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Subject:FWD: Meatball Tech Writing From:Anonymous User <anonfwd -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 17 Feb 1999 10:54:46 -0700
Name withheld upon request. Please reply on list.
One of the characters in the M*A*S*H TV show once referred to the
surgery performed at the MASH hospital as meatball surgery. Get it done
and get on with the next thing.
Most of the places I have practiced my trade, that's the best
description of the technical writing I've been able to do. I cut corners
and raise the bar as much as I can, but in the end, I have deadlines and
constraints that are outside my control. My current job is the most
exteme case of this, as development and release cycles are often three
weeks or shorter. The documentation I inherited is substandard in lots
of ways and because of our aggressive schedule and lack of process,
there's really no way I can do what needs to be done to bring the doc up
to spec. I'm trying, but progress is happening at a glacier-like pace.
As far as things like user analysis, hitting the least common
denominator, site visits, and all the other things that real tech
writers do, they just aren't possible. Perfection, or anything remotely
close to it, is not an option.
Or so I submit. I guess my question is this: in cases like mine, do you
perceive that the responsibility to the user and to the profession is so
great that the writer has an obligation to do whatever it takes to go
after perfection? Is pragmatism in this situation a copout or a
legitimate survival technique? Is pointing at management merely
And, what, if anything, seems to be a magic pill to change it (other
than the obvious work hard and pick your battles and try for incremental
improvement--which I do)?