A wee story for you...

Subject: A wee story for you...
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 12:24:15 -0700 (PDT)

Haw haw, I have a great story for you. This happened about six months ago.

My company got into network security work about 2 years ago. We do
installations of intrusion detection systems (IDS), firewalls, authentication
systems, etc.

We had a company approach us about implementing a firewall and IDS. They
weren't a really big company, but they were very concerned with firewalls. Good
deal. We made up a plan and an estimate, they approved, we went to work. It was
only about two weeks worth of work.

One of the people on the team was a tech writer. He was going to document this
implement ion. Normally we do this for our clients, but they wanted somebody
internally to do it - whatever. So we started handing over information to this
guy. Naturally, he couldn't handle the technical aspects of it, so we just sent
him all our Word documents we use for firewall and IDS configs etc. That way
he'd have a shell to work from to document all this configuration information.

About a week into the job we had a meeting with all the members. The IT guys
and I were talking about ports and services we want to restrict and
authenticate. Pretty detailed stuff.

While we're in the middle of a rather important discussion about which services
we're going to allow through the firewall, the tech writer interjects and says
"I am very concerned about something." We all stop and look at him. He says
"have we considered the long-term ramifications of putting this information
into a Word document." The IT guys were totally puzzled. Like "what does this
have to do with ports and services on the network." I just rolled my eyes.

I brushed him off and said, "well, we can worry about that later. Right now we
have to solve this services issue."

Ohhhh, that hurt this poor writer. He went off on the IT manager saying we were
"incompetent and unworthy and a host of other things." His claim was that
since we wouldn't discuss which documentation tool to use, we must not take
this project seriously and aren't looking at the long-term issue.

The IT manager called me up the next day and said (I am paraphrasing), "what
the hell happened in that meeting." I explained it. I said that the format of
the document isn't very important right now. As long as the information is
captured, we can format it later. He agreed. It wasn't the first time this guy
had a hissy-fit over something like this.

We continued on the project and finished it a week later. The IT manager and
CTO were happy as clams with the solution. I never saw that writer again. I
figured the manager sent him to a different project.

A few days ago, this writer applies for a job at my company. This is choice
man. In his cover letter, he tells about this project at his previous company
where his discovery of a client using "inappropriate solutions for a security
implementation" saved his company X-amount of dollars. Funny, I don't remember
getting fired from that project.

When I saw this I almost pooped my pants it was so funny. I called the IT
manager of the client and told him this. He laughed too. Turns out the guy
pissed off the IT manager so much with his bantering about using this tool and
that font, they moved him off the project into some other part of the company.
He got offended and quit.

I tell this story as a reminder: Outside the sphere of technical publications,
the things that concern you don't always concern other people. IT and product
managers are rarely interested in the fonts you use the tools you pick. They
want to stuff documented correctly, and if it looks nice and is done quickly -
that's extra good. Company's have priorities, and the format of documentation
is not always that high. That's not tech writer bashing, its just reality.

Also, if you're going to lie on your resume and attribute successes to yourself
that never happened - make them believable and be careful where you send your

Andrew Plato

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