Adventures in Alpha Land

Episode 2: How To Wow Clients With Your Demos

Adam Green joins Dan Bricklin and Selwyn Rabins in a discussion of the best practices of building demo apps, and how this podcast series will make the development process at Alpha Software more transparent.
Show Notes

00:00 Adam: Introduction to episode 2.

00:34 Selwyn: We can modify the product to make the demos easier to build

00:48 Adam: Having you change the product during this process is part of the plan.

00:55 Dan: Which is why some of our demos are obsolete.

01:06 Selwyn: Even if a demo is obsoleted by easier methods, the earlier techniques are still useful.

01:20 Adam: The demo is supposed to be a Wow, but the podcast is experiential.

01:53 Selwyn: What I find helpful is understanding the philosophy of a product.

02:48 Adam: Users need to understand your mind, Selwyn, and your tacit knowledge of the product.

04:40 Dan: I'm wondering if we should focus on a small feature of an existing app.

05:33 Adam: We can take the demos as known starting points and build a cluster of demos around them that goes deeper.

06:29 Dan: Selwyn and I were looking at doing something like that using geolocation in mobile apps.

07:06 Adam: A notepad app that logged locations would be really cool.

07:42 Dan: You want the first demo (D1) to be a good base camp.

07:52 Adam: This is an artificial process. You ended up rebuilding D1 multiple times.

08:04 Dan: I don't think we can come up with D1 yet, but this has been useful.


00:00 Adam: Welcome to episode 2 of Adventures in Alpha Land. This is Adam Green, and I'll be your host for this episode. In the last episode, Dan Bricklin and I discussed my background, and I got a chance to explain my goals for these podcasts and the demos that we're building as part of the podcasts.

00:21 This time, we're going to be meeting with Dan and also Selwyn Rabins from Alpha Software. We'll talk about more philosophy of demos and the benefits that we hope to get from these demos.

00:34 Selwyn: Keep in mind that since this is our product, if in the demo you find that you had to write a little bit of code to do something, we can just add a new action to action JavaScript.

00:46 Dan: Oh, yes. We're well aware of that. I know that happens.

00:48 Adam: I wrote that into the plan, that as soon as we do the demos, you're going to start making it easier to do the demos.

00:55 Dan: Which is why some of our demos are obsolete now, because after seeing them, the system has been improved. We're working hard to do that. Let me look at...

01:06 Selwyn: Also keep in mind that if a demo is obsoleted because you've now added something new down the line to make it easier, you haven't wasted your time learning the low level technique.

01:20 Adam: The other goal of the podcast, as opposed to the demo themselves, because there are several pieces here. The demo is supposed to be a Wow and then as it progresses, it becomes more training-oriented, as it gets deeper and more functional. But the podcast is experiential.

01:41 Adam: It's for me to be their proxy and say, "I don't really know these details. Explain them to me. Help me understand them." That's a different way of coming to understand the product.

01:53 Selwyn: Basically, what I find helpful when I'm trying to learn, say, somebody else's product is understanding the philosophy of the product. For example, you've turned us onto this guy, Craig or something, the guy from Funnyant, the guy who's been comparing all these MVC client side frameworks. I think the stuff that he's done has been really interesting. He talks about the different products in ways that I find very interesting.

02:37 One of the problems that we've always had with Alpha is getting across to people an understanding of the philosophy of the product.

02:49 Adam: Part of understanding the philosophy of the product is understanding your mind specifically. Specifically you Selwyn do what I...I didn't invent the term, is you use a voice of God point of view. A voice of God point of view is I am all-knowing. I will describe the product to you from the point of view of someone who knows everything about it.

03:19 That's useful in a training context. You want someone to do that. There's tacit knowledge that even God isn't aware that he knows, it's even tacit to him because he knows it so well.

03:36 Revealing that tacit knowledge, is another piece of the story and can be very revealing, because when you approach something when you listen to the voice of God, you're saying, "Yes, I saw that all fit together, but I'm not quite understanding why, where they're coming from." I guess that's what you mean by the philosophy.

04:02 One way to... is because I was watching you at the Dev Conference and saying, "My God, there are all these little things that he knows, that he's not really finding a way to share with everybody. He just says I click here. "Ok, great. How did you know to click there? Why is that thing that you click there for there? What's the point?"

04:23 That's what I'm hoping the podcast reveals. The voice of God will come in later when once we have the demo, we can do a video that says, "OK, now we have a demo. What's the approved way of doing the demo?" That's the voice of God point of view.

04:40 Dan: I'm wondering for some things whether we should take an existing app of some sort and talk about just a feature of it and you dive into it, so that we can just get that one point, especially to try to keep it into 15 minutes. To be able to explore the philosophy. You know, you go to some Biblical verse and you study that one verse or one verse in Shakespeare, you can learn a lot about everything from that, just looking at the one in its place.

5:15 Should we take perhaps some existing applications, maybe ones that are built in or are ready to come with a system that you push a button and they're already built? There are some of those that come with Alpha, and explore that.

05:33 Adam: Another architecture is a star or multiple stars or multiple clusters or however you want to visualize it. Where you take a demo, like the one we're talking about first, D1. You then say, "Here it is, really simple, wow, great, build a mobile app, amazing." Then you say, "What if I were to add pictures to that? Just that." Then you do a different demo that digs really deeply into adding pictures.

6:01 Then you say, "What if I wanted to add a map?" What you don't do is take the one that has pictures and add the map. Instead, you go back to D1 and you add a map. Later on, you go back to D1 and add a database. The point is, you have a starting point, and we'll have three starting points, and each starting point can branch off in any direction you want and then Selwyn can talk about why he did all these wonderful things.

06:29 Dan: We started with some of that. Knowing where you wanted to go, Selwyn and I, were looking at something that mobile devices are very good at, especially cellphones, which is geo location, to be able to... When you do enter some data, no matter how trivial it might be, you may want to code it by where you are at the time that you get that data.

06:54 We were looking into that. It turns out, depending on what you're doing, you could do it with or without code, but in your D1 plus, it's probably a few lines of code.

07:06 Adam: What if you had a notepad that was mappable? That would be really cool.

07:12 Dan: We can build those things.

07:13 Adam: As I travel around, I write notes. and it's called a travelogue log app.

07:16 Dan: It remembers where you did it. That's relatively simple. We are looking at that.

07:21 Adam: That would be a great way to branch off, but you go back to D1 to do it. Does that make sense as an architecture, to get a lot of information across without insisting that you go from D1 to D2 to D3 to D4 before you get to D5?

07:41 Dan: Yes, but we want to get D1 up to a point that's a nice base on which to build. You don't want to have it get in the way. You want it to be a good base camp.

07:52 Adam: I understand. There is something a little artificial about the process. You really do build it, then you take it apart and build it again a couple of times.

08:01 Dan: Then that's the D1. Which is why I don't think we can come up with D1 yet, but we're exploring to get there. This discussion has been very helpful. We'll keep trying different D1s that are good starting points.

08:18 Selwyn: All right.

08:19 Dan: Take care.

08:19 Selwyn: Talk to you, guys.

08:20 Dan: Bye, guys.

08:20 Adam: Bye.