After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Like a Good Gardener, Help an Enterprise Keep Itself Current

Posted on October 18, 2016
Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

25654050293_a6ac9c67a9_cHere’s a great analogy for technical writers from the “Stories From the Software Salt Mines” blog. Sure, you can keep adding features (in the form of text and photos) to whatever technical content you’ve been developing for months, or years.

But if you haven’t been conscious of keeping it all fresh and organized appropriately, if you’ve just been adding on…and on, watch out. Or if you’ve been describing an aging system as though it’s still new, that could be a double whammy.

“Software as a garden: to be able to grow more software, to be able to grow revenue with it,” the blog writer notes, “you have to keep the soil fertile and give the roots room. The problem is, gardening projects are a hard sell. These are things like refactoring older parts of the code that no longer serve efficiently, or upgrading or replacing outdated parts of the architecture, or redesigning subsystems that work fine today but can’t adapt to things the company wants to do in the future. When you tell executives you need to do these things, what they hear is that they can’t have new features while you do it. New features fuel growing companies.”

In short, you need to be observant, that is, current, as you write. If the setting you’ve been active in has been aging (and what settings haven’t?), have you kept it current in your own awareness and thoughts, and pointed out to its owners what you’ve been observing?

If you’re simply chronicling an aging, though originally awesome, system, watch out! If you don’t “tend your garden,” contribute to keeping it current, sooner or later it will stop producing. And nobody should be surprised at that.

Yet, notes the writer in the Software Salt Mines: “It was much the same story: the company had focused entirely on rapid new-feature delivery and not enough on ongoing design and architecture. After a decade, their soil had gone infertile and the code had become tangled. Nothing new would grow.”

A good gardener helps maintain the conditions for growth. So does a good technical writer. – Doug Bedell


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