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<   No. 1152   2006-03-23   >

Comic #1152

1 {scene: The office. Mr Marlowe is showing Loren around and meets Mercutio and Ophelia.}
1 Marlowe: Staff, this is Loren. She's onsite to roadmap and ramp-up our latest tech writing deliverable.
2 Mercutio: Who's the client?
2 Loren: The United States Government.
3 Ophelia: And the project?
4 Marlowe: We've been contracted to make the US constitution ISO 9001 compliant.

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ISO 9001 is part of the ISO 9000 series of international standards specifying compliance guidelines for a quality management system.

No, I don't understand what that means either. Even after reading those Wikipedia articles.

All I know is that a lot of businesses seem to want to be known as "ISO 9001 compliant", presumably because it carries some sort of l337 8izn355 5killz cachet that will make their clients choose them rather than their rivals. It seems to involve some sort of standards guidelines that are applied to an industrial process to make sure it's all clean and safe and produces products that actually do what they're supposed to do - which sounds like a good idea in principle. It also sounds like something that no company actually does.

Anyway, I'm not sure you can apply ISO 9000 series standards to a document, as opposed to an industrial process, but since when has logic ever stopped the US government from doing anything?


Wow, I've received a ton of e-mail from people wanting to share their ISO compliance horror stories and explain to me in gory detail what it all actually means. The basic gist seems to be that it's all about documenting your processes and documenting that you are following the documented processes, and then documenting that. As one reader pointed out, it's a quality management system, not a quality assurance system, which means, as pretty much everyone who mailed me said, that you can produce complete crap with an inefficient, dangerous, polluting set of processes, as long as you document that you produce complete crap with an inefficient, dangerous, polluting set of processes.

It sounds like I was closer to clever biting political satire with this strip than I'd hoped.


2015-07-18 Rerun commentary: In the years since this comic first appeared, I have actually joined an ISO standards committee. Not anything related to ISO 9000 series stuff, but rather ISO Technical Committee 42, which deals with standards related to photography.

Yep. A guy who makes LEGO webcomics is also making your international photography standards. Be afraid.

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