Full demos for works in progress

I did something odd this week, that turned out to be smart and have additional benefits I hadn’t thought of before. What did I do? I made a stand alone version of the program I’m working on to use in a demo.

Now, this isn’t really all that impressive on it’s own (as it just requires clicking a different button), but it ended up being a really useful tool. The reason I decided to do this in the first place, was that I wanted to have a version that I knew “worked” (in quotes because it’s still very much a work in progress and so many parts don’t work). And, by having a separate built version that could be run on it’s own, I could (theoretically) keep working without having to worry about breaking something right before I needed to demo it (trust me, this happens more often then you would think).

In the end, I think there were two main benefits.

  1. It made my work look more impressive in the demo. There’s something about launching your program from within an IDE that makes it feel very work-in-progress-y. Being able to launch a separate version of it just gave it an air of being more polished then it actually is.
  2. I got to see a very different view of where my project currently is. This seems kind of odd, because I’m constantly looking at it. But, I’m constantly looking at it from various angles as I try to debug what’s going on and test out new features. I rarely/never really take that step back and do the more overview look at where I am in the process. This view provided a lot of clarity and helped me re-focus on what needs to be done and re-categorize which tasks are most important.

Doing this required so little effort it made me wonder why I haven’t done it before. And the benefits felt so great that I know I’ll be doing it again.

It definitely helped that I think my demo went over pretty well, and my supervisor was probably glad to see some significant progress had been made. (Trust me, I’m just as relieved myself to see things coming together.) And, getting positive feedback and seeing progress is motivating, so I’ve actually accomplished even more since the demo. I might even be on track to actually meet my goal of having a completely working system by the end of next week. There will likely be some small bits that will need some final polish, but having a fully working demo will be a huge step forward.

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