visit websites/pages that sell that device, and look at common customer complaints and low-star reviews. If it’s related to a part that needs replacing/repairing, that’s a good place to start on my guide. It’s also a good place to find additional questions for troubleshooting pages.
iFixit: Do you have any advice for current or future students participating in the iTWP?
Addison Kliewer: Don’t let the iTWP be your last guide on the site! Apply for iFixit’s Alumni Repair Stipend or go to your university’s library to get tools and resources, and find low-cost devices that need repair documentation. Try to be strict when following the guidelines; that habit will help you when writing future documentation.
iFixit: We’re glad you took part in the Alumni Repair Stipend. We love seeing what alums are fixing! Any suggestions to students about participating in this program once they’ve finished their class project?
Addison Kliewer: As a college student, I didn’t have a lot of funds for acquiring tech and gadgetry to repair, so I visited my local thrift stores to find equipment that needed a second life. Once repaired, you might donate them to a non-profit.
Reach out to the iFixit team for feedback! They’ve given me great suggestions. My interactions with the iFixit team as part of the Alumni Repair Stipend helped me keep a keen eye on the visual content of my work.
The Logitech Dexxa was one of my favorite devices to create guides for. I found the joystick at Goodwill while searching for devices that needed repair. I think that finding interesting categories to repair is one of the fun parts of being involved in the iFixit community.
Also known as the Dexxa MAXStick, this 15-pin joystick for IBM compatibles was released by Dexxa International in 1994. P/N 963000-00, S/N AE54801709View Device
iFixit: What are your thoughts on the importance of repair?
Addison Kliewer: When I’m able to repair my stuff, I not only save money on the cost of a new product, but I also keep items out of the local landfill. This helps keep my city cleaner. If I’m unable to repair the device myself, I’ll turn to a professional. That supports local businesses. Repairing can help instill a sense of pride in and stewardship of our belongings. It also increases their longevity.
iFixit: If you had the opportunity, what item/device would you design to be more repairable? Why?
Addison Kliewer: I would definitely design top-loading washing machines so they’re easier to repair.
iFixit: What is your favorite/most used tool in your toolbox?
Addison Kliewer: My favorite tool is the Mahi ¼” Bit Driver. It’s got a good heft to it as opposed to some of the smaller drivers, and I’ve used it for maintenance on my dryer. Outside of my iFixit tools, I also have a gooseneck phone holder (for photos), which allows me to get hands-on with the devices I’m working on.
iFixit: What’s your best piece of repair advice?
Addison Kliewer: Just give it a try! If there’s no repair content yet, it might be up to you. If you’re unsure how to start a repair for a particular device, look at repair content for a similar device, and maybe some of your questions will be answered.
iFixit: In one word, what does repair mean to you?
Addison Kliewer: Sustainability.
iFixit: What’s a fun fact about you that you would like to share with our readers?
Addison Kliewer: I was an oceanic science quiz bowl competitor (NOSB), in high school. While I do something else for my career, I still recall random facts about longshore drift and red tide.