Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sort of Date @ Design by Fire Café

Yesterday evening, the first Design by Fire Café took place at Café Midi in Utrecht.

As locations go, Yohan certainly managed to find another hidden gem! - What I first mistook for just another beer-swishing corner joint, turned out to be a cozy pub offering a feast of amazing fresh, natural, excellently prepared vegetarian food, with a select choice of wonderful organic tea!

After dinner followed another treat as the team behind Sort of Date presented their amazing labor of love.

First, Marrije Schaake talked about the process, how a small, multidisciplinary group of colleagues and friends managed to created a fun & useful website for organizing appointments within a few weekend sessions. Next, Ivo de Boer shared a collection of drafts, wire frames, and screen shots of the service.

Initially, the group intended to 'do something' along the theme of cooking and dining. Renting a cottage for a weekend of intense teamwork, they came up with Sort of List, an interactive website for planning shopping lists.

However, despite some success, the team found that they had been over ambitious, not well prepared and suffered from lack of communication; the intended solution had not been well defined and too complex.

After a year's break, the group was ready for 'take two'. This time more effort was invested beforehand using online chat sessions to define the intended solution, and prepare the infrastructure and setup, resulting in the creation of Sort of Date.

Via Twitter and personal connections, a wealth of user feedback was then collected, and resulted in an updated version during a third weekend session a few months later.

Marrije considered the fact that all team members knew each other well, both personally and professionally, as a prerequisite for the success of these sessions. She also stressed the importance of a well defined and achievable goal, good preparation (ranging from items such as Internet access, to food supplies), lots of ongoing short meetings to catch up with the status amongst the team, and having a tactile result (e.g. online site) at the end to serve as motivation.

All in all a very enjoyable and interesting evening, and a nice appetizer for the Design by Fire conference next month!

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