TW angle to the Compuware/IBM conflict

Subject: TW angle to the Compuware/IBM conflict
From: SIANNON -at- VISUS -dot- JNJ -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 11:1:11

It is interesting to have a relevant example hit the media so shortly after
the anonymous poster who was having difficulty in addressing his or her
boss's "make it look like their docs" directive.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020312/tc_nm/tech_compuware_ibm_dc_6&cid=581

(This address appears to be breaking funny in the web-based editor, so if
the link doesn't appear, try removing any hard line breaks imposed on it
and copy the whole string into your browser's address box...or go to
slashdot and you can grab the link from there.)

Significant excerpt:
"IBM products had the same glitches as past versions of Compuware products,
Nathan said. Parts of IBM's manuals were identical to his company's and
documented features available in Compuware products but not in IBM's, he
added."


I believe _this_ is an example wherein a tech writer could be put into an
awkward position by an employer's request,--and/or put their employers in
one by simply reformatting a document and claiming it as their own (i.e.,
instead of identifying the part of the third-party tech actually used and
either referencing the vendor docs or writing new material covering it).

>From this situation, though, one question that occurs to me (as it is not
clear in the article) is: Was the code in question in the nature of
third-party software IBM may have purchased from Compuware, for use in
their development of the proprietary software being disputed?

I have a legitimate professional reason to ask, because I have not had to
document systems developed with third-party components before, and don't
know how they are dealt with as regards to legal ownership and "credit"
within the final product and its documentation. I believe I may have one
such app. coming up within the next year, which will be developed for
internal use, using a third-party component for a significant piece of the
logic. My job will involve writing the system's design documentation, not
just user docs, and while I fully intend to identify the vendor's component
discretely from those developed in-house, I do not know if there is a
preferred (or legally required!) method of doing so. The application's
interactions will be tightly woven, and include custom settings on the
component that could not have been detailed in any of the vendor's docs, so
just referencing them won't do, especially since I will need to be
describing the component within the context of the system.

Do you have any recommendations for how to deal with such third-party
components in design documentation?

Thanks!
Shauna Iannone



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