Re: methods of reviewing documentation

Subject: Re: methods of reviewing documentation
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: Melissa Clark <liss_clark -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2004 16:15:32 -0500

Melissa Clark wrote:

I need some help with technical review METHODS.


You say you've read materials in the techwr-l archives, so this list should just be a refresher for you.

Once you create a situation in which people understand the importance of reviewing documents (more on that later), ideas you might want to consider include:

Ensuring that the document creation team (writer and editor) have cleaned up all of the grammar/style/typo issues that might distract a reviewer

Instructing reviewers that you are not really asking them to review grammar/style/typography but want their input on factual content and any usability issues that occur to them

Adding a cover sheet to the PDF with some sort of check-off form, due date, summary of above instructions, sign-off block (just as an incentive, not because you are going to institute a formal sign-off procedure)

Sticking to the review deadline you set, so that any comments coming in after the deadline are applied to the NEXT edition, not the current one

Note that there is nothing wrong with people providing their comments as emails or marked up hardcopy. It should not matter to you how the suggestions come in, so long as they're legible.

You want to retain final control in the doc group (a review comment, even from the CEO, should be treated as a suggestion, not a command).

Now, as to the question of getting people to participate in the process, I suspect they are going to have to experience some pain before they will take this responsibility seriously.

First ensure that you are asking for reviews from only the few individuals whose opinions matter--generally SMEs rather than managers. Routinely sending stuff to senior management for review is generally a futile exercise. Give them a courtesy copy of the finished document if you like, but don't expect them to have time to catch errors before publication.

But if even the SMEs won't respond, just go ahead and publish on the advertised date. The worst that can happen is that a doc will go out with errors that customers complain about. If enough customers complain, you'll begin to get better cooperation from reviewers. Guaranteed. I am NOT suggesting that you introduce intentional errors to make this happen, though.

methods of reviewing documentation: From: Melissa Clark

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