It's flooding and cyclones here in NZ, especially those in Auckland. I hope this email finds you safe - if you're being affected by bad weather, please stay inside until this all blows over!
Before we get too deep into it, I'd like to give a small shout out to COLAB.
I had the chance to take part in COLABs Equitable Product cohort last year. It's eight weeks of conversation and learning with like talented peers; covering subjects like data ethics, accessibility, inclusion and more.
I learned stuff, was challenged, met great people and came away with practical things to look at.
The next session kicks off in March, and now's the time to get plugged in. You can register here!
🃏 User autonomy - snap!
Anyone out there playing Marvel Snap?
If you like mobile games and/or Marvel superheroes, I'd recommend it - it's super fun, dangerously addictive, all that stuff. It's won awards, so, you know, it must be good.
I did some reading about it this week that I thought was enlightening, and I want to share it.
It requires a little bit of explaining how the game works though. So bear with me.
The game starts by building a deck of cards of Marvel characters, all with different powers. Like this one.
The important part of the card (for this story at least) is that blue number in the top left. That's the cards cost in 'energy points'.
The game works in six rounds, and each round you have more energy to play. Round one, you get one energy point. Round two, two energy points - and so on. Some cards cost six energy points, and so you can't play them until round six.
As an example I couldn't play this Captain America card until at least round three, because it takes three points to play.
When the game starts, you draw a hand of three cards from your deck. It might look like:
There's a problem here.
If this is your starting hand, you can't play any of these cards in round one - because they all use more than one 'energy'. So, if this happened, you would have to skip your first turn.
Like a good software company, the brains behind Marvel Snap were constantly doing lots of user research. And that user research showed that this was a real frustration for players. They would start a game, couldn't play on their first turn, and lose interest.
So, the developers made a small change to the game, by introducing this Quicksilver card:
Quicksilver comes with a special power that means it always gets drawn in a players opening hand. So now, by including Quicksilver in their deck, players could guarantee that they would be able to play something in round one!
The complaints and frustration stopped almost instantly.
But this isn't just a story about a company listening to user feedback, because here is the interesting part:
Not many people use this card. It turns out, that users get the option, but still don't take it. Most players opt to use other cards instead, and run the risk of having to skip their first turn.
The value from adding this card was not that it would help people with playing their first turn. The value was giving them the option. By placing the decision the players hands, it no longer felt like a disadvantage - it was simply a tactical choice!
It reminds me of a feature I worked on for a donations platform a while back, allowing giving via SMS. Our company was having trouble making sales, because we didn't offer this feature.
So, we built SMS giving. Accordingly, sales went up.
But, like with the Quicksilver card, very few customers used the SMS giving feature - because (as we'd predicted), other options giving methods were better.
Customers didn't really want SMS giving - they just wanted the option.
I guess what I learn from this is, there's power in giving users autonomy. In a situation where user feedback says a feature is needed, but the data says something else - there can be value in just giving the users the option.
It can generate sales, stickiness, or even just positive sentiment!
🖥 Neat stuff from around the internet
- Evidence that quality is impossible at scale - a collection of quotes assembled by Anthony Hobday. Uncomfortable reading.
- The Engineering Maturity Model by Mike Fisher.
- I'm really interested in whatever it is Bailey Lenart is up to - this will be a neat story to watch unfold.
- An interesting read on how Hubspot approached saving money by addressing their logging.
- This issue of the Pragmatic Engineer, Khan Academy describe how they broke their monolith into microservices. Spoilers: 3.5 years, 100 engineers.
- Google's new AI bot made a mistake, and it cost Google $160 billion.
- QA Therapy interview Janet Gregory about Holistic Testing. I like this one - Janet always has great things to say.
- Corey Quinn talks to Emily Ruppe from jeli.io about incident management - this is quite a cool conversation.
- More like an 'interactive read' - Four thousand weeks - a tribute / summary of the book by Oliver Burkeman
- Kill the King by Jamie Coulter is really just showing off Vue / CSS skills, but it's pretty cool.
- I mean, Marvel Snap. Come on :)
🎟️ Events coming up
Cloud Foundations and CI/CD on AWS (Auckland, Feb 16)
New meetup alert! Join the Auckland AWS tools and Programming group for their first meetup! Suzana Melo Moraes will be sharing about why everyone should learn cloud tools, followed up by Jyothi Madanlal doing a demo of AWS CodePipeline, CodeBuild & CodeDeploy.
Upskilling – How to overcome the contractor’s / consultant’s dilemma (Online, I think, Feb 22)
The IT Contractors meetup group host Neil Newman, sharing about how contractors can train and upskill. I think this is an online one, but it's not clear from the meetup description. I'm sure it'll be updated soon.
AWS Transfer Family and Kinesis Data Analytics for Apache Flink (Christchurch, Feb 23)
The AWS User Group Christchurch again hosting two gread speakers on two great AWS topics. Harshana Nanayakkara on Kinesis Data Analytics for Apache Flink; then Yoan Tresfield on AWS Transfer Family.
Let's talk about the Roadmap for Testing (Online, Feb 24)
The Software Test Engineering Mentoring Group will be meeting up to talk all about the modern career path for testers - should be an interesting one!
Simple Tests for Accessibility (Online, Mar 29)
Ministry of Testing host this online masterclass in accessibility, driven by the one and only Ady Stokes. Definitely worth your time!
TestBash UK (Liverpool, not until September, but planning ahead is good)
The lineup for TestBash UK in September has just been announced. While I'm very unlikely to be able to make it, I'm thrilled to see two of my favourite people - Ivan Karaman and Heather Reid - on the speakers list.
If you're on the right side of the planet for it, get your tickets at the super early bird price today!