Anonymous request re. review nightmares

Subject: Anonymous request re. review nightmares
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 13:23:11 -0500

An anonymous poster asked how to deal with a proposal to
have the entire R&D staff and QA staff review a book that
has already passed successfully through technical review.

Important note: you rarely go wrong having another set of
eyes look over a document for errors. After 10 years in the
business, I'm firmly convinced that there's no such thing
as a perfect document. The trick, as in Aikido, is to use
the strength of the boss's position against him... to
benefit you and the document, and to do as little harm as
possible in the process. Here's how:

First, point out that the best way to get effective reviews
is to break the book up in to chunks and send each chunk
only to those who are qualified to review it. This
satisfies the boss's goal (an intense review), and results
in a less onerous task for all reviewers (less text for
each to review).

Second, provide specific review guidelines: for example,
specifically ask the engineers to review the facts, _not_
the English, and ask writers to review the English, not the
facts. (This is not a criticism of the engineers... just a
consequence of asking the most qualified people to perform
each function.) If the boss is just "fishing" for problems,
you can work with him to find out just what he really
expects to accomplish via the review, and use this
knowledge to codify the instructions.

Third, identify who has the authority to say yea or nay to
the review comments. This should probably be you. Point out
that there will inevitably be disagreements (e.g., 10
expressed no problem with the writing style, 1 didn't like
the style) and that someone must arbitrate these. Try
something like: we'll correct errors of fact if more than
one person notes the error (if only one notes the error,
we'll confirm the error with the SMEs); we'll correct
stylistic problems if the proposed correction actually
improves the text or if a majority of reviewers identify
the same problem; differences of opinion can be arbitrated
by [who?].

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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