Adam Feldman, blogging from Bright Green Projects’ “Bright Ideas” blog poses a fun and interesting question. Twitter limits entries to 140 characters. Should we do the same for requirements? Per Feldman,
One of the things that first annoyed me about twitter was that the messages are restricted to 140 characters. It is hard at the start, as you don’t want to lose the point of your message, but after a while it becomes much easier, you stop using flowery words, are careful not to repeat yourself and make sure you get to the point quickly.
I know that I and many other BA’s are guilty from time to time of writing requirements that are longer than they need to be. Good requirements are concise. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes (of debatable origin), “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” It seems to take some real mental conditioning to drop extraneous words and phrases. It’s definitely something I’ve struggled to get better at.
So, about the 140 character limit. I’m going to have to say I’d be against programatically enforcing an artificial limit. There may very well be good reasons for exceeding that limit on occasion. To quote Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I like the incentive to be as simple and concise as possible, but I’m not overly keen on having an analyst have to oversimplify to fit a requirement into a character limit.
So, Adam, what would I do if I had a nifty new web-based requirements management tool (which he does, by the way)? I think I’d let the analyst type away, but much like Tweetdeck and probably other Twitter applications, I’d give the user a visual indication (change text color, or something not overly intrusive) that they’d exceeded 140 characters, only I wouldn’t truncate the requirement if they decided to keep it a little longer.
This way, you’ve got the analyst thinking about keeping it short to make the “suggested” character length, but not forcing split or incomplete requirements with a hard and fast rule.
Anyway, there is some good discussion in the comments section for the original post. Go check it out and chime in, I know Adam will appreciate the feedback.
Oh – One last thing – if you do go with the limit, please, please don’t call them “tweequirements”!