Fair Warning

I can listen to people scrape their fingernails on chalkboards (kids, ask your parents) all day long.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t sounds and words that make my teeth hurt and make me nauseous.

My example I have always hated the word “Document”, and all its uses and derivatives. Document? Documentation? Documentary? All of them. The only exception is the sentence “I just watched someone who overused the word ‘document’ get eaten by mice”.

My worst boss ever was a (I’m not making this up) near-functional illiterate QA manager to whom the company’s benighted tech writers had to report. And she once described the tech writers’ job as to “document the documentation in the documents”. It wasn’t *that* episode, or the fact that she advocated changing the job title to “Documentalist”, that made her the worst boss ever – oh, Lord, no – but it put a cherry on top of the crap sundae that was that job.

Which is one of the reasons I tune out the radio when impeachment talk comes up Part of it is because Adam Schiff justifies retroactive bullying – but largely because if I hear another smug, sanctimonious voice saying “documents documents documents documents documents…” again I’m going to kick a puppy.

12 thoughts on “Fair Warning

  1. By coincidence, next week I have been taken off from my usual work duties to spend five days doing . . . documentation.
    I have to convert about a hundred web pages from html to rst. This is so they will be compatible with a cms. I think the task is ludicrous, the html pages are 95% text with a few graphics, and are rarely modified. Maybe a few small changes every few years. You don’t need a cms, an html template and css will do the job, and you won’t get stuck when rts or your cms goes out of style & is no longer maintained.
    But the person who came up with the idea of doing this has a Phd in CS, and I have a lowly BS from a small state college, so . . . mine is not to reason why, &c.

  2. psst, hey Emery, tell itch you’ve got documents to prove Trump’s guilt, go ahead, its the only way to earn his respect

  3. So, MP, I had to go lookup (and then find out more about) the primary acronyms in that rant. My condolences. While looking I found reference to something called “pandoc” which is described as “If you need to convert files from one markup format into another, pandoc is your swiss-army knife. YMMV.

    Good luck.

  4. I’ll grant that “document” has a meaning that’s so broad, we really ought to say “what do you really mean by that?”, but what irritates me most about Comrade Schiff is his habit of making up the legal rules as he goes along while making up the “evidence” as well.

    He’s a great example of something I’ve believed for years; that it would be very healthy for the Republic if those exposed to Schiff’s…. “bull shiff” would simply start chanting the same as he talked. Yes, Pelosi would have a fit or a stroke, but that would be part of the charm.

  5. But the person who came up with the idea of doing this has a Phd in CS, and I have a lowly BS from a small state college, so . . . mine is not to reason why, &c.

    You have my sympathies, MP. I was told a few years ago by a co-worker that PhD stands for “piled high and deep”. My own experience with a PhD electrical engineer reinforced the notion that a piece of paper doesn’t make you smarter. I attended a small private college in AZ. Despite being merely armed with a BS in Computer Science, I redesigned and completed in 8 days a simulation model that the PhD was 3 months late in delivering. To this day, I’m unclear what benefit he brought to the project, other than air conditioning ballast…

  6. Ian, the alternative PhD description is “piled higher and deeper” because MS is “more sh1t” and BS is “bu11sh1t”. Otherwise agree. The requirements for advanced degrees doesn’t seem to coincide with actually making products and profits.

  7. Last year, every staff member in our division spent months writing Work Procedures: explicit, detailed, step-by-step documentation explaining how to do your job so if you get hit by a bus, someone else can hop on your chair and take over. Seamless succession. Brilliant.

    Then, they switched software vendors. Those instructions no longer work. Well, some do, but you won’t know which parts are valid until you sit down to try them. Then you realize the link you need is broken, or your user ID doesn’t have administrative rights to perform that task, or . . . .

    And management wonders why productivity is lower than morale.

  8. JD,

    Having been in sales for over 35 years, I always laughed when the management of companies that I worked with had incessant sales meetings to determine why sales were down and everyone was behind on their quotas. One Regional VP, who literally demanded that we enter everything that we did into our CRM and chastised anyone that wasn’t in their account records daily. Between his weekly 2 hour meetings, plus the 8 – 10 hours per week that we had to spend keeping those records up to date, that was almost 2 days per week of lost interactions with customers. During my last week there, I pointed this out to him. He didn’t respond, but after I left, he lightened up on the CRM requirements and kept most meetings to an hour

  9. The PhD is a genuinely smart guy. His part of maintaining and updating the system I am updating the docs for requires deep knowledge of real time operation of precision mechnics & optics. I could never do it. But he is young (in his thirties) and doesn’t have a lot of experience with doing documentation & maintaining documentation. I have a meeting with him on Monday, maybe I can change his mind by asking questions. You know, “Do we really need to use a CMS for this?” I’m not sure that he understands how labor intensive the task of converting the html docs is. They’ve accumulated over two decades, the guy who put them together, to document the system that he built, was a little eccentric. They don’t all comply with html4 or html5 standards, so automatically converting them to some other standard is a questionable proposition.

  10. JD: That is the way it is in my company/division as well. And on top of that, our VP likes this phrase: The rate of change is faster than ever, and the current rate of change is slower than it will ever be in the future.

    That’s the environment in which we try to keep things humming along

  11. The requirements for advanced degrees doesn’t seem to coincide with actually making products and profits.

    @jdm: How true. The instructors at my private university were not institutionalized academics, but people who’d worked in the private sector and had practiced what they were teaching us. Shortly before I graduated, one of the liberal arts professors was made acting president of the university and pushed the university toward requiring the instructors to actively seek tenure by getting published, putting a much heavier focus on research and away from applied science, which was one of the university selling points. Many of the good instructors did not fit this mold, including my advisor, so they were let go. I graduated the following year. My opinion is the move hurt the quality of the education of the students graduating from there.

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