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Monday, November 05, 2007

Facebook and The Class


This quarter i am taking another one of BJ Fogg's classes. Its the much talked about Facebook class. Just for the purpose of being thorough - the official name of the class is - Create Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Facebook (CS377W). I love this course! I am just having a lot of fun in it. Now if you have taken any CS course (live databases, algos, programming, OS), you might know they are incredibly time consuming and require a lot of hours during the quarter. This course is similar in those terms - asks for a more than reasonable time commitment (though really depends on your motivation) - but its different than all the rest of the cs courses in a very important way - USERS! There is an incredible amount of emphasis which is put in understanding the user needs and their psychology in using apps - especially on facebook. Its surprising that all of computer science equips you with technical know-how of making a good software - writing good code - but somehow the users are pushed to the back seat. The usual considerations of performance, size, error checking, etc are common to almost all software designs - but for most of the courses that i have taken at stanford - the user hasnt really been a big part of the thinking process in designing the solution.


This course is really helping me put things into perspective from the users point of view - and i frequently quiz myself on - What do users want? What will make things easy for them? How do you measure this - quantify this? This is very important in attempting to make a good software - as important as putting in error checking I would say. BJ, Dave, Dan and Yee along with Greg and Rob (a massive 6 member faculty/CA team) do a great job in making students understand what goes on behind successful facebook apps - how to measure success - and once successful, what to do with that! The guest lectures from industry experts on issues most relevant to the class are also very insightful and thought-provoking. All in all - this is exactly why i came to stanford - to study cutting edge technologies. Someone from UK said on a class forum a few days back - that such a thing would never happen in the UK - it would take 6 months to get approval from committees and another 6 months to ratify the syllabus - and by that time the technology would have already been out-dated - ditto for India - but Stanford CS is not No. 1 for being good at hackey sack (which i am sure we are great at too!).

Working with team mates from the Business School (Brett Keintz) and Andrew Gadson (CS senior) is a great learning experience - since i see now the other aspect of making software to which i was never exposed to. In case you are wondering what my team has been up to till now - feel free to check out our app - Dodgeball. The next app due in class is going to be an educational app! Exciting times in the silicon valley! And before i end - here's an interesting piece of trivia - there are only 2 industries in the world which refer to their customers as users - Software and Narcotics. And btw, if you are into reading blogs (duh!), techcrunch ran a story on us.

PS: This post has been mirrored at The Unofficial Stanford Blog



1 comment:

Vinni said...

facebook has taught us one very important lesson. keeping online resources open source, every one wins.
after feeling the kick in the butt, google tries to do the same with the social networking framework or the APIs. the really question is, will facebook follow suit and adopt the google APIs or adapt their framework and take google headon?