Chris Borokowski <athloi at yahoo.com> 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. Rene