Hypermedia Support for Argumentation-Based Rationale: 15 Years on from ibis and QOC.

Few would disagree with this book’s opening chapter that the systematic management of design rationale (DR) is not yet common software engineering practice. By extension this applies to the particular flavor of DR with which we work, namely the IBIS/QOC approaches to creating graphical argumentation maps of design deliberation (reviewed in Chap. 1 and classed as “prescriptive, intrusive” in nature). It is the “intrusive” nature of such notations that represent an obstacle to adoption (we will unpack in more nuanced terms what this means), and which has led many to the conclusion that DR based around explicit, graphical argument maps is yet another failure of exciting research ideas to overcome the harsh realities of actual day-to-day practice.

This argues that the story is more complicated but more hopeful. Since the late 1980s, through business and industrial case studies, detailed lab analysis, and continual design refinement, we have been reflecting on the set of interacting factors which together can “make or break” them in the heat of collaborative analysis, modeling and design. The Compendium technique and tool has matured to the point where a steering group (a sub-set of the authors) is coordinating the development of an open source Java hypermedia IBIS mapping tool, with an international user community spanning government, NGOs, education and business, documented case studies, and training courses and online resources. Clearly, there are no silver bullets, but progress has been made since the intense activity that led up to the first DR book in 1996, and the subsequent decline in activity as the challenges of truly embedding argumentation-based DR in work practices sank in. In particular, although quality software support is required, it turned out to be the human factors that required closer attention.

The objective of this chapter is to update the software engineering community on how and why the QOC [20, 21] and ibis approaches [10, 11] we helped to create originally, have subsequently evolved into the current Compendium approach and tool.