Some time ago we announced a narratives project around the practice and community of Agile Software development. It got stuck for a while but, with now that Cognitive Edge has finished the new version of its fragment gathering system, we should be able to make some progress.

This reminded me once again of how, in opposition to the way most of us are trained, concrete examples are so effective when we’re trying to communicate; start from some examples and work out what they mean to us. In my world, I’ve seen how describing requirements in terms of examples (implemented as automated tests) has radically improved the quality of the systems I’ve worked on. Keith Braithwaite has a nice discussion of why examples seem to work linked from here.

Of course, the idea has been around for ever—that’s what Use Cases were supposed to be, and the Usability people have been working with “Personas” for decades—but things went astray when we started using metaphors about building construction.

What’s new is that we found an approach to doing this that works in practice, and that doesn’t involve endless discussions of turgid documents. What’s even better is that it seems to be a way for software people, who do abstraction for a living (or at least the good ones do), to communicate with everyone else, who have no idea what the geeks are talking about.

It’s important that we get this project moving again, because the Agile Software community should be hearing about the Cynefin approach. Cognitive Edge have speculated about using narrative fragments to drive system requirements, and we have the organisational tools to turn that into working systems.

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