Tuesday, March 8, 2016

WRITING 103 - Examplification ...

In the last couple of weeks I've reviewed two articles for people - ironically both called Simon.  [One is Simon my brother, one is Simon who I talked about previously]

Now, they'd both written very good pieces.  But from applying a simple suggestion from me, they managed to raise the bar.  They'd written some very good theory, but in order to convey something about that theory, they really needed an example.

Examples are a great way of getting a point across, and one of my simple things to consider when writing.  I'm reading some critical thinking books at the moment, and I heavily rely of the examples as a great way of showing the nuts and bolts of a concept.

Indeed, Lisa Crispin told me during writing More Agile Testing that the "sidebars" of people's experience reports during her first Agile Testing book had been one of the most successful point of her and Janet Gregory's book.  I had to agree - agile was such a radical concept when I first read it, and the experience report examples really helped me to get to grips with some of the ideas!

Often within this blog, I'll talk about an idea, and use a kind of cultural shorthand - picking out an example from a popular film.  This makes things easier for me, because I try and take something you're already familiar with, and analyse it - it makes the storytelling easier for me.

Now that'a good for semi-familiar concepts - I for instanced used Star Wars to talk about team building in this post.  However there's also a danger of alienating the reader - as Dan Billing warned me in a private discussion.  If the reader isn't familiar with the media piece you're using, then they'll go "huh?" and you lose everything.

Of course the best kind of example is when you take it from your own life, and apply suitable "anonymity" to the tale that you don't risk damaging relationships with someone or needlessly calling someone out/damaging their reputation.  I generally anonymise stories - with the exception of the odd Rex Black antic or indeed when I finally said "enough's enough" about Bob Marshall's behaviour.

Generally for each point just a single example will do.  If the point is a main theme, you might want up to about three examples, each offering something a little different.  Avoid different examples which don't offer anything new from each other.

Here's an exercise for you.  You've just written the words "we all know it's important to test early" - now back it up,

  • Come up with an example of testing late, and how it stung?
  • Have you ever found a problem in software early on?  Did you feel you stopped a major overspend?

Enjoy - and get practicing!

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