Pulp...er, help fiction

Pilot fish gets bored with writing documentation for this computer-aided design software vendor, so he volunteers for the team working on a new product.

"There were a dozen developers and me," says fish. "My job was to build and write the help system. It was, um, a joy from the start. With no tools available, I had to build the entire JSP system in Emacs."

But that's not the worst of it. The developers are working furiously to get the coding for new functionality done, and fish receives no notes from project leads, no design specs, no emails from developers and barely any review from QA. The only hints fish gets as to what should be in the docs come from what he can glean from the developer meetings.

But he does his best -- and as part of his work, fish creates a glossary of the most common operations, along with a typical command stream for each. That way, confused users will have one more way of searching for how to do what they want.

Fast forward a few months: The push cycle has gone from monthly to quarterly, and the product is officially frozen so it can be produced in international versions.

"The developers were supposed to have left the code alone at that point," fish says. "But being developers and having a half-dozen code cycles, the code clearly 'drifted' a bit."

It's all fish can do to make the changes he knows about. But when the overwhelmed QA team finally gets around to reviewing the product's latest docs, fish isn't expecting the reaction from the QA lead.

"Everything is wrong!" the QA lead shouts.

Can you be more specific? fish asks.

"Just look at the code! Every single page is wrong!" QA lead howls. What did you do, make it up? he asks. How else could you get every single page wrong?

Grumbles fish, "How could I delicately explain that while I was pretty quick at generating the docs, I was unable to write the docs fast enough that I had rewritten every single page?

"The smoking gun was the glossary, which was created with a simple cut-and-paste. I am not creative enough to write an entirely fictional help system.

"The product died soon after, and I moved on to greener pastures. But I was forever blamed for writing entirely fictional documentation."

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