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
"This week we're really focusing on scalability, asset preservation and how do you back up to the cloud and in the cloud with object storage, which is really a new way of attacking dealing with your file, your blocked data, where you put it and how you access it," stated Jeff Greenwald, Senior Director of Market Development at HGST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busin...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Continuous testing helps bridge the gap between developing quickly and maintaining high quality products. But to implement continuous testing, CTOs must take a strategic approach to building a testing infrastructure and toolset that empowers their team to move fast. Download our guide to laying the groundwork for a scalable continuous testing strategy.
As companies gain momentum, the need to maintain high quality products can outstrip their development team’s bandwidth for QA. Building out a large QA team (whether in-house or outsourced) can slow down development and significantly increases costs. This eBook takes QA profiles from 5 companies who successfully scaled up production without building a large QA team and includes: What to consider when choosing CI/CD tools How culture and communication can make or break implementation
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
"We formed Formation several years ago to really address the need for bring complete modernization and software-defined storage to the more classic private cloud marketplace," stated Mark Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Formation Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
Most organizations prioritize data security only after their data has already been compromised. Proactive prevention is important, but how can you accomplish that on a small budget? Learn how the cloud, combined with a defense and in-depth approach, creates efficiencies by transferring and assigning risk. Security requires a multi-defense approach, and an in-house team may only be able to cherry pick from the essential components. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Vlad Friedman, CEO/Founder o...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
"We host and fully manage cloud data services, whether we store, the data, move the data, or run analytics on the data," stated Kamal Shannak, Senior Development Manager, Cloud Data Services, IBM, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
With over 720 million Internet users and 40–50% CAGR, the Chinese Cloud Computing market has been booming. When talking about cloud computing, what are the Chinese users of cloud thinking about? What is the most powerful force that can push them to make the buying decision? How to tap into them? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yu Hao, CEO and co-founder of SpeedyCloud, answered these questions and discussed the results of SpeedyCloud’s survey.
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 ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...