Re: Getting the programmers to come to you

Subject: Re: Getting the programmers to come to you
From: Chris Hamilton <chamilton -at- GR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 13:57:42 -0600

Gillian McGarvey wrote:
> Is anyone else on the list bewildered by the fact that so many of us
> suggest that we actually BRIBE programmers to do what should be part
> of their job and give us the info we need to document the software?
> Isn't it the job of management to instill a higher value of
> documentation into programmers/developers and construct processes
> that implement it? Aren't we just re-enforcing programmers'
> lackadaisical attitude when it comes to working WITH tech writers by
> coddling them with snacks?

I'm mixed. I used to run a Friday morning meeting at which we went over
the documentation and gave it the seal of approval (or not). I brought
Entenmann's danish to that because it seemed to make the meeting run
better and I wanted to. I wanted it to be a nice meeting.

On the other hand, I would never offer an SME food just to sit down and
talk to me. It's just wrong. It's their job to help me get the
information I need. Yes, IMO, it's management's to instill that. I will
go out of my way to talk to the developers and get to know them, but I
will not offer them gifts to do what they should be doing anyway.

I was going to let this pass, but a couple of weeks ago someone posted
saying that they made a rule or a rule was imposed on them (I can't
remember which) that under no circumstances were the writers to "whine"
to management about not getting info from the SMEs*. I think this
approach gives the developers an awful lot of leverage. It puts a burden
on the writers that, in extreme cases, requires management power to fix.
If the developers just push you aside no matter what, there's only so
much you can do. I don't consider this whining. It's part of my job to
let management know when forces I can't control are impeding my ability
to do my job. I consider it one of the most important aspects of my job
to not let it get to that point. I establish a relationship with them
early on and I make it a point to stay out of their hair if they have a
deadline and I don't. Maybe I'm lucky, but that's stopped me from having
to bribe people or fret about people who won't talk to me.

* -- I'm paraphrasing the posting from memory. My apologies if I
remembered it wrong.

Chris Hamilton, Technical Writer
Greenbrier & Russel

"The essence of greatness is the preception that virtue is enough." --
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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