Re: Software version numbers

Subject: Re: Software version numbers
From: Ad absurdum per aspera <JTCHEW -at- LBL -dot- GOV>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1993 00:43:30 GMT

kendal stitzel, the other kendal at autotrol
<kensti -at- kensti -dot- auto-trol -dot- com> wrote:

> Obviously, it`s nice for the user to have the most recent software version
> number printed on the manual.
> The problem for us writers is that the company sends out a LOT of different
> updates and most of these do not require update pages to the documentation.
> We're already swamped and would rather not have to update zillions of title
> pages.

Count your blessings -- I used to work for a company whose policy
was *not* to release any information that would allow customers to
infer the manufacturing date or revision level of a product, for
fear that they'd refuse to buy the older stuff! (Karma caught up
with them in the form of a long and agonizing project to reverse-
engineer and document the history of their own feature set...)

Anyway, I'd recommend, for reasons that you've already discerned,
that you not try to chase every software rev with a new title
page, but perhaps you could enclose a piece of paper saying merely
that the existing manual may still be used. (Users probably won't
update the durned ring-binders anyway.) Also, if it's technically
feasible to do so in a way that's accessible to the user, put a
line in a sign-on screen or similar location saying that such-and-
such a manual is still usable.

This would also be a good place to tell them who to call should
they wonder if their manual is the latest and greatest. Which
gets back to my little story: document this sort of thing
religiously as part of good practice in "configuration control."
And make sure the phone support people are clued in about it.
Everything your company puts out should be traceable to a master
list of what should have been in it, what revisions were offered,
and how to tell the current stuff from the obsolete.

Keeping track of configurations is time-consuming, and nobody ever
accused it of being stimulating, but it has to be done. Otherwise
you'll have to partly reconstruct it in a big rush every time the
question comes up, and even if you get it right, which is not
always the case, the customer will think he's dealing with the
ringmaster at Cirque Beauceaux. By the same token, being able to
quickly reel off a definitive answer to such questions is a good
way to impress somebody. :)

"Never take no cut offs and hurry along as fast as you can."
-- Donner Party survivor Virginia Reed

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