RE: Software documentation on the critical path

Subject: RE: Software documentation on the critical path
From: "Murrell, Thomas" <TMurrell -at- alldata -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 13:42:12 -0400

I sympathize with the angst engendered by being told that "documentation is
on the critical path." Nothing is likely to raise up those feelings of
nervousness and insecurity quite like knowing that you've become the center
of attention.

In an effort to provide some help for this situation, I am about to reveal
one of my most closely held documentation secrets. Wherever I have worked
people have tended to think I am a can-do writer who always meets deadlines
with high quality documentation. It's a nice reputation to have and a
difficult one to live up to.

Here's my secret: I work very hard to make the documentation as complete,
correct, and easy to use as possible, and I ship it on the due date
regardless of whether it is done or not.

I hear the gasps of other writers out there, and I sympathize with their
shock. My experience, which may not be wide enough for all situations, is
that by the time the audience figures out that there is information missing
or wrong, by that time, I have Version 2.0 out there. Or Version 3.0 or
whatever version is next.

There are always updates to be done, changes to be made, and work that
simply could not be finished in time. I do the best I can in the time, and
with the constraints, I have, and I promise to make it better in the next
version.

There, now the world knows that I have sometimes shipped documentation that
I knew was incomplete or incorrect in order to meet a deadline. This
approached has worked for me. I don't know if it will work for you.

Tom Murrell
Senior Technical Writer




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