Re: Technical Writing in an Extreme Programming Environment

Subject: Re: Technical Writing in an Extreme Programming Environment
From: Paul Gerle <PaulG -at- mdli -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 07:53:12 -0500

Laura Spencer wrote:

< I would like to learn more a) about how many other writers are working in
< an Extreme Programming environment b) how (or if) Extreme Programming has
< changed the way you work.

I, too, am working on my first project utilizing extreme programming, and I
find, with few exceptions, that very little has changed the way I document
the development process from the traditional "waterfall" model of

Let me say, though, that I am the sole writer on a project consisting of
four developers, a lead architect, just one QA resource, and a handful of
SMEs defining the requirements. We're developing in Java for an ASP-model
program. Very complex.

I find the biggest difference in an XP environment is simply the uncertainty
about what's coming next. I don't know today exactly what I'll be working
on next week. It's human nature, I believe, that some folks always like to
know what's around the corner, while others are OK "winging it". It's each
individual's call.

Also, my particular organization (I'm consulting through an agency for this
client) has one problem with scheduling. They want the advantages of XP
(shorter development time, more flexibility to requirement/scope changes)
AND the "security" of accurate estimates of costs on the project.

That is, they're demanding a schedule and cost estimates for modules of the
software that aren't even defined yet. How do we know how long a module
will take to build when the requirements analysis, design, and testing
requirements are not scheduled to begin for six months?

So, if you're comfortable with having only a week's worth of work spelled
out at a time, and you're confident you can manage the stakeholders'
expectations, working in an XP environment doesn't seem to me to be
fundamentally different from a traditional one.

Paul Gerle
"I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write
faster than anybody who can write better."
- A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)


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