Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mac & Cheese

"I find chopsticks frankly distressing."
                  -  Bill Bryson

I like that quote because it is memorable.  To find a utensil distressing is an odd thing to say, and we remember odd things.  Of course Bill isn’t remarking on the instrument themselves, but the culture that persists their use.

That’s why I love to use the Mac & Cheese quote, which is, as far as I can tell, my own original.  When I have to teach people how to develop a learning exercise or topic, I tell them “Start with tasks.”  Which sounds good until you realize that people don’t really know what tasks are, or they all have different ideas. 

So I came up with Mac & Cheese!

Mac & Cheese is really a mnemonic for remembering how to construct a great task.

Measureable.  Your tasks must be measureable in a real way.  Most people, when speaking of software, come up with a task that resembles “Use the software.”  Well what does that mean?  If I simply open the software a click something, is that “using?”  What is using anyway?  I’ll tell you what “using” is - it’s nonsense!  It’s like “know” and “understand.”  Simply unmeasureable.   Good tasks are constructed in such a way as I can have a stranger stand behind them and evaluate whether that task is complete.

Action Verbs.  Make sure your verbs are some sort of positive action.  I like build, describe, construct, and verbs like that.  They describe an action.

Concise.   Good tasks are fully described.  They describe the action and the expected result.  “Build a display file with a live, updating trend that shows the last 4 hours values for ….”  You should strive to leave nothing vague.

And there you have it!  MAC.  What about the Cheese part?  That’s easy.  Smile and have fun  (Say “cheese”)!