structure vs. substance

Subject: structure vs. substance
From: "Bissell, Pat" <Pat -dot- Bissell -at- echostar -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 20:36:58 -0600

I too have grown tired of this debate, but since it's gone on so long, I
can't resist adding my opinion as it hits close to home.
I have to work with a documentation steering committee that, in a year ½ has
come up with a template, a rigid set of standards for heading size, tenses
for different types of documents, margins, tabs and a half dozen flow charts
on processes to process our processes. They delight in meeting once a week
to play devils advocate, chat and sip diet cokes. I created 100 procedural
documents using the first template, re-did the documents into the second,
third and am now working on putting these same documents into this, the
fourth version of the template. Talk about wasted man hours! A dozen of
them became extinct before they ever got published (that's documents, not
committee members). Structure is good, more structure is not necessarily
better. We are buried in structure, but have no time for content.
The plan here is to have IT personnel create their own documents. They have
been doing this all along, but the documents are often hand-written notes
residing in their filing cabinets and are not shared with others. Now they
think with this magic template, people will use it and voluntarily submit
professional documents that we all can use. I keep telling them that most
of our geeks don't like to write, don't spell well and don't have time for
elective fun stuff like that. I think we'd be lucky if we could get them to
submit the hand written notes.
At least I get the satisfaction of being right. Not one IT
professional has submitted a single document. The rules are too strict and
the row's too tough to hoe.

Pat Bissell
EchoStar Knowledge Engineer/Manure Wader

Dammit Jim I'm a manure wader not a technical writer!

The opinions expressed here are in no way the opinions of my company or
anyone involved with the documentation steering committee. Thus the crux of
the problem.

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