A look inside Studio 415

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The future is here, be part of it

I’m hiring engineers for ‘Studio 415’.

Read on if you want to bring the future to life. We are the Experience Design (XD) team – equal parts User Experience and Software Engineering. We are a design-led team and our remit is to imagine the future and to bring it to life.

Studio 415, in San Francisco, is creative and collaborative environment that promotes innovation and co-creation of solutions alongside our customers.

We are a sandboxed group within Microsoft, we have the resources and might of a large corporation behind us, but we think and act like a startup. We believe in the principles of the lean startup movement and we believe in being agile. We literally have the ability to touch billions of users and have an enviable war chest of technology at our disposal. Our weapons include Windows 8 and its extensive ecosystem that spans surfaces such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones. We have the XBox and Kinect. We have the power of Bing and cloud-based services such as Azure at our disposal. Our innovation knows no boundaries. We use the right tools for the job at hand – our job is simply to delight users and surpass their expectations.

We are looking for a mind-set. You will be passionate about technology. You will care deeply about Software Craftsmanship and crafting simple, but elegant software. You will see yourself as a polyglot, you are not bound to a single programming language, and you delight at learning new languages and perfecting your craft. You see the whole of the team as stronger than the individual.

You will be happy developing user interfaces, but not afraid to reach-in and touch back-end code. When we say user interfaces, we aren’t necessarily thinking GUIs. We want you to push beyond pixels and develop natural user interfaces that combine gestures and speech.

A love of sci-fi and gaming is an advantage, as your vision for technology holds no bounds. If this excites you then apply for one of the roles today. We exist to disrupt – our mission is to re-imagine, it is who we are.

See the available jobs in XD. All levels of experience welcome.

Tell me a story

At the tail end of last year I ran a week long ideation workshop for my extended team. We split in to four groups, with each group focusing on a different social medial scenario. It was a fun week and generated a load of unique ideas.

Having been inspired by the work the team had done I decided to revisit it in the new year. What really interested me was telling a story from the data. It also caused me to question why we were isolating social media and more broadly why digital marketing likes to treat channels separately. Is it the channel that’s important or is it the the user who’s important?

At the time Nike were in the process of launching the Fuel Band and I was intrigued by the various campaigns they were running and the different channels they were using. I spent a good bit of time exploring the different channels, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the Fuel Band microsite, and searching for the Fuel Band in Google.

As a user it felt like a fragmented experience and it made me question what was happening with all this data I was generating and what story it was telling about me. What was the Marketer or Product Manager seeing? Did they have a dashboard or a spreadsheet that showed the number of tweets, retweets, Facebook likes, page clicks, etc. Is there really any value in reporting we had 1m Facebook likes and 10k retweets? Did they have a conversion funnel showing the number of pre-orders? Was there an Analytics Manager in the background frantically aggregating data across disparate databases and building custom reports? Was the data simply being folded around the metrics that were deemed as important, or was the data telling a story? I suspect the former.

I really wanted to move away from the metric-centric world and focus on the data telling a story. I wanted the data to provide insights that could be acted upon. I wanted to stop optimizing the metrics and focus on optimizing the experience.

Last week I watched a Ted Talk from Jer Thorp called Make data more human. It struck a cord. He was using data to tell a story.

The digital marketing space and the onslaught of big data feels ripe for disruption. Who’s going to break from the norm and innovate the data? Start telling stories, not reporting metrics!

We all need a change

I’ve made a career change! I have been a consumer of “enabling technology” my entire career. I am now stepping behind that line as I want to be able to influence and shape the technology that enables designers and developers to deliver the best imaginable experience.

I have joined the product management team for Flash runtimes at Adobe, which allows me maintain my focus on the best imaginable, and uncompromising, experience for the user. Flash has enabled this mission more than any other technology on the web and has allowed me to build some tremendous experiences. When user experience was considered a unique differentiator, the Flash/Flex partnership was there to enable.

The landscape has evolved. Thankfully user experience is no longer a differentiator, it’s an essential. To succeed we must put the user first.

The tech community has responded admirably and the expressiveness associated with Flash is moving in to the open-standards that are being defined by HTML5, which will enable a new wave of uncompromising experiences across the web. Adobe gave meaning to expressiveness and continues to innovate through contributes to HTML5 standards, such as CSS regions and CSS shaders. I am sure there is even more goodness to come as we will undoubtedly see more innovation through ongoing contributions to standards and our active participation in open-source projects such as Webkit.

So what’s next for Flash? As outlined in the recent roadmap for Flash runtimes we will be focusing on gaming and premium video. This week Adobe launched a new site specifically around gaming. There are already some tremendous games that showcase the unique capabilities of Flash, which are built on Stage3D to leverage the hardware acceleration afforded by the GPU. The AIR 3.2 release candidate brings the power of Stage3D to mobile in conjunction with the Flash Player 11.2 release candidate. Already some of the top games on the Apple App Store, such as Machinarium, have been brought to you by Flash and Adobe AIR. The Flash runtimes are alive and kicking on iOS!

I also care a lot about the experience of the designer and developer and making our technology accessible. I want to make the experience of using our technology a good one. I want to make it easy to design-develop-deliver incredible experiences.

Your thoughts are welcome.

St Francis de Assisi the patron saint of Software Craftsmanship

We live in a world of YAGNI (“you ain’t gonna need it”), DTSTTCPW (“do the simplest thing that could possibly work”), MVP (“minimum viable product”), and MCR (“minimum credible release”).

We bow to the philosophy of keeping our software simple (the code and the experience) and doing the minimum amount of work required to put the software in the hands of our users so we can inspect-and-adapt, or in the words of The Lean Startup the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop (if you are thinking in this direction then I also encourage you to immerse yourself in continuous delivery).

Recently I was visiting with a customer who had a “war room”, and judging by the amount of material on the wall, there’s was a culture of collaboration, which I love. Written across the top of the wall was the following quote:

start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you’re doing the impossible

St Francis de Assisi, (Patron Saint of San Francisco)

This really struck a cord with me. I feel in our world of acronyms, it is a more elegant way of expressing the sentiment of simplicity and minimalism. May be we should herald St Francis de Assisi as our patron saint, after all he does have a connection to Silicon Valley.


I am a big believer in building a team culture that fosters innovation. It inspires us. It motivates us. It drives thought-leadership. It leads to better product, and it leads to new product.

Regardless of where your role sits within the organization there is an opportunity to innovate.

The freedom to innovate enables us to build morale and evolve hyper-performing teams.

It also keeps our business healthy, if we are innovating then we are we are fostering good people, we are remaining competitive in the marketplace, and we are investing in longevity.

Innovation is an incredible tool and should be woven in to the fabric of all our teams. We shouldn’t expect innovation to just happen or rely on good will. It requires investment and it requires commitment from leadership. I’ll talk more about an innovation pilot I ran with my team last year, but first watch this video. It inspired me.

introducing me

In a previous post I introduced my blog, now it’s time to introduce me, my name is Peter Martin and this my blog on experience craftsmanship – crafting beautiful software.

A little about me…I have approaching 20 years of experience. My pedigree is enterprise software architecture, which was gained from a deep immersion in Java and JEE. This evolved into a passion for blending user-centric design and agile software craftsmanship to create the “best imaginable experience”.

During my career I’ve experienced success and I’ve experienced failure. We all enjoy success, but we learn from failure, it sculpts who we are today. My experiences have really driven home the importance of Software Craftsmanship and the benefits of crafting clean code, which is simple and elegant. There is nothing more rewarding than delivering quality software and being able to easily adapt to changing business requirements. In a future post I’ll talk more about what software craftsmanship means to me, but I’ll leave you with the headline, it’s mindset.

All my successes have come from being part of a team. I am a huge believer in the power of the team, together we can achieve anything, and going forward I will share my insights.

I’ve worked at Adobe for the last 6 years, which has really ignited my passion for User Experience. I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredibly talented folks and being part of some outstanding teams, which have delivered some amazing applications. My favorite project was for the NATO E-3A Component to deliver a mission support system for AWACS aircraft, not something you would associate with Adobe.

So lets talk briefly about Flash. During my tenure I’ve embraced Flash and I’ve loved developing with Flex and AIR (and I still do). Thankfully those innovate folks back in Macromedia had the foresight to see how Rich Internet Applications could disrupt enterprise software and as a result there are some incredibly expressive apps out there. The transformation is well underway, User Experience has become common place in the enterprise and HTML5 is bringing expressiveness to the masses. The technology landscape has evolved but the philosophy continues. I’m looking forward to the next generation of RIAs that offer cross-screen experiences that adapt the experience to the aspect ratio of the device.

More recently I’ve become more involved in product management and product strategy, and I have led multi-disciplined teams in the creation of “seed product”. I love the combination of setting the vision and then executing on the strategy.

On more of a personal note, I’m from Scotland, but I live in the Bay Area with my wife and two sons. I should also mention our “crazy beast”, an 85 lb mixed White German Shepard and Golden Labrador. We’ve been in the Bay Area for almost three years. We thoroughly enjoy the Northern California landscape, which is not unlike Scotland in the sun. With that said, the picture in the banner was taken by my wife on a foggy day at Rodeo Beach.

Needless to say, this is my blog and the opinions I express are mine alone, they are not representative of my employers, past, present, or future.

crafting beautiful software

Welcome to “experience craftsmanship”, the blog of Peter Martin.

So what’s it all about? By trade I am a Software Engineering. As my career has evolved two passions have merged, the first is for Software Craftsmanship and the second is for User Experience. By no stretch of the imagination am I a User Experience designer, but I do appreciate the craft and I do believe in crafting software that meets the needs of the user and offers them the “best imaginable experience”. In addition I believe both these disciplines are based on the same principles – simplicity and elegance – when I read code I want it to be simple and elegant – when I use software I want the experience to be simple and elegant. The designer complements the engineer and the engineer complements the designer – together we deliver great software.

The goal of my blog is to advocate Software Craftsmanship and User Experience, while sharing my technical pursuits.

As for my technical interests, well they are varied and they tend to shift. I believe in immersing myself in the ever evolving technical landscape to keep myself current (and marketable). My bias is towards Enterprise Rich Internet Applications, but I do like venturing in to other areas. At the moment I am particularly interested in cloud-based application platforms, or Platform as a Service (PaaS). I am a huge fan of Heroku, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on Nodejitus. I love Pusher, and Parse is in my sights. I see a bright future for Node.js and I am impressed by what HTML5 has to offer. As for the data side of things, I am interested in big data and the plethora of NoSQL (or schemaless) databases, such as Cassandra and MongoDB.

Hopefully this gives you a flavor of the types of things I intend to blog about. I will do a short follow-up blog that provides more of an introduction to me.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come…