THANK YOU: Design documents

Subject: THANK YOU: Design documents
From: "Margaret L. FalerSweany" <mfsweany -at- MTU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 17:47:18 -0500

I would like to thank the techwriter group in general for your advice and
resources on design documents.

First, you were extremely polite and gentle in dealing with my query. I
appreciated that, particularly because what I asked for could easily be
interpreted either as "I don't believe in design. Show me I'm wrong." (an
arrogant attitude if ever I saw one.) or "I'm responsible for teaching
software engineers but I'm clueless about what I should be teaching so help
me out" which certainly begs for people to take the opportunity to rag on
academic computer scientists --- something we experience frequently.

I WAS a bit surprised that only one asked what sort of general methodology
we use --- Object-oriented, procedural, rapid prototyping, waterfall model,
... ? But, that one question got me to thinking more seriously about what
I was asking my students to do. I'll certainly be responding to that person
at length, as well as the others who so kindly sent me lengthy responses
filled with useful commentary and sources of help.

And yes, as several of yousurmised, the problem is that we don't have a
"business context" that makes design useful/critical. The students, I
think, are quite willing to believe in the abstract that for "big projects"
a design methodology is necessary. It's just that they don't know one, and
all the ones I know of lead to tedious, boring documents so it's been hard
for me to believe they are useful. But, now I have ideas and materials
that I can use to make this more real for us all.

Again, thank you for your help.

Philip H. Sweany
Computer Science
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI 49931
Sweany -at- mtu -dot- edu

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