Re: Cost per page metrics

Subject: Re: Cost per page metrics
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 08 Sep 2009 11:26:47 -0700

Bill Swallow wrote:
> OK, let me ask you this: What is a page?
> On Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 4:06 PM, Broberg, Mats<mabr -at- flir -dot- se> wrote:
>> I'm not sure I agree with that. "Words" are just a small part of the total cost of technical documentation. Other parts include labour, cost of real-estate, translations, technical illustrations, cost of SW used for the creation and maintenance of the technical documentation. So basing the estimate on cost per word would be misleading.

Page is an abstract metric, just like "word" or "topic" is.

We all know and make allowances for a high page count when the pages
come in a lumpy fashion--you get a lot at a time, like when doing screen
shots of a UI-- and a low count when the pages come hard, like updating
Tier 3 Troubleshooting procedures for Billing System
Analysts. The "page count" averages out, and becomes a useful metric,
even if the definition is an abstraction and a little bit fuzzy.

But I agree with the tech writers who feel that this metric, in the
wrong hands, becomes a problem as a distraction. I've had managers who
scoffed at my claim of consistently outputting 2 finished pages per day
over the life of a project, because they look at my weekly page count
and don't see ten finished pages every week. Where do they get those
guys anyway? I can spot their cars in the parking lot because they all
have bumper stickers that say "HonkHonkHonk if you manage tech writers".

Tech writing metrics (like page count) are inevitable, and we certainly
ought to be aware of that and find ways to calibrate or pace our work
and document our productivity. Sometimes we need to be instrumented for
metrics to recognize when we're in the spin cycle and need to pull back
and reorganize. I think most of us probably do page count tallies for
our own information, but keep them hidden from the pointy-headed bosses
who don't understand the scale at which our metrics are meaningful.

Only tech writers, fresh up from the trenches, can manage tech writing!

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
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Cost per page metrics: From: Broberg, Mats
Re: Cost per page metrics: From: Robert Lauriston
RE: Cost per page metrics: From: Broberg, Mats
Re: Cost per page metrics: From: Bill Swallow

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