Jon Udell’s demos

Jon Udell asks what to call his experiments with downloadable narrated demos of software. He’s looking for a name that describes:

  • A progressively-downloadable video,
  • which shows interaction with software,
  • as is narrated by a presenter,
  • or as emerges in a conversation.

I think he’s got the requirements wrong. What’s interesting about what Jon’s been doing, from my point of view anyway isn’t so much the fact that it’s progressively downloadable, or even that it’s a video. What’s important is that it’s a recorded presentation of commercial software as demonstrated to a smart, critical, independent journalist. It could be presented as punch-out origami or a slide show or even a few screen shots, and it would be equally valid (although possibly less accessible!).

Video/continuous screen captures are useful, not because they are animations (although that helps convey the ‘feel’ of an app, much like screen captures convey the ‘look’), but mostly because they record everything, including bugs, mumblings and uh-oh’s. Equally important is the fact that the recordings are subject to Jon’s editing, not the vendor’s, along with Jon’s willingness to ask uncomfortable questions. I remember very well demoing an early version of Komodo to Jon in a hotel room at OSCON — his combination of charm and very pointed questions is what makes him a superior journalist in my eyes (and an influential one in the eyes of many, much more important folks =). I’ve done lots of product demos and interviews with the press, and I’ll take someone like Jon anyday over someone who just wants to hear a pitch (not that I’m too keen on journalists who just try and destroy people, products or companies just out of a sense of combativeness).

My thoughts about what to call the medium have less to do with technology and more with journalism. So I’m going to suggest “product interview” as a concept, although as a name it’s far from great. It’s a record of what a journalist does when trying to extract information about a product, rather than a person. The product speaks through its user interface as well as through its voice-enabled puppet ;-), but the product is what’s being exposed for the audience.

As a shameless aside, I’ve been meaning to mention Rami Kayyali’s (totally unprompted by us) review of Komodo. He never talked to us about it, and he’s clearly more of a product fan than a critical journalist, but I think he’s a better reviewer than most journalists are. Thanks, Rami — you don’t know how thrilled people around work were to read that blog entry. It was nice to see that you “got” what a lot of what we are trying to do is about.


  1. I’m not sure if a narrated demo is the best idea to demonstrate software. Personally, I’d rather get a copy of the real thing that only works for about 15 days, give it a try, and if it’s good I’ll buy it. I think video demos are more suitable for help or getting started guides. But maybe that’s just me.

    And thanks David for your words, I’m very glad you liked the review. It’s true that most people believe independent writers rather than those associated with a product. My review of Komodo was only because I like what I saw, and although I’m not a very big fan of IDEs, Komodo is a great product.


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