TW on the development team (long)

Subject: TW on the development team (long)
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 17:19:08 -0800

The current trend in the software industry is to make the
technical writer an integral part of the development team.
At first glance, this seems like a golden opportunity to...

* collect information in a timely manner
* participate in the (functional) design process
* voice our concerns regarding user interface design
* assist in the composition and presentation of
on-screen verbiage

If I mentioned this trend to writers who have never had the
opportunity to be a part of the development team, they'd be
overjoyed at the opportunity.


When we join the development team, we sign away our rights.

As a part of the development team, we're resigned to be players,
never leaders. While it's possible that a writer could effectively
lead a software project, especially if the main effort was an
improvement to the user interface or if the product targeted
a market that we had intimate knowledge of, what programmer
would ever let us? Unless the doc set is unusually large and
requires a team of writers, there are no leadership opportunities
for us there.

We rescind our rights of ownership to our documents. We place
ourselves directly under the control of software developers.
There is no one who understands the communication process (such
as a doc manager) to come to our defense when the lead programmer
demands that we change the wording or delete a cautionary note
because we point out a defect or cluge in the software.

In a company where several different teams work on different
projects with different time-lines, there is no one who under-
stands the documentation process watching the "big picture"
and allocating resources appropriately. This results in writers
being used ineffectively. Often, a writer is not assigned to a
development team at its inception and misses the opportunities
to contribute to program design.

OK, granted, I had a particularly bad experience, working under
a lead programmer who had little respect for anyone who didn't
aspire to be a programmer themselves. This made my position
particularly untenable. But I'm not particularly shy, as anyone
who's been on this list for more than 10 minutes can vouch for ;-)
so if *anyone* could have elbowed in to a respectable place on the
team, I should have been able to do it.

Has anyone who is in the position of tech-writer-on-the-development-
team had positive growth opportunities? I may be all wet here (it's
been known to happen ;-) ), but I see this "trend" as covert
subjugation that we, as a profession, need to guard against.

Comments, anyone???

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com

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