Documenting A Moving Target

Subject: Documenting A Moving Target
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 15:09:37 -0800

My most recent project from Hell was for a small company called Addstor,
which made a compression product for DOS systems. When Microsoft included
compression in DOS 6.2, Addstor's sales dropped precipitously. They rushed
to fill the gap with a set of software utilities -- defragmentation,
consistency checking, compression statistics, etc. -- to help users deal
with compressed drives.

The company was on the SF peninsula, except that one of the key managers
spent most of his time at his home in some other state. The software
developers were incommunicado, somewhere in southern California. There was a
totally obsolete spec, and the developers sent new versions of the software
every few weeks. Each new version entailed major changes to the user interface.

I had the job of producing the manual -- a combined user guide, tutorial,
and reference. The financial situation was desperate, so there would be no
software beta testing. I was the alpha tester. They intended to go from the
first halfway plausible software version directly into production. Because
of lead times for printing, I had to have a polished manual ready *before*
the shipping version of the software.

I developed a really nice manual, but the software developers couldn't
deliver in time, and the company went out of business owing me $4000. ...RM

Richard Mateosian President, Berkeley STC
Freelance Technical Writer srm -at- c2 -dot- org Review Editor, IEEE Micro

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