Is documentation going the way of testing?

Documentation that is closer to code is more likely to be read and updated. Information in a wiki or shared documents in the cloud go out of sync with code very fast. The effort and diligence required to keep them in sync is an intense job most programmers are unwilling to do.

The obvious conclusion is to tie documentation very closely to code. However, this does not help. Programmers seem to have a kind of comment blindness. Even existing comments that specifically answer the programmer’s questions are often subconsciously ignored. And that’s just the reading part and doesn’t touch on the problem of updating comments. It doesn’t help that many IDEs visually de-emphasize comments over code.

This reminds me of code testing. In the beginning, programmers wrote code. As code became more complex they realized how hard it became to make changes without breaking something. Many programmers started to adopt testing frameworks to quickly learn about new defects in changed code. However, code and tests quickly went out of sync and test coverage decreased over time. Code coverage tools were created and and some companies these days require minimum coverage percentages for changed code to make sure tests stay in sync with code. Many companies have dedicated test engineers who handle that.

Can the same be done with documentation? What if you made a change to a commented line and some part of the toolchain explicitly asked you afterwards if the old comment still applied? Make a change to a method and the toolchain asks if the method documentation is still appropriate. Same for classes, packages, and whole programs. Whenever you make a change, you have to confirm that the existing comments and documentation on the same abstraction level still apply.

Will we see companies with dedicated comment/documentation engineers?

Is documentation going the way of testing?

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