Saturday, March 29, 2008

Writing User Stories and Pragmatic XP

Writing User Stories

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

My previous post in this series generated a lot of commentary on the XP list. I honestly appreciate everyone's can only make me better.

My intent (with respect to this series) was to suggest other approaches to writing stories. The series is aimed mostly at helping users. I try to make these approaches simple. Some users will find a "by the numbers" approach easier to wrap their mind around. The 5Ws method may also provoke a deeper analysis of the story as users try to describe each W. I also believe that some developers and testers might appreciate a more predictable user story. In the end though, users can bring us any scribble. Be it on a card, a sticky note or a napkin and we will do our best to make it a reality.

The series was never meant to be a holistic commentary on writing stories. As a rule I try to avoid anything holistic. I do, these days, try to be pragmatic and a bit understated.

When I first started down the path of XP (uhg, sounds way too cult-like) I worked in a shop with no formal method for developing software. When I discovered XP, I wasn't looking to be agile....I was looking to be methodical. My first instinct was to codify as best I could a fully functional set of XP policies and procedures. What mostly drove my efforts was a need to justify our wacky ideas (ie pair programming) to what was and primarily still is a government contracting company.

It took me several years of struggling to realize that I missed the whole point of XP. Yes, XP does help you to be more methodical, but without the formalized process. XP's informal nature is what makes it "Agile". The practices are not rules but guidelines. The coach doesn't drive the bus (the team does) she simply points out the pot holes. Finally, this all works because each person values good software over the process. The point? We write and discriminate our user stories the same way.....with a lot of guidelines and very few rules.

I wish I could say that I gained all of this insight many years ago...but I didn't. I really only got it in the last two or three years. One day I had to stop talking and start listening. To that end, I can mostly thank the insights of two of the smartest people I know (Gareth and Jason) and the never-ending patience of my boss Rob.

In the words of the "Wyld Stallyns"...."Be excellent to each other!"

1 comment:

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