I saw a user story that looked like this:
As a back-end service, I want to send the correct data about the widgets to the front-end, so the front-end displays the correct widget information.
Wait, when did a back-end service ever want do to anything? Has it gained sentience?
Now, user stories are great. They help us to build the right thing, by thinking about the user of our application and what they are trying to do.
Writing things down is also great. Despite it sounding strange, I’m glad that we have the user story about the back-end service, because it’s much better than not having any spec about what the back-end service should be doing for this feature, or indeed forgetting that somebody needed to do some work at all on the back-end.
But did it really need to be a user story? Will we write better software by feeling empathy for the machine? Our instincts should say no, because the user - the real end-user of our application - doesn’t care what about back-end services are doing. They only care about what they see on the device in their hand.
The purpose of a user story is to help us step back from a problem - before jumping into technical details, let’s work out what the user really needs, and then we can build only what is necessary to get us there. After writing user stories, we might send them to developers or business analysts to spec out a feature, to get a more detailed idea of how it should work.
The problem here has come from mixing things up - instead of working out what the user’s problem is (the user needs to see the right thing in the app), we have dived straight into a solution (the back-end service needs to provide some data to the app), and then put that solution within a template “As [user], I want [something], because [some reason]”. But if we’re writing a technical spec, we don’t need to fit this template - it is perfectly OK to write “the back-end service needs to send some data to the front-end”, because we should already have written some user stories about the real user. Real user stories might look like:
As a user who has not opted into the new widget feature, I should not see any widgets.
As a user who has chosen to have bells on my widget, I should see a bell button on every widget that is displayed.
This is not the first time I have seen things crowbarred into user stories. At a previous job I worked for a small consulting firm, and we would often get requests like this:
Please update the Gizmo table so that all entries processed after 18th January have a DoodadIdentifier of 5.
Somebody had obviously got the Agile religion, and decided that all client requests now needed to be in the form of user stories. No longer would we just be doing what the client told us to do! We would get real insight into their problems, so we could propose the most effective solution for their needs!
Of course, all that really happened is that requests would now come in looking like this instead:
As the client, please update the Gizmo table so that all entries processed after 18th January have a DoodadIdentifier of 5, because I want you to do it.
This was a webinar given at Stack Overflow on 24th January 2017.
I announced last month that I was handing over textadventures.co.uk and Quest. Many thanks to everybody who got in touch to volunteer to help. I was really pleased that so many people want to see these projects continue into the future. I am now happy to announce that we have a new team in place!
Luis Felipe Morales will be taking over the textadventures.co.uk and ActiveLit websites, and also Squiffy. A programmer since the 1980s, Luis has been involved with the Spanish interactive fiction community since he was young. He has maintained and created several internet portals and now works as a freelancer.
Jay Nabonne and Andy a.k.a The Pixie will be taking over development of Quest. Both have been very active members of the forums for a long time. Jay is a lifelong programmer and game player who is interested in not only creating games but helping others to do the same. A California native, he now lives with his wife in the UK. Andy has been playing and creating text adventure games since the Eighties, has been using Quest for over five years and has written various guides and libraries for the system.
Greg Fenton and Nathan Clive Gerard will each be running servers for Quest’s WebPlayer and WebEditor. Greg is a developer who wrote his first text adventure in dBase III on an IBM PC back in the very late 1980s shortly after leaving high school. Nathan is a regular player of text adventures from the UK (currently living in the USA), who spends his days setting up and looking after web servers in the cloud.
I’ll be working with each of them over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition. Please welcome them aboard!
This is a follow up to Looking for a new owner for textadventures.co.uk and Quest.
Thanks to all of you who have got in touch so far. A lot of people have asked about what would be involved in taking over and running textadventures.co.uk and/or Quest, so this post is to go into a bit more detail about how things are set up and how the work might be split up across different people.
For a smooth transition, I need to find people to fill these four roles:
Of course any of these roles can be combined - after all, they’ve all been done by me up until now.
The web-accessible blobs (for game downloads, cover art etc.) are behind a Cloudflare CDN.
The code uses C# and ASP.NET MVC. The front-end uses Bootstrap, JQuery and a little bit of React.
ActiveLit runs alongside textadventures.co.uk on the same Azure infrastructure and talks to the same database.
There are two parts to Quest - the Player and the Editor. There are also two ways of using Quest - via the web, and via a downloadable Windows desktop application.
Quest’s long-term future lies with Quest 6, but it would be good if we can find somebody to maintain Quest 5 for the time being, not least because even if/when Quest 6 ships, it will still be using the same .NET-based Editor that Quest 5 uses.
If you’re interested in taking on one or more of these roles, please email me at [email protected].
To reiterate, I am not looking for money. I want to hand these over to somebody (or a group of people) with a passion for IF and a vision for where these products could go in the future. That vision doesn’t necessarily have to agree with my vision (that’s what stepping back is about) - this is a massive opportunity for somebody to take over running a popular website and IF development system. textadventures.co.uk is the place people come when they search for text adventures on the web, so it’s a big gateway to the world of interactive fiction. Taking on the website doesn’t have to be about taking on Quest.
I’ve only got Alexa rankings to prove it (so take them with a pinch of salt) but the site appears to be bigger than other IF sites like IFDB, intfiction.org and Choice of Games. It’s how a lot of people start out making text adventures - in fact, it’s introduced a lot of people to programming in the first place. It’s used by schools to get children into coding and creative writing.
Thanks again for responses so far. If you can’t help out yourself, please help spread the word to somebody who might be able to take this on and ensure it has a future.
I have been developing Quest and textadventures.co.uk for a long time. It started off as a summer coding project when I was a teenager and wanted to send stupid text adventure games to a friend. Over the last couple of decades it has turned into something far bigger than I could have imagined.
It has alternated between hobby and full-time job, and tinkering with it all these years has taught me huge amounts about writing software, helping turn me into the developer that I am today.
I’m proud of what I’ve built - various open source projects that have enabled hundreds of thousands of people to build games for the first time, and a website that has become the top hit on Google for “text adventures” and attracts 3,500 users per day, a number which continues to increase.
The software and community around it are in great shape, and I think they have a great future. But the time has come for somebody else to take charge - I want to focus my energy on new projects, and hand over what I’ve built to somebody else who has the passion to drive things forward.
I am looking for people interested in taking this on. There are quite a lot of different bits, and these wouldn’t all necessarily need to go to the same person or company - things could be split up if that looks like the best option. I am open to all suggestions and proposals - my main concern above all else is finding the best home (or homes) for the long-term future for these projects. I am not looking for money and I’m happy to do everything I can to ensure a smooth handover.
If you’re interested, please email me at [email protected].
I really hope that people from the interactive fiction community will want to see Quest and textadventures.co.uk continue, so if you can possibly help then please get in touch. Do you want to keep textadventures.co.uk alive for the community that loves it? Could you take it forward to bigger and better things?
If no suitable new owners come forward by 28th February 2017, then sadly I will have to start the process of shutting down the website and forums. Initially they will become read-only, and I will look to export the data elsewhere (the IF Archive or the Internet Archive) before closing the sites completely.
Quest and Squiffy will remain accessible on GitHub but there will be no further updates. The software will still be able to be downloaded for offline use, but the online web-based versions would no longer be available. The GitHub repositories themselves would probably be transferred to the IFTF.
textadventures.co.uk according to Google Analytics:
Income and Expenses:
AdSense earns about £50/month for the limited advertising which is currently on the site.
The main costs are for Azure at ~£70/month, and the VPS (hosted by OVH) which runs the Quest online player and editor at £13.59/month ex VAT.
(On Azure, I’ve been getting a £65/month free credit, so the actual amount billed averages only about £5. This means the total cost for running the site has been about £20/month, which has been entirely offset from the Adsense income.)