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Example-Based Specifications - workshop at Agile 2006

Posted by wwake on June 16, 2006 at 8:35 PM PDT

Brian Marick and I are leading workshop DS11 on "Example-Based Specifications" at the Agile 2006 conference. (Register soon - the conference hotel is full, but there are still rooms nearby!) It's offered Tuesday afternoon.

We think this session will really be enhanced if it includes product owners/customers who need to help specify systems. If yours will be at the conference, we'd love to see them at our session!

You might want to check out Martin Fowler's blog entry on Specification by Example for more thinking about this topic.

Here's our conference blurb:

Examples as Specifications

Some tests are thinly-disguised walkthroughs of a user interface. Other tests are so voluminous that you suspect that even their author didn't read them. But some tests seem designed to facilitate conversations about the key objects and processes in a domain.

How can we foster the latter style, to create specifications useful to both machines and people—including end users, product owners, testers, and programmers?

Length: 3 hours


  • People already writing or automating tests in an example-based style, and

  • Real product managers, "customers," or product owners who have a domain to talk about (whether they’ve used this style or not).

Note: This is an advanced session, not a tutorial on the topic.


  • Explore the consequences of an example-based, domain-oriented testing style.

  • Develop experience and guidelines useful to others writing such tests.


Try it (1 hour): Break into small groups, including a customer (pseudo-customer if necessary). Have the customer repeatedly describe a story, and have the group turn it into tests.

Review (1/2 hour): Meet back as a larger group to compare tests and discuss the experience.


Address specific topics (1 hour):

  • Identify two to four areas of interest.
  • Divide into groups to address those areas.
  • Each group will produce a poster summarizing their results.

Next steps (1/2 hour): Meet again as a large group, comparing results and identifying next steps.


  • Example stories and tests, demonstrating the example-based style.

  • Posters from each of the breakout groups, on a particular aspect of testing.
  • Identification of future steps.
  • Summary for the conference wiki.
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