I remember this one incident, about fifteen or so years ago. I was working for an internet startup. I was in a meeting with my Manager, and a writer. The writer was trying to get his point across and we were having a heck of a time getting what he was saying. And then, after maybe more than ten rounds of going in circles, both me and my manager had a moment of epiphany. We finally understood what the writer wanted. He was astounded by our synchronicity. I can’t even remember the details of what the problem was. but I remember the miscommunication, and the moment of clarity me and my boss had instantaneously.

Many a projects I have worked on failed, or came over budget or over time, due to just such break down in communication. Over the years, it has dawned on me that investing the time in understanding the issue and having clarity of expectations is well worth the upfront time. This is where acceptance criteria comes in.

Consider the following requirement:

Form / Web Page / Screen A will create a user.

What could that be interpreted as? To most normal humans, the requirement is loaded. To a business user, the purpose of creating a user is tied to the business for which it is being created for. To a developer, the statement is literal. It has no hidden meaning. It is not loaded.

Now let’s add some acceptance criteria to this requirement:

Following the user creation, the use can login to the system
The use can access page a/b/c/d.
The user has to change their password after x days
The user can perform functions x/y/z.
etc., etc.

Doesn’t that look a lot different now? My example is a weak one, but it makes a point.

Now consider real life. We all have a set of values and rules that are internal to us. How we interpret the values and what rules we apply to them dictate how we interact with people and perceive the world. Consider the following story (by Tony Robbins):

In a seminar with a self made billionaire and a beach bum (I am calling him that for the propose of creating contrast), the question of “feeling successful” was brought up. The billionaire’s response was that he did not feel successful(!), while the beach bum felt he was successful.

Now, on the surface, here’s my observations:
The billionaire holds himself to a high standard; and hence is as successful as he is.
The billionaire is a poser. He feels like a success and is just lying to me.
The billionaire is a success and yet lives an unfulfilled life.
The beach bum is probably living a life of “Lowered expectations” (what a pity)
The beach bum is lying to look good.
The beach bum has high aspiration and yet is grateful for everything he has — iow he lives a fulfilled life.

Now let’s examine the acceptance criteria of these two men.

The billionaire, in order to feel like a success, has to make more money every day than he made yesterday.
The billionaire, in order to feel like a success, has to have his kids behave well everyday.
The billionaire, in order to feel like a success, has to have quality time with his family everyday.
The billionaire, in order to feel like a success, has to not make any mistakes.
The beach bum, in order to feel like a success, has to wake up.

Under the circumstance, I can see why one feels not like a success and another does. I was applying my own acceptance criteria for success on these gentlemen; while they had their own acceptance criterion.
Ditto for political positions. I call myself an anarchist. The word evokes various responses from various people, based on their own acceptance criteria of anarchism. For some, it could mean a person who is only looking to indulge in lawless behavior; a libertine, or worse.

So what is anarchy for me?

The word comes from the Greek word anarchia, which simply translates as without or lacking in authority. And the dictionary provides two choices:

1 — a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority:
“he must ensure public order in a country threatened with anarchy”
synonyms: lawlessness · nihilism · mobocracy · revolution · insurrection · disorder

chaos · mayhem · tumult · turmoil
antonyms: government · order

2 — absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal.

One can see the “loaded-ness” of the first definition; while the second is essentially unloaded; it does not pretend to solve all the evils of men; neither does it have a “perfect” recipe for a perfect life. All it is call to freedom. And partial freedom to me is much like partial pregnancy. Needless to say, my acceptance criteria for anarchy is the later.

Even God gives us a choice in behavior; but not the State.

So what is your acceptance criteria for “Conservatives”? “Liberals”? “Trump supports”? “Democrats”? “Republicans”? “Libertarians”?

For “Success”? For being “Loved”? For being “wealthy” or “healthy”?

For being a “good article”?

For “Freedom” or “United States” or “Our Values”?