Re: Parallels Between Software Development and Writing Processes

Subject: Re: Parallels Between Software Development and Writing Processes
From: John Russell <johnr -at- BRS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 1995 09:51:03 EST

I think that to an extent it's human nature, although perhaps not our
tendency to procrastinate. Rather a tendency to take the easiest route.
It is easier to wait until the last minute and hand something in rather
than spend the effort to get it right the first time. Being satisfied
with the C is easier than doing the revision, or the upfront work,
required for a better grade.

I'll bet if you told your students that they would have to revise every
paper over and over again until it was worthy of an A, they'd be more
inclined to do the upfront work of which you spoke. And they'd probably
end up working harder than they'd ever worked before. |] And they'd
probably learn more, too.

This holds for developers as well as for technical writers.

But, I think, too, that sometimes, maybe most often, getting it *done*
is more important than getting it done *right*. How many software programs
are distributed with bugs?

I like to think of this as "the jewel of management." On the one hand,
getting the product to market is important, but not so important
as to sacrifice quality. On the other hand, so much pressure is put on
getting the product out the door that it's almost impossible to avoid
sacrificing quality.

In this respect managers and teachers function on the same level. The
emphasis on the deadline is so great that quality puts its head on the
chopping block, and the fact that only limited revision is allowed
*after* the deadline, perhaps, gives way to a downward spiral: It won't
be perfect the first time, and I won't be able to correct it later, so
why bother? I'll just have to be satisfied with what I get.

Maybe if teachers and managers required that a degree of quality be
met *before* handing in the paper/shipping the product, there might be
a greater interest in producing a higher quality product to begin with.
Simply put, maybe less emphasis on the deadline and greater emphasis
on quality translates into better end results. All that you need to do,
then, is to teach people to think in a way they never have before.

Of course, this is all a pipe dream.



johnr -at- lurch -dot- brs -dot- com

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