Sunday, May 1, 2011

Language difficulties

I went to the optometrist a few days ago. The optometrist that did my examination was really thorough and helpful, but there were a few things in the way she spoke that got my attention.

I'll talk about the points, and about how it can relate to working as a software developer.

Timing: when I'm supposed to choose from 2 lenses, seeing 3 lenses doesn't help. There were occasions when I didn't know which lense was 'one' or 'two'. Agreeing on which one I thought was better was also tough because I would say 'one' when specifying the better lense, and she would say 'one' - I wasn't sure if that was a question or statement, so wasn't sure if she'd noted my choice and had moved to the next test, or if she was checking what my decision was.

Suggestive language: The choice between two lenses shouldn't be influenced by anything other than what I'm seeing - several times the optometrist said 'one is better isn't it', putting into my mind that I shouldn't be choosing two.

Rewarding subjective choices: Similar to suggestive language, rewarding one choice or another makes you question if you made the 'right' choice.

Sitting in the chair being examined got me thinking about how I talk to people when I'm gathering requirements, talking to people about the problems they're trying to solve and discussing problems with colleagues.

I think its easy to jump to a solution, or assume requirements before allowing the subject matter expert really explain the situation. Just using neutral language to ask questions rather than a suggestive question, allowing them time to give more information.

When providing feedback its important to be really clear that you're providing feedback. Using phrases such as 'I'm going to summarise what I think we've talked about, if I've left anything out or got something wrong please tell me'.

This is just another great reason for software to be released often, it lets the discrepancy between my understanding of the situation and the users be exposed. Even when we work hard at understanding each other, it hits the road when they actually have to use what you've made.

In any case, I got some new contacts, and they're all sweet!

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