Engaging 9-year-old software developers

In this session from DevRelCon London 2019, Max Kahan talks about the importance of play in developer education.


  • Understand the problem with your product’s current interactivity and creative initiatives that let developers be creative.

  • Understand how you can help them using your product.

  • Test creative initiatives and get feedback.

  • If you want people to see that value, it’s really important to get it to a way that people can explore and be curious and let them play and be creative.

  • Understand the outcomes and measure how it has impacted the experience of your developers.


The problem

  • This product does not feel intuitive.

    • It doesn’t feel intuitive and natural.

  • Hard to use.

  • Not the coolest thing in the world.

How can they help them?

  • Make it easier to see the value, easier for us to understand, and show developers why they should be using messaging and why they should care.

  • Make it easy to try out.

  • Give people opportunities to play because right now, it’s pretty hard to get going, so they want to give them that chance.

Children are very discerning customers.

  • They really made sure that they would appeal to them.

  • So they decided to use Scratch.

    • Scratch is an open-source project developed at MIT.

    • Basically, it’s a visual programming style.

    • It lets people click and drag things together like little blocks, and that shows the syntax of the program without worrying about the syntax of the program.

  • Max (speaker) decided to go away and try to make some things so that they could use messaging with Scratch. ‌

  • “Where does my 9-year-old come in?”

    • They wanted the kids to be able to see the value.

    • They decided to find a real test subject.

    • His team lead has a 9-year-old son.

    • Using this and using this program, he was actually able to create a little game in Scratch.

    • But he was also able to save his score by putting it onto a messaging queue.

    • He was able to understand why he was doing that and why he was able to see his high scores again.

‌The Scratch Extension (Scratch X)

  • Program runs in a browser and communicates with a Raspberry Pi.

  • Basically, they’re allowing that to actually send messages and give them instructions.

  • Then, they're taking the score from here and they're putting it back to the program.

  • Gives a sequence of lights to be played on here, and the user then has to try and remember that sequence and play it back.


  • This has allowed them to actually go and talk to developers -- developer conferences.

  • It meant that they can actually now have a conversation with their developers, and with people who maybe want to understand why they should use messaging and what the value is.

  • Developers can see that value.

    • They found that their developers really do understand what’s going on here.

  • People actually get to have a play with something and they get to have some fun.

Last updated