Who’s Your User, Daddy?

All software is developed to be used by someone, even if only in an automated fashion (that is, without any direct interaction with the user). As such, it is important to understand who your user is, or you may (ok, probably will) find the going tough. If you are a game developer, life is good. You know who your users are – gamers! Likewise, there are many industries or types of programs where the user is a well-known entity. If you write accounting software, for example, your user is probably someone who does…uh…accounting.

I happen to work in an environment where the real user of the software is often a bit of an unknown. Well, the real user is generally known, but often we are unable to get direct feedback from the user, or the feedback loop is very tenuous and arrives filtered through other people who generally are not developers and rarely elicit the right kind of feedback or ask the users the right kinds of questions. The situation can be so backwards, in fact, that some of the developers I’ve worked with over the years are convinced the user is, in fact, the middleman who filters all that rarified feedback. Developers will say things like, “I’ll have to talk to the users about that.” Of course, they’re never going to talk to an actual user, just the business people who are in control of the project. In the real world, these people would be called stakeholders, but even in other companies, I’m willing to bet that the stakeholders are actually treated as if they were the users.

Stakeholders may feel they have deep insight into how real users will interact with the software, but, unless they spend a lot of time with real users, they are typically just guessing. That’s bad enough, however, the real problem occurs when the stakeholder has a vested interest in trying to shape the software to make their own job easier. While that’s understandable, and their opinion does matter in that respect, it doesn’t serve the actual user of the software. A common symptom of this affliction are screens that fit the stakeholders workflow, rather than the end user’s workflow, or forcing the end user to enter all kinds of data that may not be readily available to them. The stakeholder wants every possible piece of data up front, whether they truly need it or not, and these become required fields. End users will frequently come up with creative ways to get around the restrictions, which ultimately helps no one, because it ends up being extra noise to filter out.

Unfortunately, developers have no say in any of this, and most will simply do as they are told. I’m not sure what can be done to change this attitude, but it’s ultimately counterproductive, and developers like that end up revisiting things over and over as they try to tweak things and plug holes – problems that might have been averted by paying more attention to making sure the software actually was developed for the right user.

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5/1/2014 Article Links

Joke:

I’m reading a book on anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.

 

Web and mobile stuff:

var functionName = function() {} vs function functionName() {} (This ought to be worth reading at least 17 times)

How Adobe Is Moving on From Flash to Embrace HTML5 (Let’s all pan the flash)

Wearables offer hazy hope for mobile chip growth (Ah, yes, a chip off the old frock)

Why Smartphones Are About to Get Tacky as Hell (Crass dismissed – please!)

The Future Of Mobile Advertising Will Be Shaped By Two Trends (Thing one, and thing two)

12 Chrome extensions power users will love (Great spelling error in the initial screen. Maybe they can find a spell-checker for their graphics editor in their search for the next 12 extensions)

 

F# stuff:

Another Porter Stemmer in F# (Excess baggage not included)

Code coverage using dotCover and F# make (Covering yourself with nothing but a dot – not just for nudists, anymore)

Simple Parallel Array Filtering in F# (Slowing making our way toward complex parallel universe filtering)

F# scripting for a component based game engine (Because it’s fun)

F# and List manipulations ((Sometimes, it’s OK to be manipulative)

Facilitating Open Contributions for the F# Compiler, Library and Visual F# Tools (We open at Effin’ 5 O’Clock Sharp)

Where to practice your F# with fun? (Under the blanket, with a flashlight?)

Twenty six low-risk ways to use F# at work (Feel free to try this at home, too)

 

Other stuff:

Programming Sucks (Yep. And yet we love it.)

IoT Startup Evrythng Secures $7M Series A From Atomico, BHLP, Cisco And Dawn 

Report: Google Glass parts make up 5.3%—roughly $100—of $1,500 price tag (Sounds like a glass half full kind of thing)

America’s nuclear arsenal still runs off of 8-inch floppy discs (Sure, why not? They could come back in style some day.)

Sony develops tape tech that could lead to 185 TB cartridges (And in other back-to-the-future news…)

Good news: IT businesses see growth. Bad news: They can’t find people to hire. (Must be a shortage of twenty-somethings who skateboard and suck down energy drinks)

Millennials and tech: Round pegs in a square cubicle farm (I don’t think hatred of cubicles is restricted to millennials)

4/11/2014 Article Links

Joke:

Two buddies rent a boat to go fishing. Naturally, they bring along a lot of beer to pass the time, because, who ever really goes fishing just for the fish. Anyway, they hit it big time and catch a lot of fish, while also ingesting a lot of beer. After a while, they both have caught their limit, so they head back in and return the boat. The first guy says, “You know, we really should have done something to remember that spot for next time.” The second guy says, “Oh, I did. I marked a big red ‘X’ inside the boat.” The first guy says, “You dummy! Suppose we don’t get the same boat next time?”

 

Cloud stuff:

Available Now: Preview of Project “Orleans” – Cloud Services at Scale

New Amazon toolset tracks cloud spending

Security could be a casualty of the new Azure portal

 

Mobile development stuff:

Windows Phone 8.1: a lap around the new development features

The decline of the mobile web

HTML5 apps can be just as speedy as native apps with the new Famo.us Javascript framework

 

F# stuff:

DDD and CQRS Using the Functional Language F#

Facilitating Open Contributions for the F# Compiler, Library and Visual F# Tools

 

Other stuff:

First look: MongoDB 2.6, the all-grown-up version

Developer picks: 7 tools for making the most of GitHub

6 ways the Internet of things will transform enterprise security

Dart 1.3 dramatically improves server-side performance

Mono and Roslyn

Software Estimation: How Misperceptions Mean We Almost Always Get It Wrong

Star software designer Greg Christie leaving Apple

4/9/2014 Article Links

Joke:

An old married couple is driving along a long, winding country road. The wife is talking a mile-a-minute as the old gentleman occasionally nods and grunts while keeping his eye straight ahead. At one point, the car hits a nasty bump in the road, the passenger door flings open, and the wife spills out. The man doesn’t even notice and keeps driving. A few minutes later, a cop pulls him over. The officer says, “Sir, we found your wife a few miles back. She’s a little bruised, but otherwise OK.” The old man looks over at the passenger side, then back at the officer and says, “Oh, thank goodness, officer. I thought I had gone deaf!”

 

Read this first:

The Heartbleed Bug

 

Windows stuff:

Microsoft requires migration to Windows 8.1 Update within 5 weeks (Save the date and save the day. Yikes!)

Microsoft should open-source Windows XP, enable 3rd-party support, says legal scholar (This could be taken more seriously if it had been posted on April 1)

The story of the Windows XP ‘Bliss’ desktop theme—and what it looks like today (news from the WABAC machine)

Microsoft removes Windows 8.1 Update from WSUS update servers (oops)

Microsoft Patch Tuesday bids adieu to Windows XP (also notes about other patches)

What’s new in Windows 8.1 Update

 

Web development stuff:

easeJS (Classical Object-Oriented JavaScript Framework)

JavaScript OCR 

pixi.js (Super fast HTML 5 2D rendering engine that uses webGL with canvas fallback)

 

Mobile development stuff:

Handy code-free mobile app development resources for small businesses (code free, maybe, but not all are cost free)

Microsoft extends its JavaScript framework to rivals

 

Microsoft news:

Ballmer, Not Nadella, Gave The Go-Ahead To Ship Office For iPad, Which Has Racked Up 12M Downloads (this just highlights the disconnect between software developers and non-software developers)

The most hated browser in the world is finally dead (Now, can everyone just move on?)

Microsoft and open source: True love or casual fling?

Microsoft Azure Developer Camp: Build a Cloud-Native App (free virtual class)

Four things developers should know about the new Microsoft

Microsoft adds .Net compiler to open source offerings

 

Other stuff:

Google courts enterprise developers for Glass (Don’t most enterprises already have a glass ceiling?)

MongoDB 2.6: Our Biggest Release Ever (all hail the new king!)

CIOs: Lure Top Tech Talent by Offering Free Lunch (Developers: Beware of overuse of the words “Happy” and “Meal” when the CIO describes what your free lunches will be like)

Beware of NoSQL standards in Oracle’s clothing (woof)

Big data needs software-defined storage (well, what do you know? IBM offers a solution right up this alley)

Controversial Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigns

Java Tip: Hibernate validation in a standalone implementation

4/4/2014 Article Links

Random stuff:

Oracle doubles the speed of MySQL query handling (Is it safe to stop worrying about whether Oracle will kill off MySQL?)

Scrum co-inventor: Agile can lower risk, but it won’t tell you how to code (in other words, lots of luck)

Developer picks: 7 hot tools for agile development (so hot, they’re cool)

Android is the most stable mobile OS, says new report (that is, when compared only to one other operating system…)

Google is tracking some employees for 100 years just to monitor their happiness (hmm, leaving work at the office will make you happier? Who would have guessed?)

Fire hazard forces recall of Lenovo ThinkPad batteries (shocking)

Why CoffeeScript Isn’t the Answer (needs more sugar?)

As advertisers phase out cookies, what’s the alternative? (Milk, what else?)

Three Types of Interview Questions Software Developers Should Expect 

Why you should always under-promise and over-deliver (and remember, to everyone else, even your estimates are considered promises)

Agile in the enterprise: To succeed, avoid the fundamentalists (be sure to stand up to them…in meetings…yeah, that’s it)

Software developers, you’re better when you work together (now, go sit in the corner)

You say Python, and I say Perl … (and attach Perl to Python, and you have yourself an interesting necklace for your main squeeze)

What the latest cloud explosion really means (puffier clouds?)

4/1/2014 Article Links

Random picture:

DSC_0069-69-4-Edit-Edit-Edit

Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

 

Trivia:

April Fool’s Day History

 

Random stuff:

Facebook tweaks (used to fine tune an iOS app)

Adobe Announces PhoneGap Enterprise for Mobile Development

Windows Phone 8.1 core has finished today

Microsoft to unveil Enterprise Mobility Suite alongside Office for iPad

Survey: 33% of iPhone owners would shell out $300 on contract for a bigger iPhone 6

Apple engineer reveals where the iPhone’s original software came from

Git smart! 20 essential tips for Git and GitHub users 

Farts and f-bombs: see the hidden jokes in Microsoft’s early code (what else would you expect to find in MS-DOS code?)

Why your previous developer was terrible (raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before)

Whatever Happened to Reuse? (It was recycled)

Cloud deniers are the flat earthers of the tech world

Google General Counsel to Arrington Allegation: We Don’t Snoop on Gmail to Find Leakers

Can Microsoft rescue Windows? (wait, I think I’ve heard this one every other release of Windows…)

It takes an open-source village to make commercial software (cue catchy theme music)

Apple says it wants emoji to be more multicultural