From developer to technical writer: the Case of the Java Tools Developers

A large systems manufacturer, assigning considerable manpower to open source software development, needed their code components to be documented. The users of these components were themselves software developers rather than end users, and no budget could be made available for the services of a technical writer.

What was achieved

The software engineers who had to document their own code were given the opportunity to join in a two-day workshop. During those days a Byte Ryte consultant taught them to document exactly the sort of things they made for exactly the sort of people who would use them. The course was designed and developed to be highly interactive and hands-on. Henceforward they could tackle the alien task of "writing documentation" with confidence and successfully.

What it took

It is impossible to turn people into documentation designers in two days—but that wasn't the plan. The training course was custom-made, to match both the particular skills of the (mostly Eastern-European) participants and the particular type of documentation they were required to produce. The challenge was to provide them with tools with which they could document 90% of the stuff they wrote such that the documentation would be 90% adequate.