Put as Little Extra Burden as Possible on the Bearer of the Rationale

This principle makes a clear statement about the distribution of effort within the team. It is especially important that those who are the sources of rationale be spared the extra work of capturing it. This is contrary to many rationale capturing approaches that assume the experts will have to do most of the work (several mentioned in Chap. 1).

Grudin’s seminal work [9] on “who is the beneficiary and who does the work?” reminds us to design work processes with the benefits and efforts of all stakeholders in mind. Grudin claims (originally in the field of CSCW) an approach will not be successful if some people are charged with extra work, while others receive all the benefits. Projected on captur-ing design rationale, the bearers of rationale will see little personal benefit in sharing or even documenting what they know. It is an old lesson from knowledge management that there may be incentives beyond money to create benefit. Demonstrating to experts the appreciation for their knowledge and help has often been a valuable benefit to them [6]. During our work with the two applications described later, the bearers of rationale recognized and appreciated our obvious attempts to save them time. Nevertheless, some effort needs to be invested for capturing and structuring. As a consequence, someone else has to do it, and at a later time. This differentiates the By-Product Approach from others that attempt to distribute the effort more “equally”. However, benefits and potential contributions are not distributed equally, so why should efforts be? It is a conscious decision of this approach to let those people do most of rationale management work who benefit most from a well-structured base of ration-ale. Those who need the rationale are the ideal people to do that job.

Of course, there is a limit to all principles. When a learner has made an attempt to organize material, there should be the option for a feedback session. The expert could meet the learner and look through the results, as long as the expert is still available. The By-Product Approach and the tools developed to support each of its instantiations will support this feedback and provide a good basis for structuring and indexing (as explained later). When there is no time or opportunity for such a session, the By-Product Approach will try to continue without: “raw” material in the form of paths can often be used since paths follow a well-known structure of products or work-processes. It is, in fact, not so raw. Skipping feedback will decrease the learning value, but not to zero (Principle 7).

Most of the extra work load for capturing rationale is shifted away from the focus project task, and most of the remaining rationale-related duties are assigned to learners or observers rather than bearers of rationale. Here is the capturing bottleneck.

As Chap. 1 points out, many approaches have shifted from intrusive to less-intrusive variants. We consider itt important to distinguish the roles and balance effort, duties, and (potential) benefit, with a clear focus on relieving experts from any extra work.


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