[unrev-II] Use of Case Studies in a DKR

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Sat Feb 26 2000 - 14:39:14 PST

From: Eric Armstrong <eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com>

In session 8, Rob Swigart gave a fascination account
of how he produces small stories (vignettes) from
future scenarios. (As a writer, I was enthralled by
his concept of protagonist/antagonist plus
guardian/tempter dynamics for a story.)

I confess that I couldn't see how to apply that notion
to a DKR, however. The problem with "war stories" and
case studies, in my mind, as always been that they are
subject to so *many* different interpretations.

Suppose there were a story in the repository about how
Ford made better cars, for examples. On on earth would
I ever find it, if I was searching for ways to improve
my software design process?

We mare almost certainly decades away from having the
capacity to automatically index a story under all the
many headings that might be appropriate. The story about
improving cars, for example, might be about improving
designs, overcoming management resistance, achieving
worker acceptance, getting customers involved, moving
to standardized interfaces, none of the above, all of
the above, or any combination of the above and many

How could we do that?

Later in the Q/A session, though, Philip Gust leaped to
the rescue. He pointed out that DKR contributors could
use stories as *evidence* for generalizations they make.
War stories and case studies would then provide a basis
for supporting or disputing ideas.

That struck me as the perfect answer. It goes back to our
local lawyer's (Pete Jacobs, right?) assertion that a DKR
would be a valuable adjunct to the adjudicative decision
making process, where case studies are used to support a
variety of positions, and a decision is reached which adds
to the body of case knowledge.

This was a big moment for me, because for the first time
in my life I found value in case studies. It struck me
that the problem I had with case studies (the lack of
clearly defined general rules) was the same problem that
people generally have with "outlines"...

In school, most people hated outlines because "they don't
think that way". The problem was not with outlines, but
with the tools they had at their disposal. Having to write
out a structure on paper, and being unable to change it
easily, required a tremendously organized mind.

But in a more "fluid" medium like an outline program,
outlines are a real joy. The ability to easily rearrange
things as your understanding grows lets you *find* a
good organization, rather than requiring you to perceive
it in advance.

Stories are like that. A DKR system like the one Philip
alluded to would allow you to *discover* good
generalizations as you went along. Both the story base
and the index of generalizations would grow over time.

Such a system would evolve into something very valuable,

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