Re: Writers to Programmer Ratio

Subject: Re: Writers to Programmer Ratio
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 13:47:10 PST

>What is the optimal ratio of TWs to engineering staff?
>There's a firm interested in my services, that currently
>has not TWs on staff. They number about 20 all together.
>My guess is that 60% of them are programmers. The product
>(a rather complex tool for internet programming)
>is due to be released in six months. No real documentation
>exists. I suggested that they hire two TWs (me and my buddy).
>They responded, "uh, don't think so...too much money. How
>'bout just you?"

>Is this a recipie for disaster or what?

No, it's an ordinary business situation. They haven't had a
writing department before, and they want to start slowly. Also,
your buddy may have botched his interviews. You're not likely
to be told this.

>My instincts say, jog away from this one, 'casue these guys
>don't have a clue vis-a-vis the doc. process. I would like to
>cite to the head honcho of this outfit, some official-type
>stats re writers to programmers. Any ideas? A search of
>Michael Krigman's database yielded nothing.

The rest of the company doesn't need to understand the documentation
process. They need to hire someone to start a documentation department
and make his requirements known. You need to think like a manager in
these situations. They're golden opportunities if you're willing to
commit to producing specific results, do all the planning, demand support
from the other departments, and generally do the manager thing along
with the writer thing. If you think like a subordinate, someone will
have to be delegated to tell you what to do.

The same position can be heaven or hell, depending on the degree of
fit. As someone or other said, "There are no bad actors, just bad
casting decisions."

As for the writer-to-programmer ratio, there is no such thing. There's
no relationship between the amount of work that goes into a piece of code
and the amount of explanation it requires. In some consumer products
there are more writers than coders. In many industrial or engineer-to-
engineer products there are no writers at all.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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