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Interesting Technique for Discovering Software Changes and Building Rapport with developers

Dec 15, 2007 • general

video cameraYou know the typical scenario -- the technical writer is the last one to be notified of changes to the application (be it interface or functionality), and developers hate reviewing the manuals we write. Recently a business analyst explained an interesting technique to me for not only discovering software changes, but also building rapport with developers.

He said that in a previous company, he bought all the technical writers video cameras that record directly to DVD. In order for developers to mark a feature as complete, they had to demo it for the tech writer. Since engineers love to demo what they've just built, it was a welcome event -- a triumph in which the developer gets to show off his or her genius.

So the tech writer goes to the developer's machine and starts recording, aiming the video camera at the screen while the developer explains the new feature and shows how it works. Sure, video of computer screens is never very good, but he said it was visible enough.

Using this technique, tech writers learned first-hand the new features and captured them directly. With this footage, they created accurate documentation and the Quality Assurance team also used it to build test scripts. The developers never had to review any written documentation -- their review was simply the demo and video footage.

I'm eager to try this out. Has anyone had any experience with a technique like this? Can you suggest a better technique?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in simplifying complexity, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.