Friday, December 14, 2007

User Stories for Academic Projects

For the next few weeks, I'll be revisiting the agile assessment method we used for the 8 weeks prior to the unveiling of the Aquifer American Social History Online portal at the Digital Library Federation's Fall Forum. With a small development team (Tom and Chick) using agile programming methods, and a short time span to pull a draft of the portal together (4 months for programming, 2 months for assessment), it seemed like a good time to experiment with using user stories as part of the agile development process. It didn't work out that way because Chick already had a draft of the portal up and running, so the questions I originally wrote to prompt the stories were not appropriate. They were too basic because they were written to elicit ideas for building the first iteration, not to elicit responses to a draft version, which we already had. Starting with the premise that the main purpose of the assessment was to identify useful ways for historians to find, organize and reuse historical resources, the Services Working Group came up with the following questions instead:

* What types of things are you typically trying to find?
* How would you go about doing exhaustive research on a topic within your area of expertise?
* How does this searching fit into your larger goal (e.g., writing your dissertation, writing a paper, teaching a class, putting together a presentation)
* What are some sample searches you've done recently?

I sent these questions out to the participants of the study ahead of time, along with the url to the draft of the portal for them to check out and scheduled a "brainstorming" conference call with 6 of the participants to jump-start the assessment.

In the next blog post, I'll talk about whether these questions elicited the responses we were looking for.

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