eTech Happenings - Monday 3/6/06

I am at eTech this week. I will try to blog about some of the events as I observe them.

Creating Passionate Users
I attended Kathy Sierra's workshop this morning, Creating Passionate Users. Wow! What a treat.

I went back over my notes and found it very hard to summarize what I had heard (since there were dozens of excellent thoughts to chew on.) But here are a few of the nuggets I came away with.

  • People want to "kick ass". As Cooper says, "User's don't want to appear stupid." It's important that a person be able to move from the "I suck" phase in mastering anything to the "I rock" phase.
  • Constant learning potential is the key to passion. The promise of mastery and its benefits along with continual stimulating nuances to a craft make for passion. It's nice to have a long growth potential.
  • The brain has a crap filter. We have to speak to the BRAIN (physical, chemical responses that can't be help) rather than the mind. For it is in speaking to the way we are wired that we can get to the mind.
  • Conversation trumps formal lecture. The brain engages in a conversation. It goes into stasis in a lecture.
  • Do what it takes to get users past the "I suck" phase into the "I rock" phase. You can motivate users to do this by providing:
    • a way to recognize expertise
    • a meaningul benefit
    • a clear path to getting there
  • Learn from game design. The cycle of build interest -> challenging activity -> payoff.
  • Learn from screenwriters. The heros journey.
    • Life is normal
    • Something happens to change that
    • [helpful sidekick shows up]
    • Things really suck
    • Hero overcomes bad things
    • Life returns to normal-- but the character is changed.
  • Ask two questions when you are writing.
    • What will be the user's journey?
    • How will the protaganist be changed.
  • Dignity is deadly. Once you try to appease the critics you will be driven to mediocrity. If you are doing something write someone will criticize.
And the final thought is when writing, designing a user experience, etc. it is not about you (the author, creator). It is about how users feel when they interact with your organization/book/blog, etc.

Ruby on Rails
And speaking of passion, I got to hear my friend David Heinemeier Hansson give a workshop on Ruby on Rails.

I have loved this language and framework since the first time I played with it. I still do. I just wish I had some time to do something with it. Note to self-- make time!

Lots could be said, but one thing that stuck out was the concept of "partials". In Rails you can express snippets of HTML as partials (read templates). You then have access to this snippet to include in your code. Kind of like JSP tags only a thousand times lighter and in native HTML.

You can also create rjs files (rails javascript). Its a way to create javascript with a ruby on rails syntax being able to access the DOM via rails variables or by selecting elements with CSS selectors. Then there are page manipulation mechanisms to apply animation effects or hide, show or replace html. What's cool is the code is generated on the server side in the controller where it is natural to think of accessing application state. It controls what gets generated on the client side in JavaScript land.

There was also some interesting discussion of using Microformats as a data source. David is working on ways to transform a microformat into your application specific HTML markup. Interestingly I did a blog interview with a group from the UK along with Kevin Marks of Technorati who is doing a lot of the work with microformats. We also talked about this over dinner. It is somewhat the argument for JSON. JSON expressess data. JSON is native to the browser. Microformat express data (albeit in XHTML). Microformats are native to the browser. So in both cases the load is light on parsing and using them to render views.

Bruce Sterling Keynote
On the Internet of Things. A look at the visionary world of when all things are acessible via the "internet". And by all things I mean all things. Like your keys or your shoes. Imagine, he says "googling" for your shoes :-)

Its the first time I have heard Bruce talk. He is an amazing speaker. An incredible wordsmith. His approach to writing science fiction is to first write a visionary technology manifesto then craft a story around the emergence of the technology into the future.

Sites to Check Out/Books to Read
So here is the list of interesting things I want to investigate further:



By the way, I will be giving a 15 minute talk to the conference about the Yahoo! Patterns & Code Library. That will be Wednesday, 12:15pm.