Should documentation writers get paid more than developers?

2 months ago 18
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Commentary: Given the value of documentation to making bundle usable, should documentarians gain a bigger paycheck than developers?

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Image: SIphotography, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Without large documentation, large code...isn't. Great documentation, aft all, makes codification much approachable, much useful. Bad code? Well, arsenic The Taproom CEO Kelly Vaughn tweeted, "Please, please, PLEASE–I americium begging you–invest clip and resources into your documentation. I've been moving successful circles for 3 days present trying to lick the aforesaid occupation due to the fact that the documentation is terribly lacking."

In fact, if you inquire developers their astir desired enactment for being productive with software, arsenic SlashData did, it's documentation. Nothing other comes close. 

And yet, it's not wide that companies worth their documentation writers accordingly. Or possibly the occupation is that documentation writers don't worth themselves arsenic overmuch arsenic they ought. RedMonk's KellyAnn Fitzpatrick has a large investigation of the Write the Docs Salary Survey 2020. But for me, the biggest takeaway that is implied but ne'er stated: few, including the doc writers themselves, whitethorn worth documentation highly enough.

"Docs oregon you don't vessel it"

When I managed Adobe's Developer Ecosystem team, we tried to institute a fewer cardinal tenets. One was that merchandise teams should put much heavy successful the unfastened root communities upon which they progressively depended. A 2nd was that merchandise teams should default to public, not private, APIs. Implicit successful this 2nd tenet was a content that if a squad knew its API would beryllium public, it would bash a amended occupation creating and documenting the API. 

SEE: How to physique a palmy developer vocation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I believed then, arsenic I judge now, that docs are captious to bundle (and API) adoption. Hence, I hold with former Twitter documentarian Troy Howard who declared: "Docs oregon you don't vessel it." Documentation, successful different words, isn't ancillary to the product: it is an integral portion of the product. 

It's not surprising, therefore, that developers mention documentation arsenic the astir important happening a bundle supplier tin connection them, good supra different important options similar training, improvement tools, etc. (Figure A).

Figure A

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Image: SlashData

Great method writers don't simply write, arsenic important arsenic that is. According to Fitzpatrick, "[T]he accomplishment of being capable to drawstring words unneurotic per se is not capable to guarantee the accumulation of large method documentation." You request to put clip successful research, parsing the expertise of taxable substance experts and more. Writing is important, but knowing what to constitute and however to explicate it, is conscionable arsenic important. 

SEE: Hiring kit: Technical writer (TechRepublic Premium)

Sounds hard, right? Sounds important, too. Given however important bundle has go to the functioning of concern and society, you'd deliberation we'd wage a hefty premium for radical who tin marque bundle utile for a broader assemblage than it mightiness different reach.

Well, possibly we do.

Getting paid

If you look astatine Indeed's wage data, the mean basal wage for a U.S.-based bundle technologist is astir $104,100, positive different $4,000 currency bonus per year. If accurate, that's astir in-line with what a U.S.-based documentation writer makes, according to the Write the Docs Salary Survey 2020 information (Figure B).

Figure B

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Image: Write the Docs Salary Survey 2020

(A speedy spot cheque against Glassdoor and different information sources for bundle engineers suggests the aforesaid unsmooth parity exists for different countries.) 

I'd telephone that a victory. Right? If a bundle developer is going to marque $100,000, shouldn't the documentarian marque astir the same, fixed that she volition beryllium conscionable arsenic important to the software's success? 

Most Write the Docs Salary Survey respondents (72%) look to deliberation so, saying they're "satisfied" with their compensation. But should they be? For the 10.7% of respondents who accidental they're "unsatisfied" with their pay, their apical crushed is "Pay is excessively low." And for those comparative fewer who are "unsatisfied" with their jobs, the apical crushed (cited by 46%) is "Role is undervalued oregon underfunded." 

Perhaps it's the writer successful me, Oliver Twist-style, asking, "Please Sir, I privation immoderate more." And possibly much isn't needed. Maybe documentarians marque enough. Yet bundle engineers support getting paid more, and the top 25% of developers marque considerably much than that $104,000 average. I don't person the data, but I'll hazard a conjecture that the champion documentarians don't get anyplace adjacent the salaries of the champion engineers, contempt having significant, if not equivalent, impact. 

I'd emotion to perceive your take. Do you deliberation bully documentation writers should get paid the aforesaid oregon much than bully bundle engineers? Why oregon wherefore not? Talk to me on Twitter or successful the comments below. 

Disclosure: I enactment for AWS, but the views expressed herein are mine.

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