Eat your own documentation

Charles Seybold | January 30, 2009

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The LiquidPlanner team is nearing the end of a big development effort and we’re at that point where we need to clean up the user documentation so it is consistent with all the changes we made. To be honest, we’re design junkies and completely ignore the documentation until a few weeks before we ship.

Bruce Henry and I do most of the design and program management work for new features and this is really fun, energetic work. By this I mean, we have raging design battles, debates, and stalemates. Sometimes we end up just staring at each other with that contempt you reserve for complete idiots… and then, we do it all over the next day. Like I said, that’s the fun part.

We also share a principle which is “eat your own dog food”. It means we use LP to manage our work, but we also try to follow the same advice and guidance we give our customers. Ergo, we try to do what our documentation says to do. When that’s hard to live by, we realize we have a new design problem to solve.

So in true dog food style, Bruce is now re-scripting and re-shooting all the training videos and I’m responsible for updating all the user documentation and old forum posts. We eat what we make. Its labor intensive work and listening to Bruce swear like a sailor when he flubs a take is its own special fun. But in the end, we get a good look from our customer’s vantage point. It’s good project closure.

Moral of the story: if you are a manager and think working on product documentation is not worth your attention, then you might be missing a great opportunity to check your blind spots for missed opportunity.

Doing Documentation