RE: "Allow" vs. "Require"

Subject: RE: "Allow" vs. "Require"
From: Fred Ridder <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <mstockman -at- gmail -dot- com>, <dgoldstein -at- riveraintech -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 09:12:45 -0400

Mike Stockman wrote:

> On Apr 9, 2012, at 8:26 AM, Dan Goldstein wrote:
> > I'm working with Development on a very large set of design requirements.
> > There are many requirements that describe the software ("RCP") either
> > allowing or requiring an action by the user. There was some question as
> > to whether "allow" would be understood as an optional action, as in:
> > "The RCP shall allow the user to schlep the pekele," i.e., the user may
> > choose to schlep the pekele but doesn't have to.
> I'd flip it around, and say "The user can (or has the option to) use RCP to..." or "The user must use RCP to..." This is clear, and has the added bonus of showing who the actor is, and not anthropomorphizing software. (Software *hates* it when you do that.)

I'd probably agree with this approach if we were talking about user documentation. But the audience for the document is software developers, and the purpose of the document is to spell out for them what specific things the code they write needs to do. That's different from anthropomorphosizing software because the software doesn't exist until the people reading the specification write it.

And to answer Dan's question, if it's really important that a specific user action be optional, I'd be inclined to express this explicitly in a spec by using "allow but not require". My experience has been that "optional" is a dangerous word in specifications because a developer working to the spec can misinterpret the word as applying to the requirement (negating the carefully and deliberately used "shall") rather than the user's action and not implement the feature at all. I have seen this happen accidentally (developers who speak ESL), but at least once it seemed to have been deliberate (a developer who was both a know-it-all and a serously passive-aggressive personality type who loved to nit-pick *every* document that crossed his desk, including memos from his managers).

-Fred Ridder

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"Allow" vs. "Require": From: Dan Goldstein
Re: "Allow" vs. "Require": From: Mike Stockman

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