Re: Frequent doc revisions

Subject: Re: Frequent doc revisions
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- AIRMAIL -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 09:45:07 +600

On 7 Oct 96 at 8:51, geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA wrote:

> There's another interesting point that I just twigged to
> about the "put docs on the web so they're always up to
> date" philosophy.

> Remember the old GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) rule? The
> "garbage in" in this case is the notion that you've got to
> keep constantly revising the product. I don't doubt that
> there are good reasons why a documented product keeps
> changing enough to need new docs, but it's worth noting the
> many moans we keep encountering about (for ex.) Microsoft
> Word. The philosophy of "keep changing the features and to
> hell with stability and performance" attitude is common
> nowadays, and it leads to the "garbage out" part of the
> acronym: keep revising the docs just to keep up. Just what
> are we espousing here? Worth a thought...

Sorry to echo the entire message but it needs discussion.

In my company, and in many others according to my colleagues, we are
in a constant state of revision. It feels almost like a permanent
beta product, in fact. This state may be due to the way we work...
which is not to do an off-the-shelf product, but to do a
customer-specific product. So when the customers keep requesting
new features and are willing to pay for them, we do them. And often
that requires GUI changes, which then requires doc changes and
online help changes... then our marketing dept takes the product and
pushes it to another customer who requires more tweaking, on and on
ad nauseum. It seems to me to be a very inefficient way to run a
company, but they don't ask me about policy.

Secondly, even in the off-the-shelf products, few of us have the
luxury of writing documentation for a product that is handed to us
with the code frozen. I am, and WANT to be, involved with the product
from conception. The first docs I write are for our beta customers
who are very helpful at "reviewing" the documentation. I suspect this
is not a rare situation for small developers like us.

We maintain a web site that is fairly new, but we're considering
putting up our beta docs that certain customers can access. This
discussion is very pertinent to my own situation. I think as more and
more companies rely on electronic transmission of documents to
customers, this issue becomes increasingly important.

Jane Bergen
janeb -at- airmail -dot- net


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