I had the privilege to open up the 2010 Toronto Code Camp last week. It’s hard to know what to talk about to such a broad audience getting ready to kick off a great event with so many different sessions and tracks. A topic that is near and dear to my heart is about trying to figure out what makes software relevant. Ultimately it is about knowing your customer, very intimately so you can build the best experience for them.
With that said, I decided to step outside the world of software development to compare to successful invention/design stories and how they differed in their approach to “knowing their customer”.
Ron Popeil the famous pitchman and inventor of the Infomercial. Malcom Gladwell wrote an interesting article/biography Ron and his fellow pitchman. There is a lot to learn about Ron’s successes, but specifically how he focused on the audience that he knew. Himself. The chef, the entertainer, and the balding guy.
The contrasting story of Deborah Adler and her thesis turned Target product for a revolutionary redesign of the common pill bottle, is no less inspiring. You can watch/hear Deborah tell her own story from the Mix 09 keynote. Unlike Popeil, Deborah inspires her design efforts by forming such an intimate understanding of her customers that she refers to it as a “Love Affair”.
These two approaches are so simple and common sense that it’s hard to ignore them when compared to the way most of us build software and disconnect ourselves from our users through layers of requirement and specification documents.
The rest of the conference was a tremendous pleasure and wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the numerous volunteers, speakers and most importantly Chris Dufour who has the thankless job of herding this motley crew of geeks :) Thanks to all who made a contribution to this worthwhile event.