Re: Estimating Quality Documentation?

Subject: Re: Estimating Quality Documentation?
From: Bettina and Scott Wahl <bbormann -at- netcom -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 15:50:26 -0400

Tony,

Reliance on page counts is one of the major problems I have with metrics
proposed by Joanne Hackos and others. I am no project management specialist,
but I know from experience that there is only a marginal correlation between
page count and writing time. Many designers I know have the same complaints
about estimating software design projects based on number of lines of code.

I have seen writers churn out an impressive number of pages/hour -- but often
these pages were almost directly copied from a design spec and were very
straightforward reference pages or simple instructions.

On the other hand, I have spent many days producing only a few pages because it
required a lot of research, many discussions with designers and product
managers, and a lot of difficult writing on complex material. This is the sort
of stuff that adds value to the organization.

When I'm asked to provide estimates for documents (new or updated), or review
estimates from other writers, I never refer to page counts. I use these inputs
to guide me in estimating documentation effort:
- past experience - how long did it take last time for similar material?
- how complicated is the subject matter?
- how accessible/cooperative are the subject matter experts?
- is the information totally new or is it an update of existing information

Not very scientific, I know - I don't have a fancy calculation or spreadsheet.
But I'm usually close enough to staff my team appropriately, keep things on
track, and deliver on time.

Scott Wahl
Bridgewater Systems
www.bridgewatersys.com

-------------------------------------------------
Anthony Markatos wrote:

> There is a saying that, 'Documentation should be so simple and
> straight-forward that they (management) will wonder what took you so long.'
> One metric of such documentation is a minimum number of pages.
>
> So if quality documentation takes time and has a minimum number of pages,
> why do all the Technical Writing experts advocate estimating techniques
> based upon page count?





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