Why Documentation is Unpopular

The lifecycle of tribal knowledge → writing things down

Joanna Ngai
Jun 8, 2020 · 2 min read

1. Tribal Knowledge

There’s always one person who’s been around forever and knows everything. Their knowledge isn’t recorded or shared in any way but you could ask them things. They tend to know what to do.

2. “This is Fine”

Unfortunately they leave, causing indescribable disorganization and chaos for the rest of the group. The room is slowly engulfed in flames.

3. New Documentation is Born

The group realizes this shouldn’t happen again. Lots of effort and time is put into fixing this problem. Everybody agrees — we should all converge on using the same things and not be stuck in our own little silos. And thus, new documentation is born.

3. A Few Moments Later

Over time, parts of the docs get outdated. Who can bother to go update it? This gets stuck in the back-burner as we’re so busy — there’s always something else to focus on (not to mention it’s already 50 pages long). Things change and life moves on.

5. The Group Reshuffles

Now it’s known that the docs are way out of date and best if they go right into the garbage. Instead, there’s a small subgroup of people who know things from experience.

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Joanna Ngai

Written by

UX Designer at Microsoft, illustrator, green tea drinker dribbble.com/joannan | UX for Beginners https://amzn.to/3ekRM00

Foobar Comics

Comics and humor inspired by tech, design and other random oddities.

Joanna Ngai

Written by

UX Designer at Microsoft, illustrator, green tea drinker dribbble.com/joannan | UX for Beginners https://amzn.to/3ekRM00

Foobar Comics

Comics and humor inspired by tech, design and other random oddities.

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