- Posted on December 13, 2007 9:21:AM by Earl Beede to Practicing Earl
- Technique, humor, requirements, Foghat, square dance
My daughters like to square dance. They seem to, for whatever reason, really like the petticoats: the layers of fabric that make the square dance skirt get really poofy (as if poofy is a word). To support my daughters, I dance with them since there is a general shortage of males (even if we don't have to wear the skirts). I tell you this because it will help make sense of the next paragraph.
I challenged the caller of the square dance club (person who tells the square dancers what moves to make) to make a "singing call" to a song of my choice. A "singing call" takes an existing popular song and substitutes square dance calls for some of the lyrics of the song. It turns out to be a generally fun way to dance. I tell you this part because it will help make even more sense to the next bit of the story.
The song I picked was Foghat's Slow Ride. I had heard this song many, many times since it came out in 1975. In fact, I had heard it REALLY LOUD several times which may have something to do with my mild hearing loss. (Truth be told here, I still play it kind of loud on my iPod.) This was, in my circle of friends, a really cool rock anthem that we could shout out to while we drank our beer.
Now if you asked me what the song was about, I would have told you (having heard it many, many times) that it was about drinking beer (that is what we typically were doing when we played it REALLY LOUD) and maybe about motorcycles (we liked those too). But mostly it had really cool guitar riffs and allowed us all to look like idiots playing "air" guitars while spilling our beer.
The caller, who had a similar circle of friends and had spilled beer doing air guitars in the past, took the challenge. The first order of business was to get the lyrics so he could sing the song and find the places to add/substitute square dance calls. Now finding lyrics is pretty easy with the Internet.
It turns out that the Slow Ride lyrics are not about beer.
Or motorcycles for that matter.
In fact, Slow Ride is probably not something I should have a respected adult be singing to my pre-teen and early teen aged daughters.
I tell you this story because I believe this is a great analogy for how many requirements come into software projects. I knew this was a great song because I had heard it so many times. It was just a plain, innocent, jamming kind of song.
But in truth, I really didn't know. I never did the research to find out what the song was really about.
Neither do a lot of our stakeholders. One of our jobs as software engineering professionals is to help or stakeholders discover the truths beneath their beliefs. That is what requirements analysis is about. In my work with stakeholders, the requirements analysis process is often the first time they had thought deeply about the problem. Their expertise – based on doing the job many, many times – is perception biased. They know what they know.
Just like I knew. It should be "... rock all night", you know. A song about motorcycles would be really cool.