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Writing scripts for teasing out requirements

Posted in Meetings, Thinking Out Loud by libbymiller on January 15, 2010

The Problem

We were looking for ways to bring out the full implications of our ideas for scenarios to check that they were implementable and work out how we would implement them.

This is a very common problem, and we have looked at it using various tools including writing scenarios, storyboarding and so on. We had a rough idea of the technical components we needed and what we wanted to demonstrate. But for me there was a lack of clarity about precisely how the scenarios would play out, and so we started to look at ‘swimlane’ diagrams like these, to illustrate where in the architecture the action moves as the scenario plays out.

“Like a rather boring play”

These diagrams are actually pretty hard to write, but useful if you can do them, as you start to understand what components needs to talk to what and what they need to say. Danbri had an idea that we thought might help for writing them – to create a script – like a script for a rather boring play – with the technical components as well as the users as characters, to see if this would engage our storytelling faculties to help bring out the nuances.

“But the set top box just woudn’t do that”

This made for an entertaining meeting where different meeting participants took the roles of different technical components, and I played script editor, making choices where there were disputes. I think there were several benefits of using this process

  • better mutual understanding of the scenario itself, including discovering more about what could and ought to happen
  • better participation as different project members became champions for different components (‘yes I’m the recommender!’)
  • you didn’t need to be technical to join in and the result was something that everyone can understand
  • quite a fun (by EU project standards) meeting

however -

  • this is a time-consuming thing to do and we didn’t really have enough time set aside
  • it needs participants to be interested and care enough to join in
  • it needs more careful planning than I did for it (such as a draft script written ahead of time), and a dedicated person to take notes, as Chris van Aart very kindly did in our session

It would be very interesting to talk to people creating real plays to see what we could learn from their processes.

You can read our ‘rather boring plays’ here, and I hope that Vicky will do a post shortly about the swimlanes she has created as a result of this process.

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  1. [...] this type of diagram might be a Scenario Description Swimlane). During the script writing activity described by Libby the ‘actors’ and their ‘lines’ were mapped to a swimlane diagram drawn on [...]

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