Chris Borokowski <athloi at> wrote:In my experience, the average 
software company calls the TW when the
product is nearing completion, with completion usually meaning "five
minutes before the ship date," and asks them to WTFM.

Yes, they do. And that's exactly why so much of the documentation is 
frustrating for the customer to use. You can't generate technically correct 
content that is usable and well-planned and free of glaring typos and 
grammatical errors when you are only given an average of 30 minutes per page of 
output. (That is not an exaggeration. I can't begin to tell you how many times 
I've been asked to generate a couple hundred pages of new material in less than 
a week.) This is the "churn" approach to documentation, and it demonstrates 
that the company regards documentation as unimportant, an afterthought - and 
that they have no idea what it takes to generate something worthy of reading 
rather than using as fireplace kindling. In those situations, the TWs are 
forced to just do the best they can with what they're given in the alloted 
time...being quite thankful that their own names are not in the by-line.

The smaller percentage of companies that do involve documentation earlier in 
the process and actually solicit feedback from their customer base and then 
communicate that feedback in meaningful ways to the product team (including 
writers) are the ones who end up with better overall customer satisfaction and 
better accompanying/supporting documentation, be it online or print format.


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