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