Re: Desiging your Documentation/Writing Department

Subject: Re: Desiging your Documentation/Writing Department
From: John Garison <john -at- garisons -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 09 Aug 2006 14:51:45 -0400

Having started and managed a good half-dozen writing departments, I'd have to figure out what the work load was, how often product releases happened, what the product itself was like, what the people were like, what the software/product development life cycle was like, and figure out if anyone in charge of development could say "No" to the developers and stick to it. Then and only then would I have enough information to begin making a decent decision about what the doc group should be like.

However, I can say that there are some lessons I have learned.

First, find a copy of (the late) Peter Hartman's book "Starting a Documentation Group" (ISBN 0-9674179-0-2) and read it. Memorize it if possible.

Look at what your strengths are, and put together a team that reinforces your strengths, but also fills in your weaknesses.

It's always a good idea to hire one writer who's very technical.

If possible, try to hire someone who loves the tools side of things.

Hire people with innate curiosity. You won't be able to stop them from figuring out how things work.

I always look for people with good writing skills. They can learn the rest, but being able to write well is not something easily taught.

Don't fret about tools. Tools is tools.

Devise a good way of keeping track of everything, new and old.

Be flexible Be able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Keep one eye on the horizon. You're the leader, so know where you're going and lead your group there. They'll follow.

Be willing to take on any task. I always did the release notes because everyone else hated doing them.

Get to know your people, give them good challenging work to do, recognize their efforts, and they will surprise you with what they can do.

That's my 2¢,

John Garison


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Re: Desiging your Documentation/Writing Department: From: Fred Ridder

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