Checking the checkers through inaccurate information

Subject: Checking the checkers through inaccurate information
From: Carl Millholland <millholland -at- ACRONET -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 08:18:06 -0600

Earl Morton writes regarding "beta" documentation:

> I often get little feedback even from the client, let alone the beta testers.
> They pretty much leave the docs up to my discretion, without saying much
> unless I ask for input on specific areas.
> I did one project for another client with a disturbing habit of not reading
> review drafts, and just OKing them. Two or three reviews later he'd see some
> glaring issue and come all unglued, even though he'd already OK'd the text
> more than once.

This sounds all too familiar. For time to time I put a little
documentation joke in my draft intended for a technical review. This
tells me how closely the reviewers are looking at the documentation. Has
a real example from my latest project:

parameter_ICCrd structure member to set:
0x00 = direct convention
0x01 = inverse convention
0x02 = Shriner's convention

This came back without comment. I then sent an email to the reviewers
saying, "Are you sure about this?" If nothing else, it puts them on
notice that I know they aren't covering everything carefully. I always
mark this on my own copy of the draft (and I mark it with a Frame
Comment marker, which I use for a variety of things in a first draft).

I have a couple of questions about this technique:

1. Would you consider this unethical or underhanded? (I have a pretty
good reputation with these people for a solid final product, so I
have a little more leeway here. I'd *never* try this with a new

2. If you did do this sort of thing, how to handle a "miss?"

3. Any other, perhaps more up front, methods for checking the checkers?

Carl Millholland
Technical Publishing Services
11400 47th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142
(414) 697-9948

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