Doc Review Process: What Works for You?

Subject: Doc Review Process: What Works for You?
From: Carole Pivarnik <carole -at- tuliphillstudio -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 17:15:10 -0500

I'm curious about the tools and processes others use to get feedback from programmers and SMEs while developing technical documentation.

In my situation (working as part of a, TINY...development team for a proprietary software product), both the programmer and I work from home (and live about two hours apart). When absolutely necessary, we'll meet at his house or mine to get collaborative work done. Usually, though, we are able to conduct productive reviews and feedback sessions by phone and email. For example, when there is a new software feature he wants to explain, he'll call me and describe it while I follow along in my copy (he sends software updates so I can install them prior to these discussions), asking questions as we go. Then I write the draft chapter or section, calling or emailing for clarification as needed. When the draft is ready for his review, I email or FTP it to him. When he has reviewed it, we arrange a phone conference at a mutually convenient time. As we talk, I have both the software and my document loaded. I can double-check behaviors in the software and make small doc edits as we speak. For more extensive changes, I insert notes from our discussion and do edits or rewrites later.

It's a very iterative process that has worked well for us during the initial drafting of a 300+ page user guide. The phone discussions can be intense but I like the immediacy and the ability to engage in an interactive dialog. It also completely avoids the problem I've experienced in larger teams, where multiple reviews submit feedback in writing and then I was tasked with interpreting that feedback, eliminating redundancies, and resolving conflicting requests.

I'd love to hear some discussion and opinions about what does and doesn't work when it comes to documentation review processes...

Carole Pivarnik
Staff Technical Writer
SDA, Inc.


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