I know sometimes in my writing, on this blog, on posts for various social media, and elsewhere on the web, I sometimes get lost in various causes of one sort or another. I am curious by nature so like to take things to their logical conclusion to see where they lead. However, there are certain things I feel strongly about and these include the necessity for clear technical documentation to keep up with software development, and this means unfettered access to software developers for technical writers.
A lot of companies these days totally neglect their technical documentation in lieu relying often on marketing departments and others who often are far removed from the development process and don’t even know how to use the software being developed.
Moreover, technological change is happening so quickly, products are being developed within sometimes haphazard organizations who may let loose their code into the world with not much thought to how it will affect users and even society as a whole.
I mentioned a relatively new discipline called software studies in some previous posts, and indeed, I think it important for academia to begin more concertedly to study and question the runaway software development going on worldwide, but before that can even take place, I think, for businesses and organizations to properly serve their clients and constituents, they need to double down and invest in more software documentation, including strong technical writers, strong tools and platforms, and a strong localization effort, because there is a big world out there and not everyone speaks the same language.
In a post I wrote almost 7 years ago called The Gravity of Technical Writing I tried to explain the importance of the technical writing discipline by pointing out how Sandra Bullock’s character relied on the manuals she finds in the Russian and Chinese space capsules she finds when her own ship is destroyed by space debris.
This post is seven years old now and I wonder whether companies have learnt the lesson of how important technical documentation is to their products or has the problem grown much more acute?
With fifth generation internet and cell coverage (5G) happening now, and more and more automation—or artificial intelligence if you’d like—taking over, our world only grows more complex everyday. Some companies might not want you to really understand their product as that would diminish their hold over you, but a good software company, a software company that will last the century ahead in my opinion, will both put their customers first, and also make sure their organization, especially the development side of things, is both internally and externally transparent.
This is a bit of a difficult argument I am trying to make, but I think it is worth trying.
I wrote in my last post about how good I feel WordPress and Linux are because of their open source distributed and global development processes. But I think even more proprietary software applications and closed businesses that rely on their intellectual property have a lot to be gained by learning and practising some of what makes WordPress and Linux so great. Perhaps smaller projects cannot be so grandiose in their approach and will never see the miraculous millionth commit that Linux has but this doesn’t mean their producers don’t share the responsibility of putting out lasting stable and useful products.
In my opinion, good communication is part of the process for software products, and part of that communication is their related technical documentation.