Subject: Standards
From: I'm 59 in Microsoft WORD years 21-Jul-1994 0002 <jong -at- TNPUBS -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 1994 00:14:51 EDT

Michael Cooperman <michael_cooperman -at- MATHWORKS -dot- COM>, that
long-suffering Red Sox fan of my acquaintance, asks what metrics
can be used for measuring documentation. Michael, your first
instinct, measuring support calls, is a good one. I suggest that
the number of support calls per license-month is a function of
the usability of the product, which is tied to the documentation.
The direct cost is the cost of fielding calls (the support center
budget divided by the call volume) plus, if you're ambitious, the
cost of dealing with fixes. Documentation can directly affect
the call volume, thus saving your company money.

I advocate documentation metrics for products (the documents) and
processes (milestones, I think), but NOT people. I advocate
measuring the things that your customers, your clients, and you
feel are critical. That varies from product to product; ask your
customers and your clients. Here are some popular areas:

CUSTOMERS: Wealth of graphics, headings, index entries;
accuracy of information; time to install/use

CLIENTS: Cost of project and/or time to completion;
adherence to milestones; edits/page

OURSELVES: Adherence to standards (checklists)

If you think of documentation as an art, then we are artists, and
our quality is measured in our individuality. Writers have
always thought of themselves that way, and consequently
"documentation metrics" has been an oxymoron, an obscene phrase,
or a joke. To a writer, the only good standard is a guideline 8^)

But there is a penalty for creative freedom, and that's anarchy.
Right now, I would guess that between twenty and forty percent of
us are using Microsoft Word, all without training or
communication. Each of us is trying to come up with the best
layout, the sharpest art, the simplest production process. Each
of us is floundering in our own cubicle. There is no standard
for layout, art, or production. A colleague told me how to get
index hits in the form chapter-page (Word thoughtfully doesn't do
this directly). She did it; she told me how; and I did it too,
after four hours of tinkering. She had it just a little wrong,
and I understood it just a little wrong, and Word is unforgiving.

Certainly in regard to process (which I don't care about as long
as it's easy), we do similar things, and there ought to be --
there have to be! -- well-understood standards for doing them.
Even in regard to product (which I care about a lot) what we do
is philosophically more alike than different, from the
boilerplate jacketing the chapters to the approach, format, tone,
and level of detail of the chapters; and in that surprisingly
large area of similarity we can improve quality in measurable

-- Steve Jong, Digital Equipment Corporation

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