A Temporary View from the Other Side

Subject: A Temporary View from the Other Side
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:51:27 -0600


I recently got to experience being on the other side of the Developer-Writer
fence for a project. I thought I would relay the experience as I dealt with
trying not to change my mindset when it came to dealing with documentation

When I was writing the programming guide for a product that builds maps
across the web, I developed some working example code that dynamically
created a thematic legend for the map. This caught the eye of the
development team, and they decided to include the code in the demo (which is
delivered with the product). Later, they decided that the legend and other
functionality had to work across frames. I developed a methodology for
generating the map in one frame and displaying it in another, and I
developed another methodology to build a map from a collection of controls.

With one month to go before delivery, the entire demo project was given to
me. I had a graphic artist, a developer (strong in scripting and ActiveX
controls but not in DHTML), and a technical writer at my disposal. I was
the project lead. I did a lot of ASP, web site implementation, and DHMTL
coding while the other developer programmed the ActiveX control measurement
and mapping by query functions.

I had a functionality freeze in two weeks so that the writer could document
the demo. Anyway, the developer had all sorts of functionality that he
wanted to add. Now that he was dealing with me instead of my predecessor,
he was full steam ahead. In fact, one day he unscrewed his white board and
brought it to my office so I could work out the logistics of what he
sketched out with him.

Now a new twist emerged. I had to get as much of the demo working on
Netscape as possible. Originally, the intent was IE 4.0 only. With the
freeze nearing and some new functionality not implemented, my boss's boss
hammers at me about when the Technical Writer can start documenting the
demo. My first internal reaction was, "You mean freeze the thing 'as is'
for the sake of a document! You got to be kidding?" Funny how quick this
reaction can emerge once you change hats. I can only imagine what is like
for someone who has never worn a documentation hat. Now I'm in a dilemma.
How can I, a Technical Writer, claim that documentation is a minor issue.
After all, the guy hammering at me is the same guy that goes to bat when I
need things from Development.

Meanwhile, the other developer is insisting that the functionality go in. I
asked management, "Which is more important? Time or functionality". They
answered, "Time". I then said, "Okay, the extended functionality is out".
The other developer howls after shaking his head furiously during this

Afterwards, in a conversation with the developer as to why I didn't tell
them that they will have to wait, I explain, "They got me. I'm the last
person who can say documentation will have to wait. How could I ever push
for information myself, if I did not give it when I was on the other side."

However, I did compromise. I told the developer and the writer that I would
document any new functionality put in before the release of the demo.

P.S. The demo just went on the net this week. It is at the following URL
if you are curious:


I'd be interested in any comments or observations. Please respond

It can be viewed in IE 4.0 or Netscape. However, more functionality is
available through IE4.0. The site will prompt you to accept the loading of
an ActiveX control or a plug-in (Netscape).

Mike Wing

Michael Wing (mailto:mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com)
Staff Writer
Intergraph Corporation; Huntsville, Alabama

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