In recent weeks I’ve had the good fortune to return to do some work on a product I worked on a couple of years ago. I’m working with a product that I have deep history and knowledge of and I’m happy to be working with again.
A tester on the team who’s fairly new to the team needed some help. When I heard what she needed I had to think about it for a bit. This would have been information I would have had to have learned as well. So I did something that I often do and realized it might be worthwhile to blog about and share. I turned to a folder I create for every project and trolled through a stack of my notepad files. My how-to’s files.
When I’m on a project and I learn information that I feel is unique or had been troublesome or obscure in some way, I open up notepad and brain dump. I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t write long flowery sentences. I don’t outline, number or format. I just write. I write what was hard to learn. I write tactical details. I’ve noticed in trolling through some files this week that my files are almost always single topic, often not longer than one page. About the length of a blog post for me. Yep, that’s it. It isn’t high tech; it’s not polished or edited. I just write.
So I was able to share a couple of these how-to files with a tester who was hungry to learn. And as we stepped through the info, I could see the interest in her eyes. You know, you just can’t fake sincere interest. So I stayed with her for a while and we had a learning session. Then I backed off and made sure she was at the keyboard and that she could see where the notes were helpful and encouraged her to update my notes.
Take the notes over I suggested, add to, whatever would help her would mostly certain help the team. I don’t know why these files hadn’t been maintained on the artifacts folder but whatever, that happens sometimes. I added the files now. And now I have the added comfort of knowing someone other than me knows some unexpected tech details of a product.
The session also pointed out to me how much I enjoy teaching. It is a very cool feeling to watch someone’s eyes convey confusion and frustration and to watch that cloud clear away and to be replaced with understanding and know-how.
I was a bit disappointed with myself when she asked a good question and realized that I both knew the answer and could not recall having written a how-to file on the topic pointing out that I miss recording/writing sometimes. I should have written about that. I took mental note that I’d missed writing and committed to writing up the info now and posting it to the team.
So the blunt WIFFM. Find a way to write and share. One place I worked, I used to add files off the intranet. On this project it’s a simple shared drive. Documentation doesn’t have to be a painful overhead. It can be short. It needs to be accessible. And the best time to write it, I’ve come to learn is right when I’m done learning a bit.