TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Diana Ost asked:
How many of you have been asked to document a software application, but
were not expected to need access to that software?
Oh oh oh. Me me me! On a handful of occassions.
In one instance, I was documenting hardware/software that worked with video casette recorders. The features in the software changed depending on whether a VCR was hooked up and of those features that appeared in the interface without a VCR most didn't work unless there was a VCR and monitor hooked up. They gave us the hardware and software, but they didn't want to spring for a VCR and monitor....a total cost of something like $150 at the time. Not surprisngly, during the technical edit, there were a LOT of gaps and we were constantly told to just ask the engineers because they could explain it.....do the math and figure out which is more cost effective. Eventually, we bought our own VCR and TV.
In another instance, I was supposed to write about a piece of software that I had no access to--was told I didn't need it. I ended up asking one of the engineers a lot of really basic questions and asking for screen shots. Eventually, he asked me why I was asking such simple questions and I told him that I had never seen the software before, had never used it, and wasn't allowed acccess to it. He was shocked and invited me over to his cube to play around with the software on his machine.
In both cases I had no requirements documents, design documents, software changes, release notes, or any other existing information to go off of except the engineers.