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How Bob Ross helped me write better documentation than ever

How Bob Ross helped me write better documentation than ever
Photo by Ryan Stone / Unsplash

Bob Ross, an iconic and charismatic man that painted beautiful sceneries on his follow-along TV-show in the 80s and 90s, helped me understand something important when it comes to writing documentation for processes.

According to Wikipedia, Bob Ross painted three versions of almost every painting featured on his show.

The first was painted prior to taping and sat on an easel off-camera during filming, where Ross used it as a reference to create the second copy which viewers actually watched him paint. After filming the episode, he painted a more detailed version for inclusion in his instructional books.

How did I apply this to my documentation skills? That's simple!

When I document something, it is often to document a process I did in order for other stakeholders to better understand the topic.

In the first step, I write the documentation skeleton; how I have planned and how I think I should approach this process.

The second step, I actually follow my initial plan and do the action. Along side with that, I continuously watch and update the documentation to add content and correct any mistakes. At this point, I write very clear and concise points on how to to the said action. When possible, I make sure any code examples can be copy and pasted without any problems.

When it comes to the third step, I start the action from scratch by ONLY following what I wrote in the documentation.

By using this simple three-step Bob Ross approach, you can improve how both yourself and other stakeholders perceives your documentation. It also helps strengthen the documented action because it will be easier to identify any mistakes.

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Jamie Larson