ONA09 un-conference session proposal: The craft of making software — Anyone interested?

UPDATE — The folks at ONA have announced that they’ll provide rooms for un-conference talks! Woot! But if there’s more need than space, it’ll be up to a vote, so *please* get there early and vote me up! Hope to see you there!

The schedule for ONA09 is jam-packed with shiny stuff — social networks, mobile tech, they’ve even got Leo and Ev! Great. But the reality is that Twitter will not save the news, just like chrome rims can’t save General Motors.

We can talk about technologies, tools and innovators all weekend long, but it won’t help if news organizations don’t understand the basic principles of software development. So, if anyone out there is interested, I’d like to arrange an un-conference to talk about some un-shiny, boring-ass shit: software development methodologies.

Topics of import we might address:

  • Version control
  • Task and defect tracking
  • Goals, use cases and designing with your audience in mind
  • Working iteratively and being agile

Code is not something you can slap up like wallpaper. Making software is a craft. It requires discipline and skills far beyond a superficial awareness of the technologies available. At every moment of the process, from conception to release, there are right and wrong ways to make software.

Imagine a news organization with only writers, and no editors. They might manage to crank out some successful stories, but without editorial controls, the failure rate would be astronomical. From what I’ve learned in my (admittedly brief) time in this industry, this is the state of software development at newspapers — it’s failure-ridden, amateurish and ad-hoc.

Let’s do it the right way

Over the years, lots of clever people have studied the craft of software development, and come up with battle-tested tools, best-practices and processes to reduce the failure rate and better-ensure success. I learned a thing or two about these methods in my previous life, and would love to share.

So, I’d like to set up an un-conference session. We’ll get a room and a projector and talk process. Who’s interested in attending? What topics would you like to see addressed? Would anybody else like to present?

(If there’s no response, I’ll shut up and go back to work — but if I’ve convinced you, please leave a comment. No comments, no un-conference.)

14 thoughts on “ONA09 un-conference session proposal: The craft of making software — Anyone interested?

  1. Don’t know that I can make it out to Chicago, but I’ll retweet the hell out of it. If there’s video, I’ll make people in my office watch it.

  2. Scott, Aron: Awesome!

    Chris: If this happens, it’ll be at ONA 2009 in San Francisco this October. As for materials, etc., everything I present will be online. Gonna have to find an especially snappy t-shirt if this gets webcasted.

    All: It’s looking like this might come together. The folks at ONA say they may even be able to help setting us up w/ a room. Woot!

  3. Er, ya, I meant San Francisco. This is what I get for not looking things up before firing off a comment.

    Either way, if there’s a chance I can make it out there, I’m definitely down to attend.

  4. Pingback: Host your own un-conference session at ONA09 - ONA09

  5. Great idea — I’m in, too (if I can be in SF for the conference, which could go either way right now)

  6. I’m sure we can rustle up plenty of votes.

    Also, the hotel has weird rules about “broadcasting” (livestreaming), but someone could unofficially record your session and upload it after.

  7. Pingback: Brian Boyer — Hacker Journalist : A quick primer on making software — best practices, tools and further reading

  8. Pingback: A quick primer on making software — best practices, tools and further reading « News Apps Blog

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