Re: Quality of source material from Development

Subject: Re: Quality of source material from Development
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 08:00:08 -0700

re: "Salan Sinclair" wrote...
How much written information should software development department provide
for a technical writing department?
Option 1. Enough for tech writers to write the documentation, with few
Option 2. Enough for tech writers to get a complete scope but not the
Option 3. Enough for tech writers to get started, or whatever information
developers can provide in the time allowed.

Once again Andrew Plato provides a pretty good response: "Sounds to me like
your doc manager friend wants to worry about fonts and commas and not be
bothered with all that "content" stuff. ... Honestly, the engineers should
NOT deliver an Option 1. That leads to meaningless documentation because the
writers have ZERO stake in the accuracy of the material, they just assume
the material is complete...which it never is." Good stuff.

However, it seems the question comes from an in-house rather than a contract
tech writing situation such as Plato regularly encounters, and therefore
there's a significant difference, namely that *none* of the options are the
correct options. In the in-house writer situation, the writers should be
there from the beginning of development of the product, attending all the
meetings, etc. The writers should indeed (as Plato recommends) "be
hyper-advanced users/testers of the products/technologies," and this should
occur or evolve as the writer is a full-fledged part of the development
team. Given experience like this, the writer needs little at all from the
developers in the way of written drafts. Perhaps some technical specs, but
that might be all.

IMHO in firms where the writers are only handed some rough draft material to
"pretty up," the writers are seen as glorified secretaries and not as
professional technical writers. As an aside, this is how I would describe
the treatment of a professional given someone with no background to train on
the job.

Do I think it happens this way very often? No, but it's the writers' fault.
Like the order taker/aggressive salesman analogy, I think writers should "go
get" what they need and not just passively wait for it to fall on their


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