Re: Further Discussion: Role of Technical Writer

Subject: Re: Further Discussion: Role of Technical Writer
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 17 Aug 1996 07:49:00 EST

I don't think I've ever read a posting that radiated more pain than Moshe's.
All I can give is my own perspective, based on what the post has revealed.

At 01:39 PM 8/17/96 PDT, you wrote:

<lots of gut-wrenching facts folded into e-space for brevity>

The situation you're describing isn't unknown, but it's worse than most. Any
software project that's a year behind has seriously imploded somewhere and a
company/project manager that let it happen won't understand a measly little
doc plan. Or any plan, for that matter. The developers are (probably) both
haughty and panic-stricken themselves. The whole environment is as poisonous
as it can get without being in the basement of a drug cartel.

>I might add that I'm not a full-time employee on this job; I'm
>a freelancer with other obligations. I've got one major
>company wanting me to come on board as a full-time employee,
>and if the price is right, I'll do it, simply because I've
>tired of the sort of struggle that this project has created.
>I did not mention the way that I get dozens of calls, faxes,
>e-mail messages, every day regarding the progress on the
>project, something that weighs too heavily on me as is. It
>also doesn't help that my brother died when I was after the
>alpha stage of the project; the tragedy slowed me down
>considerably, and because I was working on it literally
>up to the moment he died, I also have some emotional
>baggage to overcome. I'm trying to get perspectives from
>others so that I don't act rashly; I'm aware that I'm not so

>The truth is, however, that when this product hits the market,
>I'm sure you'll all know about it and feel the way I did about
>it. If I hadn't believed in it so strongly, I wouldn't have
>begun to put up with all this grief. Most of my projects have
>been get-the-information, write-a-draft, get-the-feedback,
>make-the-corrections, write-a-new-draft, get-approval, publish-
>the-documentation, and no more; it's rare to feel identification
>with a product as you document it, which may be the thing that
>clouded my judgment somewhat. From the standpoint of cost
>efficiency and meeting deadlines, this project would rank last.
>However, the end product should be something that everyone who
>stuck it out would be proud to have taken part in its development.

>Your comments are more than welcome. I'm really in this up to my
>neck. The only time in my life I've backed out on a project was
>when my brother died, and it was probably the only time I could
>have done so without facing a firing squad. This time I'm just
>not sure.

>- Moshe

I understand your feeling of pride of ownership. I have it too, and it's
sometimes a weakness. I also understand your professionalism in seeing a job
through. I, too, feel that way. But there comes a point where you have to
protect yourself, and it sounds as though you're there now. You no longer
can take pride in your professional standing, because you don't have any on
that project. And added to the misery of losing a brother, you may well be
depressed too.

I'm by nature a creature of action and decisiveness. It seems that you have
other opportunities and that you're not valued where you are. I'm all for
working things out amicably on a team, but when there's no longer a hope of
that I can turn downright mean protecting myself. I think I'd lay it out for
the manager...that you have other offers, that your life has become hell on
the project, and that if you don't call the documentation tune, then you'll
go somewhere where you're appreciated as the professional you are. If he
opens up on you, then walk away. And don't glance back. The world needs
communicators like you with honor and courage. Apparently that project
doesn't. All I can counsel is that no software project is worth anyone's

Let us know how it's going, huh?

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support

Makers of DuoFrame, giving you online help and paper
documentation from a single parent FrameMaker document.

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