User Stories - Don't Confuse Action With Intent!

Tyler Blain has an excellent article out on how to write user stories.  The key takeaways are

  1. Don’t confuse action with intent
  2. Don’t use user stories to explain how the problem should be solved.  Use them to explain why the problem should be solved

Note:
Action - How (the specific steps you take) to do something
Intent - What it is that you are actually trying to accomplish

The case being considered is an SMS group chat, where one of the participants is just a phone number (i.e., not in your contacts list)

  1. Simple (and wrong) user story - As a participant in an SMS conversation, I want to be able to add unidentified people to my contact list.  <--- This is classic "how to solve the problem" thinking.
  2. Better (and still wrong) - As a participant in an SMS conversation, I want to be able to add unidentified people to my contact list so that I can keep my contact list current. <--- This is better, but still “how to solve the problem” thinking
  3. Good user story - As a participant in an SMS conversation, I want to know who all the participants in the conversation are.

Think of what happened in the -c- above - the team can now focus on all sorts of things that can provide benefit here, and you can weed them out as relevant.  e.g.
  • check the contacts list
  • look at the convo, and try to find the name in there - and suggest that name
  • look at past messages, and see if there is a name in _there_
  • check social media
  • etc.

So yeah, focus on the why, not the how in user stories.




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