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Training a Next Generation Geek

(Disclaimer: My daughter is brilliant. Something I'm certain she gets from her mother.)

This past weekend, after many a conversation about the subject, I setup a new development server... for my 12 year old daughter. She was curious to learn the details of what I do, and she had several ideas for applications.

I was shocked by how quickly she took to application development!

Beyond defining the nomenclature ("OK, think of a Database as a Book, and Documents (or Records) are the individual Pages..."), there really wasn't much to explain that she couldn't pick up along the way.

As I recommend to anyone, we started the development of her application in a new copybook (we borrowed one from the collection of Back to School supplies we've been stockpiling all summer), where we blueprinted the app.

From covering in pseudocode exactly what the application would do to drawing screen mockups of the user interface and storyboarding the user experience, we had an actual application in less than 20 double-sided pages.

Within about 3 hours of interrupted development on a rainy Sunday [I would offer suggestions while my wife and I were doing a few things around the house], we had a working prototype of her application in the Lotus Notes Client.

While carrying a load of laundry from the basement to one of the bedrooms (or one of the various other things I was doing), I would stop by the dining room table (which doubled as the developer lab) and have the following conversation:

Me: Looks awesome -- now, what do you think the the default value for that time_start Field should be?
Her: Well... I guess when I add a new Agenda item?
Me: So, like a Now snapshot when you click on that New button?
Her: Yep, exactly. What's the code for that?
Me: Well, search for Now in the Help database..

She would then take that approach for all of the other Fields in the application, on all of the other Forms, on all of the Views, and ultimately wrote a slick little application for the Lotus Notes Client.

Homework was to take a look at Sensa Touch.

Meddling Kids: 
Mankind's Last Hope!

Ultimately I was shocked by what I learned from the experience. My daughter simply assumed that this app would be mobile device capable, and she hadn't even considered that it would be accessible via a web browser client from her laptop (let alone a fat client like Lotus Notes).

It struck me that it's not only the expectation of the typical enterprise employee that their tools be available to them on their smartphones, but the next generation doesn't even consider an application something that you load onto your laptop. When talking through the application, she would say things like "swiping through to the preferences screen". It was certainly an eye-opener.

Today, when both of our schedules permit, we'll jump in for an hour or so and I'll teach her about XPages (which I forewarned her is a paradigm shift from the traditional design elements we reviewed early Sunday morning), but having reviewed Sencha Touch, she has a good idea for what's possible.


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