I’m on the train back to Gothenburg after a very interesting, and hectic day, in Stockholm. A few of you might wonder what I meant when I tweeted “Just finished an app excellence lab with mixed feelings…” So I will tell you what I meant. This is a long post, so get a cup of tea or coffee and have a read.
Prior to attending the lab I had heard that the lab was retrospective, for developers that had a Win8 Metro App ready to go, but since few had that this wasn’t a requirement anymore. My app wasn’t done (I had been working on it for a week), and you might have read in this post how many and how strict the requirements were, so I had only managed to succeed with about 50% of them. I arrived five minutes late, stressed and very nervous. My casual jeans skirt, heels, bright red hair and a white singlet did not blend in well at the Microsoft headquarters style.
Hans waited for me in the lounge area, and we sat there for the lab as there were no rooms available. I showed my app briefly, told him about my vision and we discussed the apps functionality. I had gone through all the requirements, evaluated how well I scored, and had written questions for every single one of them. I was very nervous, and asked if we could do this in English – and I felt more relaxed straight way as we switched over to English. I spent a good one hour explaining my app, and the story behind it. As I was about to start with the questions fours more guys showed up, also there to attend a lab. I asked if I could stay and listen in on the ‘educational lab’ and got a friendly ‘sure thing’ from Hans.
We booked a small conference room and we quietly gathered around the table as Hans connected his computer to the projector. He pulled up the requirements and started explaining them in depth one by one. I believe I was the only one with a Metro app there, and as Hans went through the requirements I made sure to ask all the questions I had using my app as an example when it was appropriate. The guys were quiet; one of them sat and played with his phone the whole lab, another one was taking notes in a tiny notepad. I talked a lot as always, I had my computer connected and googled everything, and franticly took notes and downloaded and tested tools recommended by Hans.
I had decided beforehand what I wanted to get out of the lab, and had no intention leaving without achieving that. Some of the comments I had gotten on my app weren’t the ones I had expected, or maybe wanted (at the moment), but as a good friend of mine Kim Brockie once said ‘you have to kill your darlings’, and as the lab progressed I started understanding the comments and also started rethinking my application. Once the lab was over, and the four other guests left – some of them seeming a bit mortified over the strictness and quantity of requirements, Hans stayed for another hour with me to finish the lab we had started earlier. I started second-guessing my main selling points, and asked him – and myself- is this a good idea? What about this, is this good? Can this be done differently? I didn’t feel good about the design (although he did think it was good) without knowing why. I did pull up an app I did feel good about and we discussed it and I realized what was missing. We had a really great and deep discussion about Metro, craftsmanship, pride and the love of code and how these requirements reflect all that and can be applied to life philosophy.
As we parted after five hours I was very thoughtful, as when reading a book that you can’t stop thinking of. I had expected to have my app inspected, a sterile lab and a person that ticks things of a list and tells me what’s good and not good. Instead I got an invaluable lesson about craftsmanship, expectations, and true inspiration to create something great,- all this from I person I don’t know. And sitting on the train now, sketching a new design, I can’t stop thinking about everything that I learned. I went about it all wrong, I did read the requirements, but I didn’t get them. They were to me a –somewhat annoying- must be done list. I see it differently now, and I totally get it.
We were also told that they had few reference apps (apps that they could show-case), and I immediately decided that I wanted to make such a good app that it could become a reference app. A second lab is required to get a token to windows store. And I really want to aim for that, the token and creating an app that has reference-standard. Because, if I can do it then anybody can, therefore everybody should, and then we all would. And we would all live happily ever after. Sorry, couldn’t help myself, sometimes I get so soft I scare myself haha 😀 But I mean it, I want to prove that given enough time combined with passion and work- anything is possible.
Tomorrow I’ll post my questions, and the answers as well as my notes from the lab. The lab and Hans was absolutely worth the trip, and I really learned a lot. It wasn’t at all as I expected; it was a hundred times better.