RE: Maintaining Documentation

Subject: RE: Maintaining Documentation
From: Paul Hanson <PHanson -at- Quintrex -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 15:55:31 -0600

Hi Kimberly,

I've worked at three different companies over the last 10 years. I don't
know if the situations I've encountered are par for the course or not. That
said, my experience is that there are two 'maintenance' strategies when it
comes to updating software documentation.

The first is product driven. These are changes to the documentation based
upon changes to the programming. For example, if a value is added to a
drop-down, the doc for that drop-down needs to include that new value. If a
new field is added to a window, the field needs to be explained. If a new
procedure that makes a 10 step procedure with lots of manual steps a click
of a button, that needs to be written and incorporated into the
documentation. All of these examples directly impact what the end-user needs
to know. Additionally, if any programming changes impact any 'internal only'
information, that documentation needs to be updated. As I said, in my mind,
these are 'product-driven' documentation changes.

The second is Tech Writer-driven or Twer driven. These are changes that have
no immediate bearing on the end-user. Perhaps it is adding a version number
that previously was on the title page only in the footer of each page so
that if the user prints off page 34 of a 100 page PDF, they know what
version of the PDF they printed. Yes, the end-user sees it but it doesn't
really affect the content of the doc. Perhaps it is reorganizing the way
your HAT (okay, I'm thinking of RoboHelp here) project is laid out. Maybe it
is renaming graphic files to be better organized. These are all things that
I've identified that I want to change just to make my job easier. They are
still related to maintaining documentation in the sense that I am making
changes in some way to the text in Word doc or graphics software or

Now... That all said, your product-driven changes are going to have
priorities higher than your Twer-driven changes. I mean, really, if it comes
down to you have an hour left in the day, what's more important: renaming
graphic files or writing a procedure that the client needs to use the new
verion of your software. There's no real contest. You do what the end-user
has to see and squeeze in the Twer-driven tasks on the Friday before you
leave for a week in the Grand Bahamas. This Friday PM is going to be
dedicated to Twer-driven changes <grin>.

That all said, I don't really have a 'maintenance' strategy. Projects and
client issues find their way to me through our internal processes. By all
rights, I am to review every programming change that comes through my
department (QA). The project flow allows me to do what I need to do. In
fact, while I wrote this, a collection of programming changes for a PTF
found its way to my inbox. There are.... 11 programming changes I need to
review and based upon my analysis, I will be maintaining the corresponding

Hope that makes sense. Probably won't be paying much attention to the list
the rest of this week as I try to get work done before leaving for a week in
the Grand Bahamas on Friday and not returning back to work until Monday,

Paul Hanson
Technical Writer
Team Macromedia - RoboHelp
Quintrex Data Systems
email: phanson at

Kimberly McClintock wrote:
> All --
> I'm a relative newbie and I've just completed the first version of
documents for 2 products with about 90% overlap in content. I
> need to come up with a maintenance strategy.

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