Re: note taking

Subject: Re: note taking
From: "Engstrom, Douglas D." <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 07:56:38 -0500

Responding to Michael Collier <michacol -at- UPGRADE -dot- COM> on the subject of note

The project managers have found it to be a good thing that tech writers
sit in on software analysis and design sessions--and take notes.....

I started by audio taping and transcribing, and then video taping, in
order to accurately capture the white board stuff. The problem, of
course, with transcribing......
Is what they really -want- a transcription? I've been the "scribe" in
design sessions before, and produced a document from the session,
highlighting decisions made, current state of the data model, and unresolved
issues. I usually attach a "decision narrative" for each decision in a
separate section, explaining what alternatives the group considered, and the
issues raised, but it's more of a summary of who said what, (with a note
attached asking anyone who feels grossly misrepresented to contact me for a
revision; no one ever has) rather than an actual transcript. Given the
"ramble factor" in most meetings, this format is far more useful, because it
permits a reader to get straight to the heart of the matter, rather than
wade through pages of dialog that may or may not be relevant.

This high level of organization, summary, and deciding what is important and
what isn't needs to be done by somebody other than a transcriptionist, and
definitely makes use of good technical writing skills. It's also a very
powerful position. Because you control the "Unresolved Issues" section that
serves as the basis of the next meeting, you can make sure that the issues
you think are important (or were addressed superficially) get on the agenda
and get dealt with. You can also keep people from wiggling out of a problem
with some sort of vague platitude or pat answer by saying "Wait a minute,
what exactly did we decide there? I need it for the notes...." thereby
shouting "The Emperor is naked" without actually embarrassing anyone.

I take notes by hand during the session, often marking sections related to
the same topic as I go, and then sit down and pull the whole thing together
in a word processor in the space of a couple hours.


Doug Engstrom
ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com

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