|By Jesse Randall Warden||
|April 15, 2009 04:00 AM EDT||
This entry is about creating proof of concepts that tackle challenging components in your application before Sprint #1 starts, when Strategy happens in the process, and the design challenges that still exist.
Proof of Concept
The POC stands for Proof of Concept. It’s a formal term used to describe the process in which a programmer tackles some of the high risk functionality items of a finished design comp to assess their feasability before the official start of the project.
At least, that’s what we define it as. The concept of iterations in software is to flush out the real problems with a design. When you have a 2 week deadline to code something, reality comes around really quick to expose miscommunications, not well thought out designs, and generally a firm challenging of assumptions.
…and there is Flash. With the amount of creativity expressed over the years in both design, multimedia, and applications, the reputation has grown that Flash Player is a wonderful platform to build your dream; an application rich in good design and experience. Like Apple products, only on the web.
This naturally makes things significantly more challenging for the programmer. Yes, the Flash Player, and subsequent software libraries (Flex SDK, Papervision3D, fluint, etc.) do help, but bottom line is, some of the components these designers create for us to build are just insane. Flash has allowed a lot of their ideas to come to fruition, so they are conditioned to do what a lot of good designers do, and raise the bar. There is a fine line between insanity and genius, and designers know it. Whether they are smart or not, they know that if a programmer can pull off some of their crazy ideas… it’ll be an extremely cool app.
Therefore, when looking at potential design comps for an application, you can pretty easily point out the things that look impossible to pull off. Rather than start going down a path you know will end in failure, you can chose to bring it up, OR prove it can’t be done in a reasonable time frame. Again, anything can be done, it’s the time element that is always the first metric for success. The POC relaxes that constraint a little bit, and lets you tackle the big items; the crux functionalities of how the app will work. You know these things will come up without even doing an interation, and since they are so insanely hard, you don’t even know if you can pull them off, you allot time to try.
For example, the ones I did were:
- Can you scrub a Flash H264 video frame by frame instead of using keyframes?
- Can you show hundreds of images instantaneously in Flash?
- Can you cache bitmaps utilizing Flash’s local SharedObjects (Flash Cookies)?
- Can you draw thousands of data points?
Now, keep in mind, this doesn’t categorically “prove” you can pull the functionality off. Remember, a Sprint is supposed to produce a real feature in real software. Test code you wrote working vs. the same code implemented in a real app are two different things. What it DOES do is at least ensure your Sprint has a modicum chance of success. Or, it could be a core feature to your application as a whole; even more important. For example, while I successfully completed all 4 POC’s above in a reasonable time frame, #3 did NOT work in production. Saving local SharedObject’s in Flash over 10 megs really bogs down the SWF. I didn’t think I’d have scaling problems; I mean, why would I? The Settings dialogue allows you to set it to “unlimited”… *face palm*. While I’m sure I could work on optimizations, that was not time I allotted for the original task, thus jeopardizing getting the user story it was associated with in the Sprint.
Again, iterations really do help in nailing down what can / can’t be done in a reasonable time frame. A few well chosen POC’s really help challenge assumptions about complicated components on a design, ensure you have a fighting chance doing them during a Sprint, and serve as a good litmus test for the team. If you don’t complete it, is it your lack of ability or the technology’s? In other words, the litmus test is somewhat subjective, but your team’s reaction to it is real and actionable.
A project manager had written me an email asking “When does strategy happen?”. To answer, before I come in. Meaning, this project’s design and business strategy/planning was all completed before I came on board to really contribute anything of value. The POC’s were utilized to challenge key functionality, but beyond that, all wireframes, comps, and plans of for product launch and components were all ready to go. May someday I’ll care enough to plan, but for now, that stuff is boring to me; I like building other people’s visions.
One thing using Agile/Scrum processes hasn’t solved is the same design issues I’ve always had. Those are:
- The designer has to see a working version of their designed components before they can truly define how it’s supposed to work.
- Design comps do not express how something works.
- Flash / AfterEffects animations do help express how something works, but get out of date quickly.
- Fonts are a PIA.
For some complicated components, the team really didn’t know some of the finer details of how it should work. So, I’d have to guess, make a quick build, upload to the server, and show the link to the designer. I’d then call him on the phone and work through it. It was actually a pretty quick process, but made me feel insecure sometimes because a lot of my point estimations (and thus time estimations) weren’t really aimed at figuring these things out. Yes, I’d designate something as hard if it looked hard to pull off, but I had already assumed I had a decent understanding of how it worked… which was wrong for a few components. This happens to me in every project.
It’s not so much the components, but rather, how they interact with other components. Once you start wiring things together, you start to see the application in a new light, and holes in the user interface are exposed. A lot of times they are minor, but those minor issues add up in un-accounted time. I don’t know how to fix this. Unless designers can physically sculpt the application with instant feedback, I fail to see how they can effectively communicate to me how it should work. So while I respect this, it’s really challenging to plan time for it. It’s also frustrating because you have to just make a gut decision and pray it’s close to what the designer wants. Then again, it’s better to be doing this in quick Sprints with only a few user stories working towards a valid build vs. an entire app over the course of a few months.
Wireframes and design comps are great. I couldn’t live without them in the more complicated projects. The more detailed, the better. The downsides to them are they get out of date quickly, versioning is a bitch because UX and designers don’t use version control, and all the CMS systems like BaseCamp don’t make it easy to keep track what version you are looking at during meetings where all of you “open the PDF” only to find you all have different PDF’s. Additionally, as an engineer, I make extreme inferences on how things work. The designer then goes through it explaining it, and this usually changes a lot of my inferences. While good, I’m still making inferences. An inference is an educated guess. That’s another way of saying, “I think I’m smart, so ensure I don’t look like a moron to my readers, I’ll use the word inference instead of assume to avoid all the cliches”. While perception may be better, it’s still an assumption.
If a designer takes the time to knock out a quick Flash demo that’s clickable or even just an animation showing how the app works, this is extremely helpful to those are visual learners. I’m audio, so just need to talk over the phone; others need pictures. Regardless, it’s a lot more iron clad than a comp. The downside is, it’s more work for the designer and they can get out of date when you decide you no longer like the functionality in the end of week UAT. I’d rather have and use them vs. not, though, that’s for sure.
Finally, fonts are still the biggest pain the ass in Flex; same as Flash, only different IDE. Sometimes they work, sometimes they only work for one developer, sometimes only on one OS. You then start doing lines of coke whilst trying crazy ideas such as renaming the TTF file names, finagling with your CSS, and generally trying all kinds of shotgun approaches to “get it to work”… that don’t.
I’m glad I had the POC’s to do in the beginning. They really did help give me a broader picture of what the stakeholders felt was challenging, what I perceived as challenging, and what everyone perceived as important. Besides, it’s nice to get the hard stuff out of the way first so you can focus on being awesome. While a lot of great online services have come about to help the development process, design to me is still touchy feely throughout the entire life-cycle, every Sprint.
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
Jan. 16, 2017 05:30 AM EST Reads: 1,046
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, introduced the technologies required for implementing these idea...
Jan. 16, 2017 04:30 AM EST Reads: 4,464
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
Jan. 16, 2017 03:30 AM EST Reads: 2,825
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...
Jan. 16, 2017 03:30 AM EST Reads: 5,203
While not quite mainstream yet, WebRTC is starting to gain ground with Carriers, Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) alike. WebRTC makes it easy for developers to add audio and video communications into their applications by using Web browsers as their platform. But like any market, every customer engagement has unique requirements, as well as constraints. And of course, one size does not fit all. In her session at WebRTC Summit, Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President, Head of C...
Jan. 16, 2017 03:15 AM EST Reads: 5,707
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
Jan. 16, 2017 02:30 AM EST Reads: 3,892
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
Jan. 16, 2017 01:45 AM EST Reads: 2,646
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
Jan. 16, 2017 01:15 AM EST Reads: 4,142
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
Jan. 16, 2017 12:00 AM EST Reads: 4,748
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Jan. 15, 2017 10:15 PM EST Reads: 3,483
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Jan. 15, 2017 08:45 PM EST Reads: 7,376
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Jan. 15, 2017 07:00 PM EST Reads: 6,125
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
Jan. 15, 2017 05:15 PM EST Reads: 4,775
Businesses are struggling to manage the information flow and interactions between all of these new devices and things jumping on their network, and the apps and IT systems they control. The data businesses gather is only helpful if they can do something with it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Witeck, Principal Technology Strategist at Citrix, discussed how different the impact of IoT will be for large businesses, expanding how IoT will allow large organizations to make their legacy applica...
Jan. 15, 2017 04:15 PM EST Reads: 1,920
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a leading digital experience intelligence company, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint Systems is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into your customer-critical services to help you consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed for digital business, C...
Jan. 15, 2017 01:15 PM EST Reads: 1,690
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Jan. 15, 2017 12:30 PM EST Reads: 3,565
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Jan. 15, 2017 12:15 PM EST Reads: 4,960
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
Jan. 15, 2017 12:15 PM EST Reads: 5,380
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Jan. 15, 2017 11:15 AM EST Reads: 4,093
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and E...
Jan. 15, 2017 11:15 AM EST Reads: 5,645