After a short round of introductions, Svi Ben-Elya asked the QA manager of Arad Tech (Orly) to open the discussion with a brief description of the documentation needs of Arad Tech.
Orly described her goal as having someone come in and "magically" document everything and leave behind an infrastructure that would continue on by itself.
The documentation needs are enormous because Arad Tech is a fast growing company , which is likely to outgrow its ability to manage and retain information on each product unless it improves its documentation infrastructure. The discussion covered a lot of ground, from document and file management systems to ISO and other structured mechanisms for maintaining information, to how to get started. The Tech Writers present drew on their own experience in similar situations to provide a starting point.
Well before we were ready to leave this topic, the Product Manager from Oplus (Jacob Appleblat), requested that we turn our attention to problems that he has had in the past with Technical Writers and their documentation. He came prepared for a hostile audience, with real examples to back up his positions.
Again, the discussion was both interesting and productive, but certainly not hostile. He had some real concerns and hopefully we were able to help him do a better job of selection and managing Tech Writers. Lack of feedback and failure to create documentation that meets the needs of the target audience are real problems that are often symptomatic of inexperienced Technical Writers or misguided use of Tech Writers. Solving these problems are in everyone's interest and I hope that the dialog started Monday night will continue off line. In any case, before the meeting broke up, both Orly and Jacob made a point to request contact information from those present.
All in all, the meeting was a success and the Forum reached a new stage, where it is no longer a forum of Tech Writer's, but rather of both sides of the Technical Writing equation.