Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dev4good 2012 deconstructed - part 2

Please, please, please listen! I've got one or two things to say. 

I have been writing code of some description since 2000 and would consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to UI design, user interactions etc. I am realistic and know that I couldn't design my way out of a paper bag and that there are always better ways to do things...
And I guess most developers think the same, we all code our systems to be designed around the functions we build and the specifications we are given...

My way of thinking was about to be beaten with a stick (probably with a few rusty nails stuck in it).

Stwike him, Centuwion. Stwike him vewy wuffly!

Picture the setting (this isn't me), its 230am on a Sunday morning, you have been coding a project since 11am the previous morning and you turn the developer across the table and say 'something just isn't right'. The UX consultant who has been trying to tell everyone in the team about something called 'stakeholder', behavior, touch points for the last 15 hours turns and says "Boys I have an idea".
Queue 3 mini coopers, a bus going over the alps, or at least - 3 developers a super smart UX consultant and a whiteboard....

As I mentioned, I wasn't actually in the scene above (a lot of literary licence was used), I called in right towards the end (heading for what would turn out to be an incredibly uncomfortable bean bag) just to say goodnight, only to be told "Craig, Amy has just told us we don't need an IT solution for the Gaza project". Bearing in mind the gaza team had already split and it was nearly 3am, I thought what the hell this could be interesting.
Amy went through her presentation and I went from being completely shattered to being completely awake, everything she was talking about made sense. It appeared we had all missed the 'human' aspect of the problem and looking at the problem from a different angle (not the developer 'must write code' angle) meant the solution was extremely simple - we need somewhere for people to meet and share information.
This was where I dropped a bombshell, 'why dont you just do a mashup?'. Use the data feeds from all of the other projects, plus blogs etc and create a place for people to see the information they need to see.
The Gaza1 team came in as well to say they had realised that their solution was not going to work, mainly for technical reasons. They had framework issues and were stuck, everyone discussed options and they headed back to try some new options.

After an hour of discussing the different approaches of developer and designers I went to bed, feeling enlightened.

I've been here five years, they only hung me the right way up yesterday.

It will probably sound very cheesy, but the early morning lesson really struck home. I am reading the Nail it, then scale it book at the moment and there is a lot of talk about doing the minimum right first. You build a minimum feature set first and seeing what people think/need before adding more to it, this is exactly what the teams should be doing (lightbulb moment), thinking as a developer you always build to the end specification and would never (rarely) remove functionality just to get a build/release.
However thinking about the human problems and behaviours of the stakeholders you very quickly realise that actually most of the functionality in the spec is down to what you (or they) think they need not what they need.

This would prove to be a valuable lesson that I think nearly everyone learnt over the weekend, all for different reasons

Two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State

I digress, the morning started slowly, actually I think it was more like Saturday, just became Sunday so there was no real start and everyone just got up and carried on.
More coffee, monster energy, coca-cola was drank while the teams started on the home straight.

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