09 June 2009

User Story Tweets

Try Tweeting your user story as if conciseness mattered.

Hosea Ballou, first President of Tufts University and the father of American Universalism, said
Brevity and conciseness are the parents of correction.
--Hosea Ballou
The Twitter Constraint is a 140-character limit Twitter imposes on Tweets. If you constrain yourself to follow the first tenant of DUA (i.e., Don't Use Abbreviations), LOL, and you experiment with the 140-character limit, it might make you write better user stories.

But don't carry brevity to extremes. Ballou also cautions
Never be so brief as to become obscure.
--Hosea Ballou
It's a sure bet you'll weigh in under a buck forty if you use the standard agile template
As a [user role], I want to [goal], so I can [reason].
But don't let something like a template constrain you. It's a guide; a starting point. Don't be dogmatic - about anything.

There are zillions of posts advising you about Writing Good User Stories.

Discover the language what works for you and your team. For example, I like personas, like Help-desk Hector, that encapsulate the user role.

Laura Brandau's Bridging the Gap has an imformative post about the 140-character Twitter Constraint and writing good requirements. She asks
  • Do you incorporate ambiguous words like “adequately”, “timely”, or “high-quality”?
  • Do you use a long phrase when a single word conveys the same meaning?
  • Do you combine multiple requirements into one long sentence?
  • Do you include lengthy introductory statements that add little value such as “The ability to” or “The system shall”?
To paraphrase William Strunk, the senior author of the legendary The Elements of Style (1919):
Vigorous story* writing is concise. A story* should contain no unnecessary words...for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
--William Strunk, Jr.
* The word story was inserted by me.

I don't advise you hold yourself to an arbitrary limit of 140 characters per story, rather I am suggesting you consider the 140-character limit as an exercise.

Perhaps you'll discover you can cross-cut your way to the crux without sawing off the scaffold of meaning.

I leave you in the capable hands of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965):
This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.
--Winston Churchill