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I'm studying source code with other developers, and my job is to type up the specifications as the lead programmer describes what each function does. Are there any tips/tricks to doing this faster? a lot of times I have to ask him to repeat himself, as I didn't hear it well.

How can I be a better specification writer?

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    If the goal of the meeting is to create the specification during the meeting, shouldn't the lead slow down to you, rather than you keep up with the lead? If not, then are you trying to write it out in full, or are you just taking quick but diligent notes?
    – Jeremy
    Jun 12, 2012 at 2:12
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    Type? I'm far faster at capturing the intent and specifics on a notepad and then typing it all up later, that may be an option to speed up the process for you. Jun 12, 2012 at 2:18
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    @PatrickHughes - Really? I can type 120WPM, I sure as hell can't write that fast.
    – Anonymous
    Jun 12, 2012 at 10:53
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    Shorthand, scribbles, etc... all faster than typing for note taking. For me, your mileage may vary =) The real question is why isn't the Lead creating this document since he's got the design worked out and is basically just dictating it verbatim to a 1950's secretary? Jun 12, 2012 at 15:42
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    This reads too much like a "how do I become faster at taking notes" question, which would be off topic, regardless of whether the notes are about software specifications. What makes this specific to specs, and different from any other type of notes?
    – yannis
    Jun 13, 2012 at 13:32

4 Answers 4

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For knowledge-intensive, fast paced conversations, use whatever recording / capturing devices you can.

In one of my past projects, our professional tech writer used audio recording to capture explanations from our lead developer. Guides he produced were great.

Few months ago I brainstormed design of a particularly tricky module with my tech lead. After we finished, I just scanned all the papers we wrote our thoughts and schemes on and attached it to the respective ticket in issue tracker. That worked like a charm.

Another tip - submit your draft specifications for review as early as possible.

  • That tech writer I mentioned above, had a pretty bad habit to hesitate sending for review stuff until it looked good enough to him. Because of that, guides reviews somehow tend to happen pretty close to release when it was too late to fix some bugs discovered in review. If memory serves, we even had to do "doc-only" releases to handle this. Release 2.1.12 - same as 2.1.11, but with updated guides. :)
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Combine your fastest method, in your case typing, with a voice recorder. Partially complete any section where the lead is going too fast, tap your recorder so it makes a CLACK and you can find it easily, then fill in the details later.

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  • I like the clack idea a lot! Thank You Very Much Jun 13, 2012 at 0:30
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I personally find that writing specifications down on a notepad is the fastest way to go. Keep it at the keywords and only write down full sentences when required. It's also easy to make quick sketches of ideas / requirements on a notepad. And sometimes it might even be a good thing to record the meeting, so afterwards you can check if you really caputered all the specifications.

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You could use your iPhone or iPad to record the session. A pencil and paper will not require batteries. Try to remove technology from the equation if possible unless you can use it unobtrusively.

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