The Death of Documentation



“No one reads the manuals, not even me.”

The young CEO was stunned. After all, the thin, nervous-looking man with the skinny tie sitting across the desk from him was his publications manager. The man wasn’t done speaking.

“My creative team doesn’t read them. The support department doesn’t read them. The salespeople certainly don’t read them. I think I can hazard a guess and say the users don’t read them, either.”

The CEO furrowed his brow and rubbed his chin. He paused for a moment, reflected, and came up with a solution to the problem, indicative of the quick thinking that had led to his rapid rise within the organization.

But to be fair, he had to hear out the man in front of him first.

“So whose fault is that?” the executive asked. “What’s the problem and how do we solve it?”

The head writer ran his hand through his hair which looked like it had been groomed by a typhoon. He didn’t reply.

“It is because your documentation su—, er, stinks?”

The man looked as though he had consumed something that didn’t agree with him, an expired glass of milk, perhaps.

“How dare you question the quality of the documentation?! Everyone knows it’s the user that’s the problem! No one reads anymore. We’re living in a post-literate society! Documentation is doomed, doomed I tell you!!”

The CEO had to admit that doom was certainly in the forecast; if not quite the way his manager saw it. That meant he had to implement the solution he had devised moments before.

“You’re fired,” he said. And that was that.


Months passed, and not one person lamented the demise of the publications manager, nor clamored for another. Despite this, a little voice inside of him told the CEO he should keep looking for one.

One day he got a call from HR saying that they had screened and vetted the perfect candidate, and that he should really spend a few minutes with him because he was so good, the executive was sure to give his final stamp of approval. The CEO was dubious—he wasn’t even sure he had met the person on the other end of the phone—but he played along.

“Send this guy in.”

Moments later a man dressed in black from head to toe—black suit, black shirt, black tie, black hair glistening with (perhaps too much) jell—stepped into the CEO’s mahogany-walled, leather-appointed office and took a seat in front of the large desk at the end of the room. First impression: it could have been the Grim Reaper of Documentation, but even though HR threw some surprising candidates his way from time to time, he doubted they would go that far.

When he heard the candidate’s first words, though, he was forced to seriously reconsider.

“Documentation is dead,” the stranger said. “People like me killed it and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

(To be Continued in Next Week’s Blog)

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