Microsoft Heartland Influencer’s Summit


I ended up going to the Heartland Influencer’s Summit today. My main reason for going was to talk to Brian Prince, the Heartland Architect Evangelist, which I accomplished later. It was a productive talk. I left with a bit more of an open mind about a few things (nothing related directly to the Summit) and a thought about User Interface.
 
Much of the Summit was under a "gentleman’s NDA", so I can’t go into details about all of hte specifics, but that is not he purpose of this entry.

Paradigms 

The first thing of note is how extensive paradigms are. I have, more than once, caught myself in paradigms in thinking. In general, I find I am more susceptible to getting caught this way in things I find appealing. If I have an affinity towards something, I am less likely to challenge my thought process.
 
Let me get a bit more specific, with no names, as they are not important. In the Summit, they gave away desk light sabers as gifts. Here is a picture of mine sitting on my desk (yes, that is a Michelob Porter in the background – best option in the "cheaper" beers).
 
Light-Saber
 
Alan Stevens and I both assembled ours (typical geeks) and a conversation about Star Wars ensued. It was generally agreed that episodes 1, 2 and 3 sucked and that midichlorians were stupid. Then the comment burst forth that there were "certain universal myths that were not exclusive to Christianity" (paraphrased, not a true quote). While I understand the nature in which the comment was made, the bulk of the evidence of the virgin birth/savior being a Universal myth comes from a single source about the Mithras cult which is largely conjecture on the part of the author. It is very possible, if not likely, that these stories do have a Universal nature, but the statement was stated with such force it revealed the speakers own paradigm.
 
There is nothing wrong with being in a paradigm. The comment just struck me as ironic after our previous conversations about how, using higher level constructs, one did not get caught on syntax. I am not mentioning names as I might have been stuck in my own paradigm at the moment and there is no reason to start a peeing contest over a statement.
 
What is important is many developers are stuck in paradigms without realizing it, as they start to see syntax as a programming construct and not an artifact of language. I believe both the author of the statement and myself agree that there are paradigms in programming, but it is interesting how easy it is to fail to realize we are in one even after we have advanced. It is another thing I have to keep myself in check over as we move forward.

Bad UI

Now this second one may come across as strange as it is in no way related to programming, except in abstract (abstractions are good). Look at this picture:
Faucet
 
And here is an "enhanced" shot to illustrate the "bad UI".
Faucet-2
First, notice three things. In red, there is a motion sensor. And, in green, there is a short distance between the pipes in the curve of the faucet (green). I should have taken a picture from the side, but the water pours about 2 inches away from the back of the sink. In blue, note the water.
 
There are a couple of things wrong. First, the motion sensor points straight out. This causes you to have to hold your hands up above the bowl to use it. Added to this is the fact that the water pours so close to the back of the sink. Combined, this causes a lot of water to pour out the back of the sink and eventually end up at the front, where it can deposit on the pants of anyone who stands close to the sink.
 
In the process of discussing UI (we are talking about a bunch of geeks talking about things "in nature"), we did determine a possible advantage to this design. Anyone who pees horizontally on his pants can blame it on the sink.
 

Fish bowl

One positive take away I got from this Summit was the fish bowl. This, to me, is almost as neat as sliced bread. Okay, old and tried analogy. As neat as scrum meetings done properly. Another geek analogy. ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!

The fishbowl is designed to facilitate a bunch of people on a topic without becomming a free for all. You set up six chairs in the middle of the room. One is for the facilitator, who makes sure the conversation remains on topic and the other five are for participants. One chair must always remain empty. This is important, as it always leaves space for others to enter the conversation. When a person enters, one of the current people must leave. The last rule is nobody outside the inner circle can talk (like chickens at a scrum meeting?). I was suprised at how well this flowed. We got through some topics that might otherwise degrade without any conflict or too many tangents. This will become another repertoire item for me. Very cool.

Well, that is it for now.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

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