Your five jobs as a programmer writer

On July 1st, I will have been a Programmer Writer at Sitecore for a whole year! It is a fun and challenging job that requires you to switch hats many times during the course of a day.

Here are the five jobs you can expect to perform as a Programmer Writer at Sitecore.

📜 Scribe

There will be a lot of meetings with a lot of information – particularly at the start of a project. Here are some things I wish I had done from day 1:

  • Write down everything that sounds like it might need to be documented
  • Write things down in one place – it can be anything from a OneNote to a folder with .txt files
  • Write down who gave you the information so that you can go to them for more information
  • Take some time each day to organise your notes into tasks – I use Trello

💬 Support

If you are working in a platform, it is likely that your product will have internal consumers – such as other development teams – long before the product is released.

Take some of the heat off the development team by acting as support for these users and reap the benefits:

  • It will quickly become apparent which areas of the product are difficult to use – feed this back to the Product Manager
  • You will get a sense of the most commonly asked questions – start an FAQ list early!
  • You will get a sense of how people are going to use your product, and the mistakes they are likely to make – use this to improve your documentation

🗣 Evangelist

If you are a single writer working for a large team, you will have the most comprehensive understanding of the whole product when it ships. Help facilitate uptake by presenting at conferences or user groups, or take an active part in developing training materials.

📹 Video producer

There are plenty of ways to communicate information, and video is set to take over the internet (apparently…). Although it would be nice to produce video content for every topic, there are only so many hours in the day. Here are some tips for getting video content out the door quickly:

  • Prioritise video content for critical information – such as overviews or topics related to security.
  • Keep it short! 5 – 7 minute long videos are easier to produce and easier to consume.
  • It doesn’t have to be high tech or polished – I use a PowerPoint and crude diagrams to illustrate concepts. It takes the pressure off and makes the narration less stiff.
  • Don’t edit out mistakes – if you get a Yellow Screen of Death, sort it out ‘live’. Your viewers might happen across the same issue.

✍ Writer

Occasionally, you will be called upon to write actual documentation. You will probably have writer’s block Monday – Thursday and recover your inspiration at 17:59 on Friday afternoon.