Dabble DB

The Dabble Blog

Archives: March 2006

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Where are the templates?

There’s a question that we get so frequently that it’s really beyond FAQ status; it’s an Always Asked Question. The question goes something like this:

It’s great that you can build something in Dabble DB so easily from scratch, but why don’t you publish some prebuilt templates so people can get going even quicker?

Having a gallery of applications as the starting point generally seems so obvious that many people assume that we simply haven’t gotten to it yet, and probably wonder what exactly we’re waiting for. We thought it was obvious too, so much so that we tried having examples front and center in an early version of Dabble, tested the approach with real users, and promptly removed it. Yes, it turns out this starting point isn’t our next feature, it’s an ex-feature.

Why? Because they made new users’ experiences worse, not better. Time after time, what we’d see is that the users that were starting from templates (and given the choice, almost everyone does) were less successful and less interested in using the application than those who started from scratch or by importing data. Many people that tried out the version with templates never even got as far as adding their own data, much less customizing the fields or views or expanding the model. Those who started from scratch were more engaged, more excited, and were more likely to start using the tool day to day - because what they were building was their idea of a project manager, an event planner, or whatever else, not someone else’s.

Now, this doesn’t mean templates can’t or shouldn’t have *some* place in Dabble. They may well be a source of ideas for users who have already learned to build their own solutions, and could even function as documentation for more advanced features. But I don’t think they should be the first thing people see if they’re just going to mask what’s really cool about Dabble: that it really is that easy to just sit down and build your own applications. We’ll leave the starter application gallery to those tools that need it.

IT would FEAR me!

After posting a great review a couple of weeks ago, Nik Cubrilovic of Techcrunch convinced us to put up a new screencast of Dabble DB. This is a reproduction of the short demo we gave at Under the Radar, which unfortunately hadn’t been recorded live. Because of UTR’s time constraints, it’s a very fast paced demo, done (as we did it there) with Andrew at the controls while I narrate so as not to waste any time. Screencasts are usually more measured, leisurely affairs, so I was a little bit worried that what worked well in a high energy conference demo wouldn’t translate to Quicktime. On the other hand, I’m bored and impatient often enough when watching the usual style of screencast that we decided this might be worth trying.

It seems to have worked. Evan DiBiase writes, for example, that

… after watching [the screencast], which seemed exactly as long as it needed to be to effectively show off what it wanted to, I realized that not only was I enthralled while watching, but that screenshots alone wouldn’t have done the product any justice.

In the comments on Techcrunch, John D’Agostino writes “I can now say after watching the screencast that this is going to be a killer application” and another commenter notes that “Screenshots really don’t do this app justice. The capability of this app is just incredible.” I don’t know if we would have gotten similar reactions from a slower presentation style, but I suspect not, if only because we couldn’t have conveyed as much of the richness of the application in the same amount of time.

My favorite reaction, however, is from Zeke Sneaker in a post titled “DabbleDB: A Programming Tool Even a Creative Could Love”, written after watching the demo:

The way it works now is I sketch out what I want the system to do and then bounce it off of IT and then I wait. And wait. And wait for something to possibly, maybe, perhaps happen.

If Dabble DB afforded me the ability to cobble something that actually worked, hey, that would be incredibly useful. And (this is important) IT would FEAR me!

This is important, indeed.

Extensive Dabble DB Overview

There is now a detailed analysis of Dabble DB and how it fits into the whole data management space at the OakLeaf Systems blog. Worth a look..

I’d pay for that!

Well, that was fun.. from deciding to attend the conference to winning Under The Radar’s Best in show in just over a week. We also picked up the panelists’ and People’s Choice awards for our category. We’re now waiting for our plane back to Vancouver, so this is just a quick note to thank all the panelists and attendees for their very helpful feedback on Dabble DB, and for making it a very interesting and entertaining event. Debbie: thanks for inviting us, and see you next time we’re in the valley.

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