Why blog?

02Feb10

In my last post, I talked about how Scary Evil Computers like Sheila are taking over our lives.

I forgot to mention by the way, I’m a computer programmer… yep. A programmer who hates computers.

Isn’t that a bit weird?

That’s what I thought too. Something’s gone slightly wrong somewhere. So I thought about what makes a programmer. What are the core characteristics?

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of computer user in this world:

  • Those that like to master difficult things. Quite masochistic, and violently denying that anything could ever be difficult to use – apparently you just need to use your brain, and once you work out some impossibly unusable feature set, you can mock other users as they struggle.
  • Those that are lazy and like to make life easier on themselves. Finding it annoying when something is harder to use than it should be. Not having the patience to faff around with some dumb machine.

That’s what I’d call intentionally stereotypical. But if I had to choose, I reckon programmers fall into that first category – and although I do too in many areas of life,  not when it comes to technology.

Arguing religiously about variations of Linux or which programming language is the best, or the intricacies of process management in operating systems is not for me. I’m more interested in ease of use, good design and usefulness.

From reading Alan Cooper, a software developer would most likely be the type of person who would smash open an alarm clock just to see how it works and then revel in putting it back together again. Hmm. Can’t say I’ve ever done that.

Microsoft’s Tom Corddry once said:

Developers are invariably male, eat fast food, and don’t talk except to say “Not true”

Reminds me of one of those JavaScript pop-ups.

JavaScript Popup

You make me sick...

I’ve been a web applications developer at a software consultancy for over 4 years and work with people at the top of their game. Despite my friendly mocking, programmers demand a lot of respect. They do an incredibly difficult job and handle a lot of complexity in their computer-like brains. You can’t build quality software without good programmers.

I got into coding after finishing a maths degree, so for sure, I’m a nerd, but not a geek, and programmers can only be geeks.  Take the test.

And being a nerd, there are definitely aspects of coding that are cool. But I miss the fast free-flowing design side of things from back at school in art and design class. When I was little, I’d spend all day drawing people standing on green grass. I’d even colour the top part of the paper blue to represent the sky.

Sunburnt children

Sunburnt children.

That’s not my drawing… but you get the idea.

But with all the recent maths and coding I’ve done, the artistic side of my brain has stayed relatively dormant for the last 10 years, until this year when I came across a term I hadn’t heard of before: User Experience Designer

It seems that a User Experience Designer is like an architect but for computers – responsible for gathering user requirements and writing user stories, sketching designs and rapidly creating working concept prototypes. All before a single line of proper code has been written.

Hang on! That must surely be a total waste of time because it’s not writing any code, and the only thing that matters is writing code, right?!!

Huh… maybe we’ll come back to that last paragraph in a later post.

UX Design looks like a great mix of design work and programming. As I looked into UX Design I found this, which is a great place to start, and was all the inspiration I needed. I’ve since bought a bunch of books and am now training up in all things User Experience Design related. And I’ll blog about some of the interesting things learned on the way. Hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

It’s very cool finding something you thought you’d lost a long time ago. I’ll leave you with Steve Jobs’ speech.

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2 Responses to “Why blog?”

  1. I’m so thrilled to read that you’ve been inspired to move forward with user experience due in part to one of my blog posts. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, and enjoy the ride!


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