Why Documentation Matters

My friends and I decided to do a Christmas craft. We bought several of the ceramic Christmas trees, the kind you coat with glaze and fire in a kiln. (We also bought some menorahs, mugs, and ornaments for other options.) After these trees are fired, you place small plastic “lights” on the tree, and these are lit up from the inside to make a pretty object.

When we placed the plastic pieces in the tree, they were too small in diameter, so they fell out. While gluing them in was an option, we felt like they should be the correct size such that they would fit without glue.

Naturally, we turned to a Google search to get coached up on this important subject. I wasn’t prepared to get the equivalent of a PhD in ceramic Christmas tree lights. This page was a tour-de-force on the subject. What’s more, it conveyed not only information but wisdom and a bit of personality. It included sections on measuring the lights, on why imports from China are likely of lesser quality, and even helpful information about how to determine if your mailing address is rural. (“If you live on a County or State Road, you might be rural. If your neighbors own cows, you might be rural. If you can see the Milky Way at night, you might be rural.”)

I was so delighted with what I learned from this page, and it made me reflect on the role of written documentation and notes. Here are my conclusions:

  1. Caring a lot about something shows. Whoever wrote this information clearly had a passion. This wasn’t someone who was writing strictly from notes. It came from experience and knowledge and, dare I say, passion.
  2. Substance is much more important than form. The web site itself looked like HTML from the 1990s but that didn’t matter.
  3. There are sometimes no substitute for text and images. Though I enjoy learning through videos, sometimes information is best delivered via the written word.
  4. There is nothing so arcane that someone won’t benefit. I doubt this page is referred to often, but it is invaluable when needed. Let this be a lesson: if you have collected a wealth of specific information, it needs to be recorded for others to use.

This is not the first time I benefited from someone’s willingness to share knowledge. We may sometimes take for granted what we’ve learned. Open the gates to what you know, and it may be just what others need to move forward.

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