RE: Hacko and process

Subject: RE: Hacko and process
From: "Gordon Graham" <gordon -at- gordonandgordon -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 23:58:07 -0500

All this talk of methodologies reminds me of the time I applied for a tech
writing contract with a small firm. The owners had never hired a writer
before and didn't really know what they needed.

A previous applicant had looked over their woeful documentation and declared
that what they really needed was a style guide to help them improve their
quality and maintain consistency. So she volunteered to start there. Sounds
"mature", right?

I, in my ignorance of "proper" methodologies, asked them what their biggest
problem was. They told me their developers were spending all their time on
the phone helping customers get their systems installed, and weren't getting
any programming done. I said, "OK, how about I work on that problem with
you?" They liked the sound of that, and hired me.

A few months later, we had produced a seemingly impossible matrix of
installation documents for their highly-modular system. And calls to their
programmers were down by 75%. And I worked with them for the next three
years, until the company was sold and the owners became millionaires. (Yes,
they gave me some.)

The point? Solve problems, don't build castles in the air.

I too have Hackos' book, but I haven't looked at it in 4 years. There's a
reason why our company slogan is "technical writing for the real world." And
that's a world I never quite glimpsed in her book. I don't mean to single
her out, but she is the self-annointed "queen of methodologies" for this

Maybe standard methodologies actually work in some huge firms somewhere. But
I doubt it. The companies I see just have problems that need fixing. And
they are *desperate* for anyone who can help them. This is great news for
anyone who wants to jump in and do something practical in the real,
imperfect world that actually exists out there.

Gordon Graham, partner
Gordon & Gordon
(514) 488-1875

-----Original Message-----
From: bounce-techwr-l-62169 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-62169 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of Bruce
Sent: December 20, 2001 8:17 PM
Subject: Hacko and process

Andrew Plato wrote:

>Which is ultimately the prime failing of most of Jo Anne Hackos books.
>They contain some good ideas that if you ever tried to implement them all
>in the real world, you would quickly reduce pubs department into a
>bureaucratic quagmire.
When I was starting out, I dutifully read Hackos. After a few jobs, I
quickly found that her ideas had only fitful relevance.

I still have, I think Hackos' Managing Your Documentation Projects in the
cupboard above the scanner. But I couldn't be sure without checking, and I
suspect that it's been pushed to the back of the shelf. It's been at least
three years since I opened the book.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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Hacko and process: From: Bruce Byfield

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