Re: Hackos and process

Subject: Re: Hackos and process
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2001 11:24:24 -0800

Elizabeth Estep wrote:

There is no way Ms. Hackos could have, in a general market book, have
described a process that works for everyone. So she describes an ideal
process, in a wonderful world, and then we have to adjust it to fit our
individual realities. I'm just glad there's something out there detailing
some type of process for people like me to get ideas from. I would never
institute all of her ideas as they are written: I don't think they would
ever work in a real-world environment. But they made a wonderful place to
start figuring out how to improve what we were doing.

Hackos' tone sounds as if she means her comments to be definitive. Her tone doesn't have much room for variation, which is why it doesn't seem to deal with the complexity of real work situations.

However, you're probably right in the sense that the main problem is not with Hackos' book itself, but in the way that people regard it as gospel. My concern (and, if I read correctly, at least part of Andrew Plato's) is not with process as such. Obviously, some sort of process or organization is necessary, especially with large projects.

Instead, my concern is with the preoccupation with process that many writers have. Process is a means, but all too often it seems to become an end in itself, with the true goals - helping users, and delivering decent material in return for your paycheque - either forgotten or a distant second. In particular, many of the favorite tech-writing processes become self-referential; the quality of a project is judged, not on its usefulness, completeness, or any other function, so much as on the degree to which it follows or reflects the process. Hackos' book is a focuse for such attitudes, but there's no doubt that they would still exist if Hackos had never published.

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

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Not if there was nothing else to be,
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Don't slit your wrists for me."
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