Thoughts on Documentation: What are we afraid of?

People are afraid of documentation… But mostly people just hate it. They don’t like it. They don’t want it. It shouldn’t exist. Fingers in ears. I can’t hear you.

This is about primal fear. And hate. I hate hate. But these are real emotions. Let’s deal with it. What is the reality? Why is documentation is ignored, abandoned, or resisted at all?

As a Sysadmin perhaps you don’t care about documentation, that is, sharing information with others (co workers / bosses), you want to keep it to yourself. But you care very much about building systems. But there’s perhaps no attempt to explain any of this to anyone else. Who else is there really? No one cares. No one is around that would understand if you explained it.

Lesson # 1 – Document for yourself.

Paranoia makes us set up redundant systems for backups. Layers upon layers. Custom scripts and disparate apps. Where was this explained? Documented? Nowhere. Bin dir. Maybe.

If you could replace all that now with one app that did it all then you would. Time is valuable. Easier to monitor. Easier for someone else to monitor and take over.

Lesson # 2 – document for your replacement (job change, bus hit)

Do it continuously. Automate. Or set up systems that work automatically.

Lesson # 3. DevOps.

Integrate systems. IT systems manage computer but maybe they also built Inventory. Automatically. Alert Systems report continuously. Living systems report on the state of everything. Documentation is easier when it is current and relevant.

Lesson # 4. Sustainability

Commercial vs OpenSource. Support vs excellent team, talent retention and documentation. Pro/Con. If your custom solution is not well documented that can be a big problem. If you code is not shared, peer-reviewed, or supported by anyone that could be an issue. If it makes sense to switch to commercial software that is supported then do it. If an OpenSource project or code is supported by a larger community perhaps that makes sense.

Lesson # 5. Improve. Grow. Get better.

Discovery and Documentation lead to suggestions for improvement. Make changes. Code and disparate systems that struggle to be documented make us think about how to replace them or better balance the risks vs cost.

Lesson # 6. Human problems don’t always tech solutions.

Code doesn’t fix broken workflows. Meetings are with people. Talking through systems helps people understand pain points. Don’t forget people want to do their job, meet deadlines, do stuff.

Let’s make their world and our world better.

Love not hate. Peace.

Documentation-MatX

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