best software talk ever?

At last month’s BayCHI meeting, Alan Cooper of Cooper gave the best talk I’ve seen on software development, Ending the Death March. Unlike the rest of the BayCHI talks, this one wasn’t recorded or podcast. (Aside: please email BayCHI and Alan and ask them to make this available.)

However, Allison at BayCHI did take good notes.

Key point number one: bad software is a business problem, not a technology problem:

Death marches happen, according to Alan Cooper, for three reasons related to managers, who are still (1) using intuition instead of methods to run businesses, (2) letting programmers intimidate them with techno-babble, and (3) assessing the economics according to industrial era logic.

Key point number two: engineering organizations are badly structured:

The Triad of Entirely Separate Roles in Software Construction:
Programmer – Interaction Designer – Design Engineer

Programmer: Construction for shipment
Interaction designer: design for humans
Design engineer: Design for CPUs
Product managers are not Interaction Designers. If they are professional interaction designers, they aren’t doing the work of product managers. Keep those roles clear, Cooper said emphatically.

These three software construction roles are separate roles and have separate career paths. Cooper reiterated that the roles are fundamentally different: “You don’t graduate from one to the other, and one is not more advanced than another.”

2 Responses to best software talk ever?

  1. Thanks for your interest in the BayCHI program. We’re very fortunate to have such great speakers and a great volunteer program committee to recruit them. And how lucky are we to have such a great volunteer meeting reporter in Alison Andrews?

    While we can’t publish the recording without Alan Cooper’s permission, we would love to hear from everyone who wishes we could! The BayCHI steering committee is thinking about changing our policy: Should we only accept speakers who agree to be podcast and share their slides? If that meant we’d lose someone like Alan Cooper as a speaker, would it be worth it?

    Let us know!

  2. Rachel says:

    Dude, found some links about the talk – they’re in my post thusly: http://writeonwriteoff.blogspot.com/2005/11/ending-death-marches-if-possible.html. there seriously needs to be a repository of previous talks somewhere – Lecturester? Eventster? Something-ster? Some sort of knowledge repository thingy…

    and Steve if you get a chance to see this, accept all good speakers, but give priority/preference to people who agree to be podcast/share slides/open to having the discussion continue after the talk ;)

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