Re: New writer needing advice

Subject: Re: New writer needing advice
From: Susan Guttman <sguttman -at- semantix -dot- com>
To: Michael West <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 07:30:49 -0400

> Andrew Plato wrote:
>> At least you can walk out of there knowing that you faced the challenge and
>> got the job done.
>> And that is what life is all about.

Michael West responded thusly:

> Well, at least we now know the meaning of life,
> courtesy of Mr Plato.
> If you read carefully, you'll notice that Plato's advice is
> based on the premises that (1) a quick and dirty user
> assistance package is "getting the job done", and (2)
> that quality is a "frou-frou".

I have to argue your interpretation of Andrew's words. He's not talking
about making the ideal manual, he's talking about getting the damn job done
for an initial release; would you rather ship a product without
documentation, then mail a fabulous manual out to the users a few months
Sometimes you have to do what's humanly possible in an inhuman amount of
time; you give the users enough to be able to use the software, and then
work towards perfection for the service pack or v.1.1 release.

> Before doing so, however, I would try to find out
> whether quality is important to the company that
> intends to market this product. If the answer is no --
> great, then Plato's their golden boy.

Considering they canned most of the TW staff two months before release,
leaving two writers, one of whom is a newbie, to crank out two 1000-page
manuals... I'd say we can assume that quality documentation is not a
priority for them.

> I've worked for these "just crank it out" types, and every
> one of them has gone down the gurgler in no time flat.
> If working for losers was supposed to make me a
> better person, it's news to me.

I think there's a certain amount of personal philosophy involved in this
issue. Some people actually enjoy taking on impossible challenges, while
others look for overall quality and reliability in their working life. One
philosophy is not better than the other, they're just different approaches
to life. Myself, I like to take on the occasional impossible task, just for
the thrill of victory when the task is completed; I'm obviously an
adrenaline junkie, and prefer to live my life that way; but I also
appreciate wanting to be able to strive for quality as well, in a supportive
and functional environment. Sometimes you can have both: I usually get hired
to get out a quick-and-dirty manual, when there's no time for better; but
then I get to work towards creating a better version of the manual for
future releases.
However, I do agree with you about crank-em-out joints; if their
organization and respect for documentation is such that *every* manual gets
left to the last minute, with insufficient resources for proper work, then
that is not a place I want to be either. No one is that much of an
adrenaline junkie, and I for one won't work at a place that doesn't have at
least a passing respect for documentation.

Susan Guttman
Technical Writer
Montreal, Quebec
tel: 514-848-9621
e-mail:sguttman -at- semantix -dot- com

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