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Chang-chang-a-ching-changa-langa-langa: Why Your User Community is Fluent in English and You Are Not the King February 6, 2010

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Get ready for the sound of one hand clapping, but first, fire off the song as it get’s your head straight.

Some of you want to be Elvis too much.  Sensei’s going to tell you a story so you know what he’s talking about.  You see, users of your apps  are waaaay smarter than you, and spend more time in their fields than you ever hope to do.   You need a little love.  It’s called fluent interaction.  Fluent. Interaction.  Lord have mercy.

Process mapping helps, but in the end that takes you to overly scientific abstractions, and while user stories help some they, too, stray with you as the sole author.  You in the chair, just the important details from the user, but mostly you.  Should you consider yourself not Mort but an Elvis, you may want to ask yourself what Elvis you want to be:

Kick-ass Karate Elvis
Drug Ridden Elvis Wanna Be

Back to the story.  Last episode, in a spate of productivity and a dose of SQL-NoSQL fever, Sensei created a slim document management solution that can be quickly applied to an existing framework with minimal impact to database schema and code base.  Sitting around the conference room table the comment arose from Annie, the project lead from the Sales group:

“Why do I have to save a commission record first before I can attach a document?  That interrupts my flow.  I want to put in everything that I want and save, period.  No dialog box thingy prompting to save first, come back and do something else.  Why can’t we just do it”

Long silence.  The sound of one hand clapping.

One of Sensei’s report-to’s jumped in:  “Because in order to associate the document to the commission you have to save that commission first in the database, then take the id from the record and associate it document.  This allows you to retrieve it later on.”

Annie:  So.  Can’t that just happen behind the scenes?  If it’s two steps the sales gal won’t do it.  She’s got calls to make.

Ssensei drifted out in research land, or as normal people call it, he spaced out for a bit.  NetFlix sprang to mind, iPhone too, where you delete, it does it, but you can bring it back.  Take the confirmation response out of the equation.  Give the user a chance to undo their mess, but don’t get in their way.  It’s fun to pretend to be the King, but what a wake up slap.  The technology was right, but the user was seeing the benefit because “putting the stuff in was too clunky”.  Sensei went and did want Annie wanted.  Annie thinks its great.  Good technology made better by the user, not the King.

Fluent.  Interaction.  Lord have mercy.  You see, Annie’s right and user stories, UML and other brain death would never capture the essense of her perspective, particularly after she used the software.  Yeah, soft deletes are great theory, but you are not thinking like a user.  In order to be a better King, you gotta give the concert they want to hear.  You have to know that the fans have created you, have shaped your persona.  You have to know your fans, almost be them.

Elvis had a come back concert in 1968 but it almost didn’t happen as there was a huge fight with NBC.  The network insisted that the show would be like a Bing Crosby special given that the air date was during the Christmas holiday season.  Elvis wanted an intimate environment where he could perform up close, live with his fans.  He thrived off of close contact with his fans.  Know your audience.  Elvis was right, and it helped re-launch his singing career and revive his legend.  It was one of his best performances.  For the fans.

You need to listen to your users.  Spend the time to hone your craft, but work even harder to make them fans.  What do they need?  Is the concert for them or for you?  Are you learning just to be smart or for their benefit?  Fluent solutions require interaction with the fans.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

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Faith – The Time is Now Again July 18, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development.
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wolf-1

Ceiling unlimited
World so wide
Turn and turn again

Feeling unlimited
Still unsatisfied
Changes never end

Winding like an ancient river
The time is now again

Hope is like an ancient river
The time is now again

Neil Peart

 

 

Indulge, play the song, drink in the message and go hug your kids, embrace your family, be thankful for your friends, team members, co-workers.

There is so many new things on the horizon.  For those of us who are lucky enough to practice this technical craft called programming, we can be stymied by all the possiblities, the arguments and skirmishes.  These de-rail you.  Build a fortress against the distractions and ignore your fear of change by embracing the challenge of good arguments.  It’s all a chance for you to improve.

When you arrive at work think of what ways you can engage with others.  Can you practice your techniques in a better way?  Recite the Wolf Creedo and end an argument.  Better yet, start a new one in jest and revel in the ideas.  Bang out some code and fight for the day.  What new things can you add to your team’s arsenal if you inspire someone else?  Are you leading or are you a suit sitting in a chair?  Would someone ask you for help or think that you’re too involved in your own head to deign to talk to them?  Have you built an empire above you or below you?  Is your legacy more important than what you have truly done?

Okay, so you’re code was awful – but did someone else still benefit?  Was your code perfect but never used?  Was your ego hurt yet your company still profitable, keeping families fed?  Did your mistakes help others learn?

What matters is that you engage.  Most times it will be painful.  Developers need serenity to produce but I’m telling you man you’re lucky if you have it.  Life is full of the distractions and once you conquer them, you’ll find greater strength and battle hardened capability.  Work at it. Revel in it, share it.  Be grateful and humble.  Win and go home to the ones you love.  Technology is great, but you as a friend, mother, father, co-worker, neighbor, dude in line at Starbucks or grandma at church are even greater.

 

 

Seasons Greetings from Sensei December 24, 2007

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Mythology, Personal Development.
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those of you who have read this blog. We’ll finish out the year with more great discussions and get ready for some surprises in store for us in 2008. Take this time to spend with family, friends and we’ll begin more training next year at the ActiveEngine Dojo.

Here’s what I’m doing today:

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