For me there was a sort of theme to XPDay 5. The theme was Innovation. How do we know that we're building the write things? Both of the Keynote speakers touched on this subject. It is an area that as concerned me too (see my post on software as an art). As developers we have managed to lull ourselves into the belief that product requirements are just out there and all we need to do is "gather" them. In Tim Listers keynote he showed a slide with a picture of a little girl picking a flower with the caption "Oh what a pretty requirement, let me gather it". It had us all laughing, but it made the point well.
Bill Gaver, the second keynote speaker spoke about his work with Ludic technologies. His interest is computational devices for the home. He believes that computers in the home need not be practical, work oriented devices, but instead can enrich the experience of domestic living in other non-practical ways. So the question is what should we build for the home? Well it turns out that the obvious approach isn't necessarily the best. Just asking people what they want in their homes doesn't always lead to new innovative thinking. To tackle this problem, Gaver and his team have come up with a probe pack which they use to probe the minds of potential users and gain an insight into how they use their homes:
Real interesting stuff. One of the products produced as a result of this type of requirements elucidation is the drift table
To find out more about Ludic Technologies visit the Equator project website.