Estimating Quality Documentation?

Subject: Estimating Quality Documentation?
From: SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 23:23:36 EDT

Anthony Markatos <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com> asked, "[I]f 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?" Not
wishing to step forward as a technical writing expert, I still will respond.

At one level this is simply a flawed syllogism. The measure of document
quality is not size, either short or long. I recently had this conversation
with a product manager who thought we should produce only a quick-reference
card for a product we're documenting, based on a card we did for another
product. What could be better? I had to point out to him that the card was
merely a supplement to a 100-page manual.

At another level, this question is interesting, because it illustrates the
difference between product quality and process quality, which are separate.
However you choose to measure the quality of a document, the process by which
it was created must be measured differently and separately. To any manager
trying to estimate time and resources, work output is a fundamental metric.
In our profession, the output is pages (or their e-equivalent). I can hardly
imagine any other way to estimate how long a project will take or how many
people it will require (which are process questions).

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc., 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
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