Should documentation writers get paid more than developers?

Commentary: Offered the great importance of documentation to generating software usable, need to documentarians earn a even larger paycheck than developers?


Image: SIphotography, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Devoid of terrific documentation, terrific code…isn’t really. Excellent documentation, immediately after all, will make code a lot more approachable, more handy. Negative code? Very well, as The Taproom CEO Kelly Vaughn tweeted, “Make sure you, be sure to, PLEASE–I am begging you–invest time and sources into your documentation. I’ve been managing in circles for 3 times now seeking to resolve the same trouble mainly because the documentation is terribly lacking.”

In actuality, if you question developers their most wished-for help for remaining productive with computer software, as SlashData did, it can be documentation. Almost nothing else arrives close. 

And nevertheless, it’s not apparent that firms benefit their documentation writers accordingly. Or possibly the dilemma is that documentation writers will not worth by themselves as significantly as they ought. RedMonk’s KellyAnn Fitzpatrick has a excellent assessment of the Write the Docs Income Study 2020. But for me, the major takeaway that is implied but in no way said: number of, which includes the doc writers them selves, may price documentation extremely plenty of.

“Docs or you never ship it”

When I managed Adobe’s Developer Ecosystem team, we tried out to institute a couple central tenets. A person was that merchandise groups should really invest extra heavily in the open up resource communities on which they increasingly depended. A second was that solution groups should default to public, not personal, APIs. Implicit in this next tenet was a belief that if a team knew its API would be public, it would do a far better job building and documenting the API. 

SEE: How to create a productive developer job (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I thought then, as I believe now, that docs are important to computer software (and API) adoption. For this reason, I concur with former Twitter documentarian Troy Howard who declared: “Docs or you do not ship it.” Documentation, in other words and phrases, is just not ancillary to the merchandise: it is an integral aspect of the product or service. 

It is not stunning, as a result, that developers cite documentation as the most critical detail a program company can give them, properly higher than other significant choices like training, growth instruments, etcetera. (Determine A).

Figure A


Graphic: SlashData

Great technological writers you should not simply compose, as vital as that is. According to Fitzpatrick, “[T]he talent of becoming able to string words alongside one another for each se is not plenty of to ensure the output of excellent technological documentation.” You have to have to invest time in research, parsing the know-how of topic matter gurus and extra. Writing is essential, but realizing what to publish and how to reveal it, is just as critical. 

SEE: Employing package: Technological author (TechRepublic Premium)

Seems difficult, appropriate? Sounds important, also. Specified how essential software has grow to be to the operating of enterprise and culture, you’d believe we’d pay out a significant high quality for men and women who can make program valuable for a broader viewers than it may well normally reach.

Well, maybe we do.

Acquiring compensated

If you search at Indeed’s salary facts, the regular base salary for a U.S.-primarily based software package engineer is approximately $104,100, plus an additional $4,000 money reward for each calendar year. If exact, that is approximately in-line with what a U.S.-based mostly documentation author will make, in accordance to the Produce the Docs Salary Survey 2020 data (Determine B).

Figure B


Image: Write the Docs Wage Survey 2020

(A rapid spot test from Glassdoor and other details resources for software package engineers indicates the identical rough parity exists for other countries.) 

I would connect with that a victory. Ideal? If a program developer is going to make $100,000, shouldn’t the documentarian make about the similar, offered that she will be just as significant to the software’s accomplishment? 

Most Write the Docs Income Study respondents (72%) appear to be to believe so, saying they’re “content” with their compensation. But must they be? For the 10.7% of respondents who say they are “unsatisfied” with their spend, their top rated cause is “Pay is too reduced.” And for those relative number of who are “unsatisfied” with their careers, the leading rationale (cited by 46%) is “Position is undervalued or underfunded.” 

Potentially it can be the writer in me, Oliver Twist-type, inquiring, “You should Sir, I want some much more.” And perhaps more isn’t needed. Probably documentarians make sufficient. Yet computer software engineers retain getting compensated additional, and the leading 25% of builders make significantly much more than that $104,000 regular. I will not have the information, but I am going to hazard a guess that the finest documentarians do not get anywhere around the salaries of the finest engineers, regardless of getting substantial, if not equivalent, influence. 

I’d adore to hear your choose. Do you consider fantastic documentation writers must get paid out the identical or additional than great program engineers? Why or why not? Talk to me on Twitter or in the reviews beneath. 

Disclosure: I get the job done for AWS, but the sights expressed herein are mine.

Also see

Stacee R. Grigg

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