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With no need for additional fanfare, I now present to you the continuation of last weeks post about DDD 2018.

Break It Down

My fourth session for the day was presented by the wonderful Larene Le Gassick.

As a woman in tech, Larene was curious about the breakdown of gender for the speakers participating in the various Brisbane based Meetups, so she built a bot that would aggregate all of that information together and post it into Slack, thus bringing the data out into the open.

Well, the word “bot” might be overselling it.

It was Larene. Larene was the bot.

Regardless of the mechanism, there was some good tech stuff in there (including a neat website using a NES css style), but the real value from the process was in the data itself, and the conversation that it started when presented in a relatively public place on a regular basis.

From my own experience, the technology industry and software development in particular, does seem to be male dominated. I’m honestly unsure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but I am fully in favour of encouraging more participation from anyone who wants to get involved, regardless of sex, race or any other discriminating factor you can think of.

DDD in particular is pretty great for this sort of inclusiveness actually, sometimes resulting in surprising feedback.

Actually, This Time It Does Mean What You Think It Means

The fifth session that I attended was delivered by Steve Morris in his usual style. Which is to say, awesomely.

To be honest, I probably could have skipped this session as it was basically Domain Driven Design 101, but it was still pretty useful as a refresher all the same.

Domain driven design is in a weird place in my head. The blue book is legendary for how dry and difficult to read it is, but there is some really great stuff in there. Actually trying to understand and then model the domain that your software is operating in seems like an extremely good idea, but its one of those things that’s really hard to do properly.

I’ve inherited at least one system built by people who had clearly read some of the book, but what I ended up with was a hard to maintain and understand system, so I’m going to assume that they did it wrong. I don’t know how to do it right though.

Regardless, I’ll keep trying to head in that direction as best I can.

Intelligent Design

The sixth session of the day was a presentation on UX and Design by Jamie Larkin. Her first such presentation in fact, which was actually really hard to tell, because she did extremely well.

The session itself was fantastic.

I’ve always questioned why developers seem to shy away from design (or why designers shy away from development), and I like to think that I’ve tried to keep UX high in my priority list when implementing things in the past. Having said that, I’m definitely not cognizant of many design patterns and principles, so it was really nice to see something with experience in both design and development talk about the topic.

The main body of the talk was focused on UX design patterns presented in such a way that they would be relevant to developers. Even better, the presentation used real websites (MailChimp and Air B&B) as examples. This was pretty great, because it paired the generic design principles with concrete examples of how they had been applied, or in some cases, how the design principles had been broken and how it was negatively affecting the resulting user experience.

Some specific takeaways:

  • Consistency is key. If you’re building something inside a system, its probably a good idea to match the style that is already present, even if it results in a sub-optimal experience. Disjointed design can be extremely damaging to the user experience.
  • Put things where users will expect to find them. This might mean bending towards common interaction paradigms (i.e. it looks like Word), or even just spending the time to understand your users so that interaction elements appear in places that make sense to them.
  • Understand what the user wants to accomplish and focus the experience around that. That is, don’t just present information or actions for no reason, focus them around goals and intent.
  • Consider the context in which the user wants to use the software. Are they on a train? In a car? At home in bed? Smart answers to these questions can make a huge difference to the usability of your service.
  • Feedback to the user while operating your system is essential. Things like hover highlights, immediate feedback when validating user input and loading or processing indicators can really reinforce in the users mind that they are doing something meaningful and that the system recognizes that

At the end of the session I left richer in knowledge than when I arrived, so I consider that a victory.

Don’t Trust Your Brain

The last session I attended was a presentation on cognitive bias by Joseph Cooney.

For me, this was the most interesting session of the day, as it really reinforced that I should never trust the first thing that comes into my brain, because it was probably created as a result of a lazy thought process that took as many shortcuts as it could.

I’ve been aware of the concept of cognitive bias for a while now, but I didn’t really understand it all that well. To be honest, I still don’t really understand it all that well, but I think I know more about it than I did before the session, so that’s probably a good outcome.

To quote my notes from the session verbatim:

Cognitive bias is the situations where people don't make rational decisions for a number of reasons (which may not be conscious). Kind of like an optical illusion, but harder to dispel.

Not the greatest definition in the world, but good enough to be illustrative I think.

What it comes down to is that the human brain appears to operate via a combination of two systems:

  • The first system is automatic, effortless, fast and specialized. Its always running in the background and offers up images and feelings as opposed to raw data. It thinks in stories and deals with ambiguity well, even retconning past events to fit into a new model as necessary.
  • The second system is deliberate, effortful, slow, general purpose and incredibly lazy. That is, you have to actually try to engage it, as its expensive to run.

The first system does a lot of work, and helps you to make decisions quickly and without fuss. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a shortcut that is less appropriate than it could be and makes a non-ideal decision, thus cognitive bias.

As conscious beings though, we can choose to be aware of the decisions being made by the first system, question them and kick the second system into gear if we need to (performing the rational and data based analysis that we thought we were probably doing in the first place).

I’m sure I haven’t done the topic justice here though, so if you’re interested, I recommended starting at the article in Wikipedia and discovering all the ways in which I have misinterpreted and otherwise misrepresented such an interesting facet of the human psyche.

In summary, 10/10, would listen to talk again.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, I had to bug out before the locknote (a session on how to support constant change), but all in all the day was well worth it.

Its always nice to see a decent chunk of the Brisbane Developer Community get together and share the knowledge they’ve gained and the lessons they’ve learned over the last year. DDD is one of those low-key conferences that just kind of happens (thanks to the excellent efforts of everyone involved obviously), but doesn’t seem to have the underlying agenda that others do. It really does feel like a bunch of friends getting together to just chat about software development stuff, and I appreciate that.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend attending.

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