Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Active Design Reviews: So sensible

I'm often embarrassed when I discover a method that has been around for decades, makes perfectly good sense, but I haven't seen it practiced and didn't know about it. Active Design Reviews (ADR) are such a method. First described in 1985 by Parnas and Weiss, they devised a system which mitigates non-participation in design reviews.

ADR changes yes/no questions asked in a design review (e.g. "do you understand it?" and "will this work?") to a set of questions that require understanding to answer. An easy example is "write down the exceptions that can happen with [insert component here]". You can't fake the answer to that - you need to have read and understood the design, and actually put your understanding into practice. The reader will necessarily provide better feedback, although more focused - "higher fidelity" in the words of Clements.

Those of you who are up on the latest techniques probably know that SEI developed ARID, which is a hybrid of ADR and ATAM. ARID takes ADR a step further, by allowing the reviewers to pose the questions rather than the designers, through the choice of "scenarios". This enables focus on a particular area of concern by the people that need to understand it.

So sensible.

Somewhat tangential to this, but this paper about a sane design process, written by Parnas of ADR fame and Clements of ARID and SPL fame, is a great reference for artifacts and process one should think about when creating a design process.

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