Wednesday, May 21, 2008

20 Questions

Have you seen the 20 questions game ( )? Radica created a handheld version which is very entertaining. Wikipedia shares that this began as an artificial intelligence project. Over time, it has progressed as the program learned.

The way this works is that you think of anything and then let the game begin. Usually within 20 questions, the game will guess the object you were thinking about. It could be a ball, baby, Dalmatian, salt, or more.

Why do I bring this up … the questions that are asked highlighted a good requirements gathering technique. The questions attempt to understand what it’s not as much as what it is. It divides the population of potential answers then continues to refine/divide until there is a small population remaining.

When you go out for lunch or dinner, what is easier to highlight … what type of food you want or don’t want? For most people, it’s usually easier to identify what you don’t want. That dramatically reduces the population of potential answers.

Some users are the same way. They have trouble articulating exactly what they want but they can tell you what they don’t want. With that data, you can refine your product to better meet customer needs and expectations.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: During requirements gathering, try to understand what the customer doesn’t want.

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