Re: Content Moratorium

Subject: Re: Content Moratorium
From: "Jeanne A. E. DeVoto" <jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 14:02:34 -0800

At 9:51 AM -0800 3/22/2001, Colin Green wrote:
>Question: Given the flux of software applications in development, and my
>inability to affect that schedule, what is a reasonable demand for a tech
>writer on content moratorium? That is, what can I reasonably demand for
>number of days/weeks that the product be stable in order to compose a final

I've found that the key here is to reverse this dynamic. Instead of trying
to set a date for feature or interface freeze (which will likely be ignored
unless you have major buy-in from clueful management, and which will be
resented if it's enforced), or working yourself to a frazzle trying to hit
a constantly moving target, set your own deadlines in terms of product
freezes. Never give a hard date for a documentation milestone. Instead,
give your dates in terms of development milestones.

For example, you might release a documentation schedule that says something
like "The first draft of the documentation is due three weeks after feature
freeze." This ties your schedule directly to the product schedule, in a way
that's difficult to argue with since it's reasonable on its face (you can
hardly be expected to document major features the moment they're added). It
puts everyone involved on notice that the documentation can be expected to
slip by X days if features are added late.

Instead of you being the bad guy, trying to enforce and demand freeze dates
you come up with, you're simply describing the consequences that will ensue
if features or interface changes are added late. In this scenario, it's
management that tells the development team "You can't change that, because
the docs will slip."

And if management doesn't tell the developers that, and the docs slip,
you've given everyone ample notification of how that affects your schedule.
If someone gives you the "We're shocked...SHOCKED...that the documentation
is late!" routine, hand them your published schedule, with the relevant
date of the last feature change or interface change.

jeanne a. e. devoto ~ jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com

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