FOSS Backstage Design

The power of adding a story to your demo
03-06, 11:05–11:25 (Europe/Berlin), Main Hall

How can open source projects that deal with complicated and niche concepts like search query rewriting become easy to understand and approachable to users? We'll share how we solved this problem by a powerful demo, videos, katas and finally telling the story of Pete, the search product manager.

Some open source projects deal with complicated concepts that can be hard to understand and that cover a niche problem. There is an entry barrier to those projects, which can only be overcome by demonstrating and educating potential users about the benefits of the software and about how to actually use it.

In this talk, we will show how we solved this problem for a set of search-related open source softwares. Each of the libraries deals with a very specific problem, such as query rewriting and search result evaluation. We finally decided to create a separate open source project, "Chorus", that shows how these components work together in a demo online shop.

We created the persona of Pete - a search product manager who was given the task to improve a company's e-commerce search. In as series of videos, we explained how Pete solves specific problems by help of our software and we added a series of katas that explain to developers how to implement specific solutions. The feedback that we have received indicates that this has made the concepts behind our software much more approachable.

We think that the idea of combining a meaningful demo application with telling a story that empathises with the actual day-to-day work of a relevant user group might inspire other open source projects and help them improve the user experience and adoption of their software.

See also: Slides (2.8 MB)

René has worked in search for almost 17 years, including on projects for some of the top 10 German e-commerce sites. He is co-founder and co-organiser of MICES (Mix-Camp E-commerce Search), an event that brings together the e-commerce search community each year. He created and maintains the Querqy open source library for query rewriting. René is co-initiator of the Chorus project – an open source software stack that combines Querqy with other powerful tools to build e-commerce search and to measure and improve search quality. He works as Chief Strategy Officer at OpenSource Connections.