Let’s Play … Documentation!

I’ve recently become an online Othello addict. Like any good game, it’s simple to learn and difficult to master. Mind games are all the rage these days, whether it’s traditional games and puzzles such as crosswords or Suduko, or the electronic Brain Age game for the Nintendo DS (which I’ve also played). Everyone loves a good game, but did you know that playing games is actually good for you? The mind is a muscle that needs regular exercise, otherwise it becomes, uh, what’s the word, oh yes…slow.

The Documentation Game

The documentation process is often grueling. If it could be played like a game, wouldn’t that make it more enjoyable, and possibly even fun? But if documentation is a game, what is the object of the game, what are the rules and who are you playing against?

Object-Oriented

The object of the Documentation Game is simple. It is to ensure that the end user:

  • finds the information they are looking for

and

  • understands and uses the information they find

There is no partial scoring. If the user finds the information but does not understand or cannot use it, sorry – you lose.

Rules of the Game

The rules of the Documentation Game are also simple. You’re allowed to use any and all documentation tools and processes at your disposal to supply information to the user. These include anything from a simple text editor (such as Notepad), all the way up to a sophisticated content management system.

You lose the game if:

  • the user has to call technical support
  • you have to contact the user to supply or explain the information
  • the user gives up and returns the product

You also lose points if the user curses the technical writer.

Documentation Hell

Your opponent in the Documentation Game is an extremely ugly and dangerous beast that is as old as knowledge itself. Its name, should you dare to speak it, is the I-Devil; the I stands for Inaction and Incomprehension. The I-Devil wins if:

  • the user cannot find the information they need
  • the user finds the information but cannot use it (Inaction) or cannot understand it (Incomprehension)

You may wonder how you can play against an opponent you can’t see. But millions do this every day, when they play online games against another person in another place, or against the computer. The fact you can’t see your opponent does not make the game any less fun.

Let the games begin…

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