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Guten Rutsch, frohes Neues, You know, just continue to have fun.
Yes, I know, it sounds very, very odd. Users, bah, just keeping everyone from doing really useful stuff. Users, always finding bugs that turn out to be not-so-well implemented features. Users, not understanding the big ideas powering the programs we develop and the time we spend. Users, still using that outdated 5-year-old version of a product just because they are used to it. Users, not willing to switch just for the sake of having switched. I don't understand it.
But it's users using ( and sometimes even buying ) software. And maybe you are involved at building a software product. I bet you consult your friends or fellow colleagues from time to time seeking input for a form, text, feature whatsoever. People who are just like you are the worst giving you advise on how to do something. I do have friends who are still pretty happy using zsh and rocking the world using the shell. But that's just not the majority.
Everytime I'm thinking about something cool in terms of a new project, I talk to my strategic consultants. I meet them when I'm at my parents house at dinner. They consist of: My father, my mother and my brother. And it sounds odd again, but explaining something to people who are potentially end-users, you'll get a clue about how useful your software idea is considered in an instant. And that's the kind of feedback I'm looking for. I know that most of my fellow students are used to the most weird kinds of application, expecting valuable feedback from them considering anything computer-related is like asking a priest for his opinion about the existence of god.
So my message at the end of the year is simple: Talk to users. Not only when it comes to usability testing ( which is also crucial ), but at just every step of your project. That's where the focus should be. For me that means: having dinner regularly. Nice, hm?
Whether you're an active developer busy doing some Java, Ruby, Perl or ( fill in your language here ) based projects, you'll most likely have some kind of browser windows opened sometimes providing you with the necessary documentation for libraries or ( but hopefully not ) language basics.
Because I'm not in love with one language and used to switching back and forth between several of them, I tend to forget some details about built-in classes etc.. It's certainly o.k. to have the documentation for such features available somewhere on the web, but I'd love to be able to simply download bundles for a language in a "documentation reader". Open format ( there are lots of them that would suit this application ), simple to transform anything to it via xsl or something comparable, and it would just work ( even offline ).
I won't claim to start a new project here as I'm already quite busy doing the rest, and celebrating new years eve, but if somebody is looking for a challenge, here it is.
This subject shows another important aspect of usability. Usability shouldn't stop at the Users place. Developers are users, too. And happy users tend to be more loyal and happy, a goal certainly worth achieving.
Edit: Now the night has finally arrived, and I think the following tasks should be completed before any such project can be forged.
- Define an open format for efficiently saving Language Documentation. Keep in mind that language documentation differs in structure depending on what kind of language is documented. Object oriented languages need other formats or present other structures than procedural or functional ones.
- Create scripts that convert existing documentation into that new format. XSL is a powerful friend here. No one will ever take care about a cool project without a funky demo.
- Build clients that are eaasssyy to use for all major platforms. I'm talking about smooth integration ( e.g. a spotlight plugin for OS X ), not some dirty hack.
- Tell all your programmer friends.
Thats it. But I'm still not ( yet ) interested in doing it by myself, but if anybody wants to do it, don't bother contacting me. Sleep well.
Edit: found this link, like it.
Im Laufe eines Studiums stolpert man öfters über Themengebiete, die in der Essenz leicht und verständlich sind, durch fremde Formulierungen und ungewohnte Schreibweisen aber fast unlösbar sind. Im Nachhinhein lacht man vielleicht darüber, aber wenn man drinsteckt eben nicht. Zusammen mit meinem Freund Thomas Fankhauser habe ich deshalb dieses ( ziemlich unvollständige ) Skript zum Thema verfasst, unter anderem gehts um Mengenlehre, Matrizen etc.. Viel Spaß damit.