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Live from RE’07!

Or should I say “sort of live” because the internet access onsite at the conference is hit-or-miss. But I am physically here in New Delhi, in attendance and writing in my spare moments!

Day 1 at the conference was rich with content and learning opportunities! I attended 2 workshops, one on Requirements Education Engineering Training (REET) and the other on Requirements Engineering Visualization (REV). The workshop format at this conference is setup to have presentations of full and position papers, followed by Q&A. And at the end of the workshop day, there is a full group discussion about some of the ideas presented during the day.
At the REET workshop, the first presentation was on a paper I wrote with Vassilis Agouridas from the University of Leeds, Developing Requirements Engineering Skills: A Case Study in Training Practitioners. I will definitely write more about this topic later.

The next talk was by Jorg Dorr from Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software and System Engineering. He spoke about RE-Wissen.de – A requirements engineering community portal in Germany. He gave us an overview of the structure and content of the portal. He spent a bit of time on the challenges they have had in creating a community through the portal. I thought an interesting point he made is that their portal has “practices”, not “best practices” because each company will have to decide for themselves which of the available practices are truly best.

We then had a presentation by Olly Gotel from Pace University who was presenting on behalf of her student, Renel Smith. This paper, RE-O-POLY: A Game to Introduce Lightweight Requirements Engineering Good Practices, was about how they are creating a game for RE training based on the game of Monopoly. She walked us through the play of the game. It is definitely a fun idea. Each trip around the board is meant to be an iteration of a project. And instead of jail, you might get sent to RE training for the day! There were some interesting critiques from the audience around the premise of the game. In its current state, the game is really meant to teach concepts to the students during the play of the game, and then quiz them on this. This does not necessarily promote deep learning, where the student understands how to adapt and apply those concepts on a project. In the discussion it was suggested some role playing elements might work well in the game.

Laurie Scheinholtz gave a talk on What Are Employers Really Looking For? based on her experiences in trying to capture a list of common skills that requirements engineers should have. She created this in an effort to then develop a training course aimed at teaching those skills. The discussion got onto an interesting tangent which was, is domain experience really a necessity. Most of the job descriptions she read (all except those for consulting organizations) required domain experience. The group was somewhat split on the opinions about whether that was a necessary requirement or not. And if it is, there was a bit of discussion about whether you can teach it in combination with an RE course through exercises or how a student might develop domain experience. My personal opinion on this is that we should not teach it in the RE courses, as that would be a completely different learning objective that takes away from the core point of a course. Students could take separate courses to learn a domain. But, more importantly, in our RE courses, we should be teaching students skills to learn a new domain. Given the nature of requirements engineering, everyone in the role has to be able to learn a new domain and assess the most important needs within it.

There were some other interesting presentations throughout the day, though I did step out for a few hours to attend REV. At the end of the REET workshop though, we had a very productive brainstorming discussion about best practices for RE training. Again, I’ll have to cover this in a separate post as there was much to be said!

As with last year’s conference, I’m always very wary of the academic research ideas getting so complicated that they will not be useful to most of us in everyday industry doing requirements. I really hope to do my part to influence this, particularly by continuing to work with academia on the best way to accomplish RE training.

Tune in tomorrow for some comments on the REV workshop!

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