Scalable Documentation


in by Paul Polak is perhaps one of the most important blog posts I have read related to affordable poverty alleviating technologies. Read it before continuing this post

Read it?

I hope to write a bit more about the delivery chain but for today I will focus on scalability. This paragraph covers the important aspects.

“In many instances, the design of a scaling strategy is not very complicated. What development practitioners usually miss is the importance of building design for scale into a project from the very beginning of the design process. For example, if you need to sharpen ten pencils, the way to do it is simple. If you need to sharpen a thousand pencils, you need to use a different strategy, but it can be done. If you need to sharpen 100,000 pencils, you need a still different strategy. Each of these problems is eminently solvable, but each one requires a different series of logical steps; it’s very difficult to efficiently change from a ten-pencil strategy to a hundred-thousand-pencil strategy if you’ve already committed your resources and your time to the former.”

The same applies to documentation. Even if the technology is inherently scalable, the documentation can go a long way toward making or preventing the practice of scaling. The way one would convey an invention to a single small group is very different to the way you’d show it to a large number of large groups. Especially when we consider that the interest of each group might be very different and they are all important parts of the delivery chain. The solution needs to meet the needs of each part of the delivery chain, or at the very least a large chunk of it so that only small segments require extra effort.

Can we make a set of instructions suitable for all? If not how much can we cover in one step? In how few steps can we cover all of the important stuff?

First this will require a deeper investigation into the needs of the delivery chain with regards to documentation. Then I will revise the simple needs map, it was a quick first attempt and would have been better termed instructional resources map, with a deeper analyses of the delivery chain to ensure that the most critical resources, in terms of achieving success as opposed to nominal functionality, are highlighted.
From here it will be mapping out the different resources, the shared source materials, the generation of that source material and the users

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