BarCamp Boston 5 - Day 1

Barcamp was a lot of fun, tons of interesting talks and learned a lot too. Here are some notes and reflections from the ones I attended. Unfortunately I hardly got any of the presenters names.

Hacking the Brain
This was really neat, the guy has a way to turn neurons on and off using light. He has a small worm with about 300 neurons that he tracks with a camera and shines light on to see what the different neurons do. Interesting discussion at the end about the technical limitations he's hitting regarding latency between taking a picture of the worm and being able to calculate where to shine a light.

User Experience Design for Developers
This guy (Dennis, I think) really seemed to know is stuff. He had some interesting ideas on how to design successful software and some insights that really made the points stick. Here are the notes I took:
*The end user is the worst person to ask "What do you need it to do?"
*Develop for a specific persona, be very specific.
-Jane Doe, drives a 3 year old civic because she likes value.
-Apples persona is Steve Jobs, part of their success is having a very targeted persona
-This also helps with feature creep because you can ask "Does the persona need this?"
*Describe how the software works, ensure stakeholders agree
*Create very non-visual wireframes to demonstrate the UI. "Not a prototype"
*Ask the same question 3-4 times in different ways.

openFrameworks: C++ for artists & designers : Theo Watson
This was all about a really neat framework for artists. The technical part was extremely brief so that he could get right into showing a bunch of videos of projects people have made. Probably the most surprising part was that I had already seen / heard of many of the projects he talked about! Here's a link with some videos:

3D Printing & MakerBot/RepRap Demo
I've been a fan of the RepRap 3D printer for a long time, and the MakerBot this guy had was even cooler; Complete with blue LED's. He went through the process of how to load up a 3D model someone else made into the printer and kicked it off. Unfortunately the session ended before it finished printing!

Quick & Dirty Usability Testing: Christine M. Perfetti
This had an interesting contrast to the other usability talk. The morning one seemed geared towards making sure the software is usable to begin with and making sure the design will work, while this one was based on how to get reactions from people to find out if the design did work.

Here are the notes I took:
*Just watch the user use it
*Don't use high-tech usability labs (makes the person uncomfortable and they know they're being watched anyway)
*Bring user in, introduce the observers (first name), sit by them, watch what they do
-explain test
-give them task, observe problems
-general Q&A (How was the Experience? What was good? Bad?)
-Debrief with observers
*5 second page test
-simple, can take less than 10 minutes, can use mock ups, tells a designer if the page is clear
*Paper Prototype #1 way to start testing
-draw the screen
-user points at drawing
-person swaps paper based on what the software will eventually do
*Comprehension Test
-sort of like SAT comprehension test

Mobile Apps & Analytics
This was almost like google analytics except for mobile devices. There is a special storage component so that 100% internet connectivity isn't required. Check out there is a free version of their service.

Connecting the world of cooking with looks like a really cool site, I really like the iPhone app though. It sounds like its getting better every week so I'll have to give it a shot.

Game programming in Ruby
Given by the same guy as There were some technical difficulties so he couldn't show off the stuff he was doing. It sounded like he was using Ruby to make some sort of MMO, which sounds like crazy talk. It was also web based though so maybe the server isn't doing much?


  1. Thanks for the summary! The WolframAlpha talk at the end of the day by Stephen Wolfram was also a nice treat!

  2. By the way, it's nearly impossible to get past the captcha when you are posting a comment because the text field is covered up. Here is what it looks like in Firefox:

    I had to turn off CSS in order to post a comment.


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