Re: How long does it take you?

Subject: Re: How long does it take you?
From: aer -at- PCSI -dot- CIRRUS -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 10:14:00 PST

This kind of knee-jerk generalization is -- as ALL
generalizations must be -- an utterly worthless
distortion of what is an infinitely complex area:
what goes into making a page [or a manual] of
usable information. Many pages I work, and rework,
have graphics, e.g. screens of a "real" application's
behavior -- in order to show the user accurately
what s/he can expect to see on screen and how
to proceed through often complex [to a new
user anyway] procedures. Making each & every
capture accurate is a tedious task -- beyond
getting the text to make sense -- and often requires
mutiple reworkings, esp. when the SW engineers
are changing the code every day as they usually do!

Keeping up [or trying to] with the evolving "current
version" is a non-trivial but crucial part of chasing
the documentation dragon. I've had to ask several
different SW engineers the same question(s) in order
to get a reasonable "take" on what is actually involved.
You cannot rely on one person's response -- each of
these characters has a unique vision of what is going
on, what the user should be expected to know [hah!],
and so on.

In my experience, documenting a static system, like
hardware or an installed system [my "favorite" was the
war games command center at Fort Irwin in the desert
near Barstow], is far more straightforward than dealing
with software and its inevitably endless revisions. It
may well take as long or longer -- the war games setup
had dual redundant VAXes, miles of cabling, etc. -- but the
day-to-day changes in software make for a moving target
environment in which you can never be sure the "thing"
is actually finished!

Al Rubottom /\ tel: 619.535.9505, x1737
aer -at- pcsi -dot- cirrus -dot- com /\ fax: 619.541.2260

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