The best customer ...ever?

Normally I don't talk about my family, at all, but this one is necessary because ... well it's funny and yet very cool.  Recently I've been working with my dad on a little app he wanted done.  Not only is my dad a great "customer" but he's damn good at telling me exactly what he wants ... in his own way that I find just hilarious. 

As with most people that write software, most family members have NO IDEA what I do, at all.  Normally my reply to what do you do is the default "I work with computers" and that usually scares them off or leads to the cliche discussion of how their computer is suddenly slow (full of malware and porn) and they want to know what to do.  I did get sucked into doing some work ONCE and I vowed never to fall for that again.  They're the worst customers on the planet and you don't get paid to do it nor is there any satisifaction out of it.

Anyway, a while ago, my dear ole dad says to me "so you make websites right?" More...

Ask the right question, get the right answer

Talked about this during a lunch I went to with Brent Huston (web, twitter) and he asked me had I done a write up on this ... and I haven't so I shall.  It's a good piece of info that I think everyone should master - Ask the right question, get the right answer.  This pays off in so many ways, it isn't funny and you can use it and abuse it everywhere, in everyday life.  This isn't a great theory that doesn't work in reality, this is a basic foundational requirement.  Yes, I feel very strongly about this and Brent suggested I should write up how I managed to teach it so here goes.

I hinted at this when I mentioned a good friend of mine, Jay Saunders, was graduating.  I tortured him for a solid 2 months (probably more), teaching him this practice.  When he started, I told him the number one thing was teaching him how to ask the right questions.  Purpose being is multi-layered.  First, without asking the right questions, you waste a lot of time figuring out what they (the users) really mean.  Second, if you take a minute to think about what you really want, you also should think of the possible reactions of the person being asked -- I will come back to this because there's a lot of nasty pitfalls that need to be addressed.  Third, it forces a different thought process and finally, the real goal, it forces the person being asked to NOT give a wrong answer. More...