Five Insights on Hacking Films from the Software Developers Who’ve Done It

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Before the POV Hackathon got underway, mentors and veteran engineers shared with the teams some advice born of experience. Here’s what they were told…

Understand why there are barriers to communication between filmmakers and developers. Each group’s ambitions inherently put them at odds. While filmmakers and creators are thinking about how they can bring novelty and uniqueness to their content, developers are thinking about rule sets and doing all they can to limit exceptions. Each group must understand that these contrasting philosophies could be at the root of a conflict.

Mentor Philippe Pierre (of the social media agency Socialbomb) takes to the whiteboard for the Feed Me A Story iPad app. (Isabel Castro/POV)

Mentor Philippe Pierre (of the social media agency Socialbomb) takes to the whiteboard for the Feed Me A Story iPad app. (Photo: Isabel Castro/POV)

Aim for a “minimum viable product.” Teams should set goals around the absolute minimum set of features that serves to show off their intents. The goals must be achievable in a short time frame because without a working prototype it will be difficult to learn how the product will actually be used.

Never forget your audience. How will users discover the product you are making? As one mentor noted, “Serendipity is not a use case,” meaning users need to be able to intuit how to interact with the product (once they’ve found it).

Choose user experience over technology. Software engineers should focus on the user experience and the subtleties of the interaction, not personal convictions when it comes to software development. The user doesn’t know or care how the product was made — they just want it to work and they want to be treated to an exceptional experience, even if the code is inelegant and can never be re-used for a future project.

Don’t let great be the enemy of good. As a team, you can easily get sidetracked by a feature that is less important or even outside of agreed-upon goals. After all, a great product that isn’t finished isn’t a product at all.

View the prototypes created at POV Hackathon »

POV Hackathon

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Adnaan Wasey
Adnaan Wasey is the Executive Producer of POV Digital, which leads new storytelling iniatives for the PBS documentary series POV. Follow him on Twitter @adnaanwasey, Google+ or LinkedIn. Five documentaries he's into (today): 1. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse 2. Hoop Dreams 3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters 4. Sweetgrass 5. Last Train Home