Re: So this is why...!

Subject: Re: So this is why...!
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 10:58:43 -0800 (PST)

"Dan Emory" wrote...

> Of course, Andrew Plato would argue that this problem, like the problem
> with writers, is that the software engineers aren't using their brains
> But everyone who has seriously addressed the problem of poor
> software quality would agree that improved processes are the answer,
> not more jolt-cola-swgging cowboy programmers who claim they could
> fix all the bugs if everyone would just leave them alone, and stop
> making them follow procedures.

Personal attacks against me and using me as a straw man in your argument are
not appropriate or professional Dan. I am not the reason you cannot sell your
religion to the masses.

> Does that sound familiar? Andrew argues that if you eliminate
> processes, don't impose structure, forget about content
> management, forget about configuration control, and make writers
> use MS Word, the result will be better documentation at a lower
> cost. I contend that Andrew's approach produces the writing equivalent
> of spaghetti code, which results in the same downstream catastrophe
> (huge overhead, increased tech support costs) produced
> by his cowboy equivalents in the software engineering profession.

1) Complex engineering (like documentation production) is not a perfect
science. There is a lot of gray area. Those gray areas produce errors, bugs,
and mistakes. This is a basic part of all intellectual endeavors. If you took
even 47 minutes to read about the history of technology, you would see that it
is a constant process of tweaking and improving things.

2) This article is not critical of engineers. This article points out the
problems with companies who cannot decide on something and then pursue it to
its logical end. The fact that engineers are chasing bugs is not indicative of
poor engineering, it is indicative of poor management. Poor management operates
by whim and buzz. These are people with ZERO skill who fall in love with words
and ideas and then pummel those ideas into others like a religion. Eventually,
somebody stands up, like me, and say "this is absurd" and the zealot it quickly
removed from the scene. It is absurd when people become emotionally attached to
software and documentation. The moment somebody becomes emotional about these
things, it is time to remove that person.

3) No system can replace a human. Engineering and documentation are
fundamentally human endeavors. Implementing rigid, centralized procedures and
planning is NOT a panacea for quality. Quality flows from dedicated and
intelligent people properly wielding tools that accentuate their natural skill.

4) I believe there is a fundamentally misguided notion in corporate America
that technology, planning, and organization can solve all problems. It cannot.
Only intelligent, motivated people can solve problems. No amount of planning,
procedures, and organization can account for morons who avoid work, blame
others, and mask their incompetence. The focus must be on people first,
machines second, and processes third - in my judgment.

5) I do not argue for the elimination of processes. I argue for the use of
flexible, realistic processes. Processes that develop naturally when people
work together. I argue for processes that emphasize personal responsibility,
accountability, and flexibility. I believe a goal-oriented and dynamic work
environment is preferable and more productive to a well-organized and planned


6) You have ZERO idea what my techniques can produce and I resent you
personalizing all the ills of engineering and documentation in me.

But I counter, how is it that my firm consistently wins technology-centric
awards for documentation if we are just producing spaghetti code? Go to I *personally* wrote about 75% of the documentation for

Dan, Tim - if you want to argue this idea you're going to have to accept that
*I* am not your enemy. I am merely stating an opinion contrary to yours. Debate
the idea with me. Singling me out and parading me around as the the reason the
world is crumbling is childish and unproductive. You're not convincing anybody
with childish antics.

Andrew Plato

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