Friday, July 29, 2005

Index Cards

In our version of XP, Stories get written on index cards.

Text on the front, in big marker pen describes the user action in a single sentence.
The aim is to get the people involved to think in small chunks, and to think about the fundamentals of each piece of work.

Text on the back, in biro describes any particular behaviour required, we call them the acceptance criteria. The aim is to get people to think about the exceptional requirements of a story, the bits that the simple view of the action doesn't cover, to think of the little gotchas that'll appear.

They work extremely well, focussing the mind on the job in hand.

But there's something I think we've missed the point of: For each story there is only one card.

Here are my thoughts...

Since there's only one card, the card needs to be with the people that are currently working on it. If the story's still being worked out, it's with the customer, if it's being developed then it's with the pair working on it.

That means that if the customer wants to change their mind after the story's been started by the development team then they need to find the pair that's currently working on it and speak to them.
Fair enough, we could have the stories stored electronically and then put a system in place to ensure that the pair are notified of any change as soon as its put onto the system. It wouldn't be difficult, the customer enters each story on the system, revising it until they think it's ready. The story gets marked as ready to start when they've had a discussion with the development team. Each pair would register which story they're working on, marking the story as in progress. And so, and so on.

Or, we could do the simple thing and use natural capabilities of the card; do the simplest thing that will work.

Simplicity is only part of the issue. The big advantage of actually tracking down the pair and speaking to them is that you then get into a conversation. A notification is one way, a conversation is two way. And things that are written down are open to interpretation.

Conversation is crucial to the success of XP, and keeping the story on the card just seems to me to be a great way of keeping that conversation going.


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