Last Tuesday I went to the first Groovy and Grails meet up in Brighton. Graeme Rocher, the founder of Grails lives in Brighton, so it was very exciting for the Brighton geek crowd to have their first very own meet up down at the coast and outside London. The most exciting thing was that Graeme was going to re-create Twitter in 40 minutes of live programming.
FeraLabs helped to organize the event, so I went along, even though I am not a programmer at all. My background is in design and HCI. The thought of a geek programmer meeting was slightly disheartening, as I was worried that I was going to be sitting there with blank eyes, not understanding a word.
But to my surprise, my preconceptions were found to be wrong. I really enjoyed the talk.
Graeme started his presentation with a short introduction about Groovy and Grails, including the Grails philosophy, which did sound a little bit like a usability recipe for programming:
- build on the shoulders of giants
- embrace convention over configuration
- use sensible defaults
- achieve simplicity without sacrificing flexibility
Graeme also highlighted a few geek facts about Grails:
- Grails is 3-5 times faster then Ruby on Rails
- in March 2008 Grails had 7000 downloads a month, in March 2009 it had increased immensely to 70.000 downloads a month
Then the programming action began. Graeme opened the black window of horror and created a new app. He explained the different folders that were created, and what the different items in them are. For a programmer this may have been a bit basic, but I got excited, as it was something that I recognized.
FeraLabs is building Webnographer in Grails. This means that I see these folders everyday. I work with them and around the code, working on html myself and trying not to break the Grails code.
Graeme whizzed through the different steps of creating Twitter. He achieved this mostly through plug-ins, so it looked really easy. There was of course some manual programming, and Graeme explained the different steps and what the lines of codes were meant to do. 40 minutes later he had recreated the functionality of Twitter. It was ugly, but it did work.
A personal note about Grails: I liked that it seems to be using mainly natural language for its commands. This certainly helped me following the presentation, and will also be useful in my future work in getting a vague notion of what the different lines of code do and refer to.
In conclusion, for me as a designer, it was great to find out what all the bits and pieces of code do. I work with/around it every day and I am definitely curios. This does not mean that I will convert to being a programmer. Yet, this little insight that I got at the talk can definitely be beneficial to my future work, as well as other designers. It can help the communication between programmers and designers, encourage mutual understanding, and result in a better working relationship between both.
So I my question to the programmers is, are you willing to try seeing things from the design and user’s perspective too? And what do other designers think about hanging out with programmers a bit more? Do you think that cross mingling at different events can encourage better working relationships between designers and programmers?
Please leave your comments below. I’m keen to find out what you think.