Documentation Forever (or not)

Melbourne River Scene 

As a Technical Writer I’m often told: ‘Oh, so you’re here to write documentation. But of course you know no-one’s going to read it.’

This comment can be taken a number of ways. I could interpret it as: ‘You’re just wasting your time and ours.’ or ‘We know our jobs so well here that we’re never likely to want to read anything you could write.’  Or perhaps: ‘Well, we won’t read it, but okay, we need to have some record of our intellectual capital, so just go ahead and we’ll file it away somewhere.’

These flashes of memory were rekindled today when I happened to run into a co-worker from a previous contract. All of the above statements had been made in relation to that job, writing user guides, online help, systems documentation etc. for a financial application that managed grants to government beneficiaries. The friend, let’s call her Cass, went through all the usual office gossip, but then turned serious. ‘Hey, what happened to all that doco you wrote? We can’t find it.’

Apparently there had been a major network mishap and the documentation I had so carefully stored was nowhere to be found. ‘Perhaps you have a copy somewhere? We really need that doco. The new developer wants to use it as a baseline for the upgrade.’

Fortunately I was able to help. Although I finished the contract over a year ago and have since moved on to different pastures I did happen to keep a copy of the more important stuff for my folio. But I have to say it brightened up my day no end. Some recognition, finally, that the job of Technical Writer has some relevance in the great scheme of things.


2 comments on “Documentation Forever (or not)

  1. Yeap, you are lucky. I only get feedback on my documentation if a customer happens to find some inconsistencies between the manual and the application. But it’s kinda of a rare, so I do not get much recognition…

  2. Thanks Dan. I guess it’s something we all have to put up with in the Tech Writer game.

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