Welcome!

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, IoT User Interface

Containers Expo Blog: Book Review

Developing Quality Technical Information: Third Edition

A Handbook for Writers and Editors

As an enterprise and software architect the one thing I hate most about my job is documentation, yet the importance of doing documentation on sizable projects is what I find myself preaching about the most.

One reason I understand the importance of documentation is that I came from an electronic engineering background. As an electronic engineer 93% - 97% of my time was consumed doing proof of concepts and documentation. Almost all of that time was documentation.

It was just my luck that my boss was an English grammar teacher before moving into engineering. My documents came back very bloody. He used a red pen to mark up my documents. It took me 2 years, and a whole lot of tongue biting, but I started getting papers through him without a red mark. I still remember the first one. I walked outside to where the smokers took their breaks and let out a screaming "YES, Finally!!!"

I have been without my grammar teaching boss for over 18 years now, and I am pretty sure if he came across the book reviews I am writing now, he would be sending me bloodied up copies!!! I really needed this book!!

Technical documentation is a hard skill set to learn, at least doing good technical documentation is. I have been on Template Zombie projects where teams considered documentation complete when they had filled in enough templates to overwhelm the customer to the point where they would not have time to review 1/10 of what was being written.

One project I was on built a documentation generator so it was easier to duplicate documents and only change the title and a few pieces of content. The sad part of that project was they got paid for each document handed in. The criteria for getting paid for use cases were that they had to have something underneath every heading in the document.

Documentation should not be something you check off of the project's task list, it should add value to the project or it should not be done. This book will definitely help you make valuable documentation. I have listed the chapters below to give you an idea of what the book covers.

Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1. Technical information continues to evolve
Chapter 2. Developing quality technical information

Part 2: Easy to use
Chapter 3. Task orientation
Chapter 4. Accuracy
Chapter 5. Completeness

Part 3: Easy to understand
Chapter 6. Clarity
Chapter 7. Concreteness
Chapter 8. Style

Part 4: Easy to find
Chapter 9. Organization
Chapter 10. Retrievability
Chapter 11. Visual effectiveness

Part 5: Putting it all together
Chapter 12. Applying more than one quality characteristic
Chapter 13. Reviewing, testing, and evaluating technical information

Part 6: Appendixes
Appendix A. Quality checklist
Appendix B. Who checks which characteristics?
Glossary
Resources and references

When I came into the Dot Com Boom I found some software engineering, but most of what I found was the wild west and cowboy coding running rampant. The industry has not changed much since then. We just gave names to the chaotic processes to justify our lack of discipline. I continued my engineering practices and quickly learned how to document software processes and architectures, but convincing others to do it was a different story.

The only way I have been able to show it has value is do it myself. After the team sees I am willing to suffer the boredom of documentation they tend to step in and help. That wouldn't happen if we didn't make use of the documentation and they didn't see value in it.

It has been years since I have had someone to officially review it. This book really helps keep the important things in mind, and since there is no one else to review it, I can use all the help I can get. Right now one of the things I do to catch issues in my documents is have them spoken back to me using the speech capabilities on my computers. This helps me catch sentence structure issues, and some typos. It doesn't catch using the wrong their/there, insure/ensure, except/accept, and many more like sounding words that I mess up.

I use Sparx Enterprise Architect to document systems. Behind every diagram you find the information that explains them. If that information is not simple to understand, and easy to read, the diagram's value falls greatly.

Throughout the process you need to write for several different audiences. Your stakeholders are interested in different aspects of the system. Creating a clear view of what each type of stakeholder wants to see is a painful process, but it always pays off.

It makes me think about the solution from angles I normally wouldn't. Not only think about them, but diagram and describe them in a way that the solution's diagrams and associated documents can stand on their own. It makes me justify and clarify all the decisions made about the system, before it is in production!

Doing documentation is like coding. You start with a shell of what you are building, and you add the details to the different topics with each iteration of your development cycle. Your goal- to make simple, complete, accurate, logical, easy to understand documents. That is exactly what this book will guide you to do.

There are tons of examples showing the original text, diagram, or screen shot of a design, and then the revised version. There are two really cool appendices and a nice glossary. The first appendix is a huge checklist for quality characteristic. The second appendix is a big chart showing which roles should be reviewing the different aspects of the document.

Over all I found every chapter of this book valuable. As time goes on, the hardest part for me is keeping it all in mind. For that reason, this book will be staying by my side just like each of my current most useful programming books. If you do any documenting of software systems, this is a must read. Every software architect, enterprise architect, CIO, developer, tester, and project manager working on a software project, should have this book in his or her hands. You own to your stakeholders and yourself.


Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors (3rd Edition)

Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors (3rd Edition)

More Stories By Tad Anderson

Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
DevOps is not just last year’s buzzword. Companies with DevOps practices are 2.5x more likely to exceed profitability, market share, and productivity goals. But how do you enable high performance? What can you do right now to start? Find out from DevOps experts including Gene Kim, co-author of "The Phoenix Project," and the Dynatrace Center of Excellence.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Recognizing the need to identify and validate information security professionals’ competency in securing cloud services, the two leading membership organizations focused on cloud and information security, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and (ISC)^2, joined together to develop an international cloud security credential that reflects the most current and comprehensive best practices for securing and optimizing cloud computing environments.
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, showed how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He used a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...