Re: Drafts Back in Time

Subject: Re: Drafts Back in Time
From: "Robert Plamondon" <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 06:52:24 -0700

In the olden days, when I ran the Tech Pubs department at WEITEK, I wrote
all my own tech pubs policies and procedures.

For reviews, every copy would go out with a cover sheet with a place for the
reviewer to sign, which for some reason always impressed them. However, the
way I stacked the deck was that sign-off was ADVISORY ONLY. If only half
the review copies came back at all, and those obviously had been given only
a cursory once-over, I would ship the document anyway if Sales and Marketing
needed it badly enough.

Here's how it worked: After the review, I would report the success of the
review and my take on how ready the document was for prime-time to my boss.
He would relay this report at the weekly Executive Staff meeting. If the
consensus was that the engineers were being driven flogged hard to meet
difficult engineering goals, no one would object to shipping the document
as-is. If people felt that the engineers were being lax, they would resolve
to do better next time, and the document would still go out as-is.

This may sound lax, but I've had clients where everyone and his dog had to
sign on the line before anything could happen. This doesn't make the
documentation better -- it makes it worse. It's so hard to ship a new
edition that new editions tend not to be shipped at all. The documents thus
tend to be horrendously out of date. "Can't we release a new edition that
includes fire and the wheel? Pleeeeeease?" And the first edition does not
tend to be so wonderful, on account of soaking up all that passive karma
while sitting unopened on the reviewers' desks, that it compensates for this
in any way.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon
President, High-Tech Technical Writing
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com
(541) 453-5841
"We're Looking for a Few Good Clients"


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