Agile Perth Meetup - Writing User Stories

October 14, 2010 - acceptance-criteria agile-perth shelley-beeston user-stories

I went along to an Agile Perth meetup last night - Shelley Beeston from Thoughtworks presenting a session on user stories. I’m always enthusiastic about hearing concrete examples of different Agile techniques from the trenches on (presumably) successful projects.

Requirements approaches are something that I've experimented a fair bit with in the past, but I've always ended up fairly dissatisfied with each one. When it boils down to it, I consider some sort of functional description to be a critical element of the enduring system doco (along with commented source code & the 5-page ‘this is how it really works’ design document - see Alex Papadimoulis’s recent diatribe on this subject). There's too much lost context when you only have the source code to work off, particularly if there’s no-one around who was there as part of the original implementation. This typically leads me to err on the side of heavier requirements approaches & I often regress to use cases in the generally forlorn belief that they’re going to give me the document I’m after. In practice, they tend to be incomplete and out of date, and the ‘real’ requirements done informally in an even more ephemeral manifestation.

Shelley opened with a familiar description of the problems inherent in traditional hand-off based requirements management, before moving on to an outline of how she’s used user stories on projects for Thoughtworks. The interesting points I distilled were:

I’m keen to put some of these ideas into practice — I suspect some combination of the activity documentation and acceptance criteria will satisfy my doco desires.