Categorizing Documentation


At the risk of sounding pedantic, I thought up a scheme for categorizing technical documentation. Why would I do this? The answer is that I wanted to describe the current state of a product’s documentation in more precise terms.

I picked three categories:

  1. Primary. The manuals, guides, and help pages created by the product’s developer.
  2. Secondary. Books published about the product such as those published by O’Reilly.
  3. Tertiary. Guides, howtos, and technical notes published on the Internet by the community.

A popular product such as git or RedHat Linux is strong in all three. Open source products often have minimal primary documentation but instead rely on tertiary documentation. I just recently had experience with a product with no secondary or tertiary documentation at all. That was rough! The tertiary documents help supplement and clarify the first two kinds and hence play a key role.

I will use this scheme in subsequent posts when I write again about documentation, as I certainly will.



Categories: Documentation

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