Re: Who dreams up these things?

Subject: Re: Who dreams up these things?
From: "Anthony Markatos" <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: wlewis -at- nclogic -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 09:00:54 PDT

Wendy Lewis said:

Why do you guys insist on arguing with the man (Andrew Plato)?

He is just advocating hard work over bureaucratic cow doodie,
in a pointed, but entertaining way.......

Tony Markatos responds:

I create documentation for complex software products. I see the same old thing over-and-over-and-over again: design efforts very poorly coordinated. All other Technical Writers that I know see the same thing. (I do volunteer work within my local STC chapter and know a lot of Technical Writers.)

A fellow STC member calls this lack of coordination: DAWG (Design-As-We-Go). No formal processes to ensure that modules are properly partitioned and integrated; just 'assume this and assume that' and cram this new module into the existing mess (i.e., the system) any way possible.

The result of DAWG is very predictable: software that is held together with 'chicken wire and bubble gum'(i.e., because design efforts where not properly coordinated, the creations of the individual designers don't work well when tied together.)

The end user interface is very poor. Common problems:

1.) Within a given screen, the end user is confronted with a prolifera of 'buzz words' different from those on other screens.

2.) Within a given screen, the end user is confronted with 'buzz words' the are the same or similar to those on other screens but whose meaning differs.

3.) Screens that ask end user to enter information that, unless they know the code design or database table design, they don't know -- and have no way of finding out.

Often, all of the above is then given to the Technical Writer who is told to "create end user documentation that any high school drop-out can understand". (What is happening hear is, by default, systems integration is being dumped upon the Technical Writer.)

Wendy, you equate adding process with adding bureaucracy. This is true only for poorly designed processes. Not all processes are poorly designed. And once you have experienced the joy of high productivity and creativity only possible by working within the confines of effective processes, working within an 'ad-hoc' organization is depressing.

Also, please do not confuse fast moving workers with hard workers. (This is a VERY common misunderstanding within the data processing community.) Einstien said it very appropriately, "Never confuse motion with action." Fast movers (note: fast moving designers are called hackers) are activity addicts; always thinking with their hands, they bang away at the keyboard hour-upon-hour. (Management often loves them because they work through lunch and put in a lot of overtime.) Yes they generate a lot of motion, but look at the typical result (see DAWG above).

Hard work in data processing (whether it designing or Technical Writing) is performing tough analytical work and then switching mental gears to take the end user into full consideration. Hackers dislike analytical work, I have yet to see a decent flow chart from one. Hackers dislike end users because they know that they are incapable of creating software to their (the end user's) satisfaction.

Tony Markatos
(tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com)

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