A group blog from members of the VB team
On Friday, Chris Smith and I (Chris is a test engineer on the VB Team) attended an event called 'Sons and Daughters' day. The day consisted of 2 sessions (20-25 kids in each) where kids aged 6-13 were run through a class of writing an app in VB (20-25 kids in each). The class was very introductory, but eas very appropriate for the audience. Parents typically hung out with their kids to help things along. The role Chris and I played was to be additional helpers, to be able to provide extra assistance as necessary (parents were typically good at helping their kids along, but the odd issue or question wuld arise that needed extra help). Of course, the target version of VS was VB Express.
Talk about FUN!
I was concerned going in that it would be hard to lower the bar enough to let people use the product for the age of the audience. But the combination of the following meant that pretty much everyone had a great day. The feedback was all positive, and some kids clearly had the time of their lives. But our product really is pretty darn easy to use. I sometimes forget that getting started with Express really is easy. I had this nagging feeling that people would have to know more about what was going on for the day to be successful. But the presenter (Robin Reynolds-Haertle) did a great job at preparing the material, and targeting it well for the day. She basically showed people the environment, got them to make a winfors app, add a control, change properties and add some code. From there, she had a project for people to start with that was a simple game, but demonstrated a few more concepts. Straightforward, but esential, and fun stuff.
It didn't hurt that the kids were all enthusiastic, and the parents engaged well ;-).
My highlights of the day:
- On a whim, I decided to show them my space invaders game at the end of each session, just to hammer home ‘this is where you can get to, you have the basics!’. This went over well of course.
Some issues for me to raise with the team:
If you have code like "SomeMethod(Arg1,_ " it doesn’t get pretty listed, it just gets an error. This hit a couple of kids
Thanks very much to April Reagan and the other organizers, this was a very fun day. I look forward to doing these more often!
You have no idea how often that "it's hard to tell when the designer is in 'run mode'" thing has been a problem for me while doing workshops. When teaching a real class it tends to get discovered the first day (or so) and after that become less of an issue of course. It's one of those "gottcha" things I try to cover in workshops and classes but often I don't remember until after it bites someone. And even when you are used to it (and I've been using VB since around VB 1.0) it can sometimes trip you up when you are rushed.
It seems like such a little thing but I'll bet a lot of people would appreciate it if something could be done about that.
I have a colleague who was describing to me an issue he had with a user of one of our applications. The application has the ability to switch at run time between a production and staging database but certain actions are only meaningful (or possible) on one or the other. This occassionally lead to the user calling in text support having forgotten to flip the switch to the correct database.
My colleague programmed the status bar to change colors depending on which database connection was active. Now it's immediately obvious to the user their context; and when that fails it's obvious to him from the screenshot what the problem is!
Moral of the story:
To users Context is King (or Queen if you prefer).