Do you prefer a live demo to be perfect or broken? |

Do you prefer a live demo to be perfect or broken?

Do you learn more from flawless demos or ones the presenter de-bugs in real-time? Let us know by answering our poll.

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Do you prefer a live demo to be perfect or broken?

At DevFest DC in June, Sara Robinson, developer advocate at Google Cloud, gave the most seamless live demo I've ever witnessed.

Sara live-coded a machine model from scratch using TensorFlow and Keras. Then she trained the model live, deployed it to Google's Cloud AI platform, and used the deployed model to make predictions.

With the exception of perhaps one small hiccup, the whole thing went smoothly, and I learned a lot as an audience member.

At that evening's reception, I congratulated Sara on the live demo's success and told her I've never seen a live demo go so well. It turns out that this subject was already on her mind; Sara asked this question on Twitter less than two hours before her live demo:

Contrary to my preference for flawless demos, two-thirds of Sara's followers prefer to watch de-bugging. The replies to her poll were equally enlightening:

This made me reconsider my preference for perfection. When I attend live demos at events, I'm looking for tools that I'm unfamiliar with. I want to learn the basics of those tools, then see real-world applications. I don't expect magic, but I do want to see how the tools intend to work so I can gain and retain some knowledge.

I've gone to several live demos that break. In my experience, this has caught most presenters off-guard; they seemed unfamiliar with the bugs at hand and, in one case, the error derailed the rest of the presentation. In short, it was like this:

Reading the replies to Sara's thread made me wonder what I'm really after when attending live demos. Is "perfection" what I seek? Or is it presenters who are more skilled at de-bugging in real-time? Upon reflection, I suspect that it's the latter.

After all, "perfect" code is a lofty (if impossible) concept. Mistakes will happen, and I don't expect them not to. But I do expect conference presenters to know their tools well enough that when things go sideways during live demos, they won't get so flustered that they can't keep going.

Overall, this reply to Sara resonates with me the most. I attend live demos as a new coder with the goal to learn, and those that veer too far off-course aren't as effective for me:

I don't expect everyone to attend live demos with the same goals and perspective as me. That's why we want to learn what the open source community thinks.

Do you prefer for live demos to be perfect? Or do you gain more from watching presenters de-bug in real-time? Do you attend live demos primarily to learn or for other reasons? Let us know by taking our poll or leaving a comment below.


About the author

Lauren Maffeo - Lauren Maffeo has reported on and worked within the global technology sector. She started her career as a freelance journalist covering tech trends for The Guardian and The Next Web from London. Today, she works as a service designer for Steampunk, a human-centered design firm building civic tech solutions for government agencies. Prior to Steampunk, Lauren was an associate principal analyst at Gartner, where she covered the impact of emerging tech like AI and blockchain on small and midsize...