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.
>I was just told that I've been assigned to write a user's guide for a new
>product. No problem, sounds good. Then the engineer informs me that they
>can't supply the board, the computer, or anything else that has to do with
>testing or learning about the product. And, oh yes, he forgot to mention
>that I wouldn't know how the product works. Oh, but he said that shouldn't
>be a problem... he'll supply users guides from other companies so I can see
>how they're written!!!
>Tell me, how does one keep from laughing?
I've heard it too many times. It isn't funny any more.
My favorite technique for dealing with this is to draw up a documentation
schedule, with a Gantt chart to help the illiterates in upper management.
The Gantt chart would start with a two-month block, prominently labeled
"Engineering Delay in Producing Source Material." My prediction for
completion of the document would, coincidentally, be about the same
length as the engineering delay. I would announce a two-month slip
on the cover page, and refer the reader to the Gantt chart. I would
distribute this to all appropriate management in Marketing, Sales,
In many companies, your deadline would not be allowed to change, but no
action would be taken to get your source material. I'd work on my resume
in this case.
In other companies, brisk and furious action will take place, and the material
will be produced in an eyeblink. I'd stick.
REAL management responds when hit over the head with, "You made your
bed, dudes. You want to lie in it, or what?" Fake management usually
doesn't respond at all, though they sometimes shoot the messenger,
themselves, or a random bystander.