Untangle the Web April

I had the pleasure of attending Untangle the Web at Google Campus on Wednesday evening. Unfortunately the tube strike resulted in a somewhat more intimate gathering than had been expected. Although, on the plus side, there was plenty of pizza and beer to go around!

Lee Provoost kicked off the evening with a talk on scaling agile in the real world, speaking specifically about his experience delivering agile projects with the GDS. He urged that teams and companies should hire based on cultural fit ahead of technical skills; suggesting that developers should be open to working with any number of technologies. The rationale being that, usually, at the beginning of an Agile project the team doesn’t really know what it’s delivering, let alone the right technology to deliver it with.

Dem Gerolemou was up next with a talk on user testing & prototyping. Dem comes to UX design and user testing from a graphic design background and his talk lead us through various projects he and his peers had been involved in. It was great to see such a Blue Peter-esque approach to prototyping, building simplistic and working devices out of disassembled mice, cardboard and parcel tape.

He evangelised the use of paper prototyping at the beginning of all projects, explaining that the limiting factor of the medium forces you to focus on the user interactions rather than technology.

Ryan Cormack finished up the evening with a talk on agile marketing for your startup, a subject close to my heart. Having come from a marketing background Ryan is now practicing the dark art of .NET development. Presenting from PowerPoint in the cloud on his Surface Pro (which I’ll admit, grudgingly, worked surprisingly well) he talked about his experience marketing for a genealogy company.

One key point he made was that he felt using Facebook ads as a way of A/B testing was a massively underused opportunity. By creating multiple versions of an advert you can choose to show each to a random segment of your audience. From there you can measure which ad gets the right response, and continue to iterate and improve the messaging.

He maintains that, although there is a small risk of showing imperfect content to a potential customer, the small amount of business you might lose will never be more valuable than the ones you stand to gain.

He also evangelised the use of the various social networks meta tags, specifically Facebook’s Open Graph and Twitter’s Cards. Both of these tools allow you to control the title, description and rich media that gets attached to your content when someone posts it on Facebook or Twitter. This way, you ensure that your content gets to put it’s best foot forward when users are interested enough to share it. We’ll be implementing both of these on our blog in the next couple of weeks.

For me, Untangle the Web was a fascinating introduction to the breadth of expertise in the Agile community. I’m really looking forward to the next event and hope to see you there, give me a shout if you’re thinking of joining us (@_ianw).