On user groups and feature planning

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Over the past year we've had the pleasure of seeing a lot of Capture users join the Capture Design & Visualisation user group on Facebook, sharing their Capture experiences, knowledge, problems and wishes. It's great to see new tricks and working methods shared, especially those that we would never have thought of ourselves, and it's very rewarding to see features we have invested our souls in being put to good use. As you might imagine we pay close attention to the discussions in this group (and many other industry groups too for that matter). It provides us with important information that we can feed into our product planning, so let me cease this opportunity to touch this aspect of our work as I can imagine if you haven't worked near software development it might all seem a bit mystical!

To begin with we keep all feature and improvement ideas in an issue tracking system which we often refer to as our todo or wish-list. This may be slightly misleading as it's not a list as much as a bag of ideas, classified, tagged and prioritised in a much broader sense. The method we apply to navigate this vast soup of possibilities consists of three tracks; the housekeeping, popular demand and strategic choice tracks.

The housekeeping track is straight forward but also the least rewarding. It involves things like making the leap to 64-bit, replacing QuickTime-based video playback and encoding with newer technologies or switching from the Carbon to Cocoa framework on Mac. Tasks such as these are necessary in order for the software to continue working well on our supported platforms and be able to access new technologies, but rarely adds any new immediate value on its own.

Adding features based on user demand is fun and relieving - it's nice to know beforehand that a feature will be appreciated and you might be able to say "yes, that's been fixed now!". The way we tend to attack it is through micro-themes, key areas of improvement, based on where there are many high-priority issues. Once a micro-theme has been identified, we will process both high and low priority issues within that theme in order to ensure that the user experience is good and all features harmonize.

Finally we have the strategic track where we try to look into the future of the industry and ensure we are in sync with or even ahead of it. This often entails adding features that may seem odd at first but later point become key Capture feature, such as Capture's unique presentations or support for both macOS and Windows. Sometimes it's more subtle, as laying technological foundations that open powerful possibilities in future versions.

Naturally there are more issues at hand here that affect priority decisions and they may vary between releases. For instance there are often inter-dependencies present which means some features behave more like pasta than meatballs and some features are dependent on new library data being not only supported but gathered for a large amount of fixtures.

So as you can see our every-day work isn't exactly like ticking features off a list and nearly never about reasoning about the importance of a particular feature vs another. In fact it bears more resemblance to a card game - you need to be aware of all the cards in the deck, but at any given moment you can only play the cards actually in your hand!