Akademy – Why it’s so productive for me and what I plan to do this year

I may be one of the last ones to write my “I’m going to Akademy!” post, but here it is!

I will be among the many KDE contributors who meet at Bilbao in two weeks to tell each other in conference talks what we’re up to, plan our next steps and get real work done in “Birds of a Feather” sessions and workshops, and of course meet old and new friends and have a lot of fun!

While all contributors who go to Akademy agree that it’s a must-be-there for all members of this great community (if only for the community building aspect), I’ve heard from a few developers that they find sprints more productive for them personally because they produce more code there. During my life as a usability consultant working with software developers, I’ve observed that many of them seem tend to regard time spent talking or listening to coworkers about job matters as mostly wasted time, simply because at the end of that time, no code has been written.

For a usability consultant, things are different. As the name suggests, a major part of our work is indeed talking and listening to people. We listen to users to learn what they need, we listen to product managers (or in the FOSS case maintainers) to learn what they are planning to do, we listen to developers to learn what is technically feasible and what is not. And most of our “output” are suggestions we give to others for improving the usability of their products, either in graphical, written or spoken form. That’s why for me, Akademy is extremely productive, even more productive than sprints, where the developers spend most of the time hacking away while I wait until someone asks me for advice. At Akademy, I have all the project teams in one place, I can get up to speed with what they’re doing and discuss usability issues with the majority of the team, face to face.

This year will be no different, and I already have quite some plans:

First of all, at the conference I’ll give a talk together with Björn Balazs about a paradigm shift we are planning for Plasma Active (and beyond): From an application-centric system to a task-centric system. This is an exciting big step for Plasma Active and this will be an exciting talk for us. For more details, see the event details page

In the BoF part, I’ve initiated two sessions and will definitely be part of a third, and of course of many others which I haven’t planned yet.

One of the two BoFs I’ve initiated is on Plasma Active on Thursday, where the Plasma Active core team will discuss future plans for PA and help developers working (or planning to work) on Active versions of their applications with technical or usability questions.

The other BoF, on Tuesday, will mark the start of an initiative to create a set of Personas with the goal to eventually be comprehensive enough so that any KDE project can just pick the personas that mach their envisioned target user group(s) and say, for example “We optimize our application for Jane and Joe. Alex can use it, of course, but he is not our primary target audience”.

The BoF I’ll definitely join but haven’t initiated is the one on the KDE Human Interface Guidelines (on Tuesday as well). Here the HIG team will go over the HIGs we’ve (re)written so far to squash all remaining To Dos, and plan which ones we’ll tackle next and how. This BoF will be very important for our work, because writing HIGs requires a lot of coordination and discussion, for which a face-to-face meeting is 10x more productive than sending emails back and forth.

I’ll schedule the remaining time spontaneously and try to talk to as many project teams as possible. So, see you all for a wonderful week in Bilbao!

Akademy 2013 banner

I’m going to Akademy!

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Researcher on usability / usable security / user experience Volunteer KDE usability consultant Open Access / Open Science supporter

Posted in KDE

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