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Developer Demos

Engineering Demos at GitLab

The idea that working software is the primary measure of progress is one of the principles of agile software development. Demoing gets more eyes on the project to uncover bugs and reveal ambiguities in the product requirements. It's also a transparent and lightweight way to provide status to the rest of the organization. Developers should demo at a regular cadence, like every week or bi-weekly with the product managers present. Demo meetings should be kept to 30 minutes or less. The emphasis should be on the product requirements or acceptance criteria and less on the implementation details.

Demos work best for features that span multiple releases, or are actively being iterated on.

The audience is for any stakeholder of this feature that's interested in the progress of the feature. Though usually mainly comprises of the team, and their product manager.

How to set up a demo


A demo starts with a script, which contains actions which the demo'er will take to show the feature. List each step, however small it might look to expose implicit dependencies. For example:

Create a new project by clicking the + icon -> New project and fill out the form

Exposes that a new project created by pushing to a remote in the users namespace might, or might not work.

A script has two parts, the preparation section is to be executed by the demo'er before the demo. This section should be as small as reasonable, to uncover the setup cost of the feature by the end user, but also to analyze how easy it would be to develop productively on this feature. The second section is the demo itself, executed during the call.

The script should be ambitious, to the extend that each demo should fail. If all steps of the demo were successful, the script wasn't ambitious enough.

Zoom call

The engineering manager should set up a recurring Zoom call, which starts recording automatically. Recordings allow team members unable to join to get up to speed asynchronously.

The Demo

When the demo starts, make sure there's a document where each participant can take notes in. Notes should reflect observed issues, potential script improvements, areas to explore in future demos (what-if scenarios), and successes.

End of the demo

Reserve the last 5 minutes of the demo to reflect on it. Start of my listing the unexpected failures, assign a DRI to create the issue and determine the priority. After the failures, suggest additions and removal of steps to the script. What other areas could be added? After several runs of the demo, the time it used to take will probably be less than it was in the beginning, which in turn allows for extension of the script. When steps are removed is another good time to acknowledge progress. Guard against removal of steps before they were demo'ed successfully, in anticipation of a fix being delivered.

Last up; announce the person to demo next. Cycling demo'er reduces risk, and reduces the risk that some bugs aren't uncovered based on the environment the code runs in.

It's recommended to live stream on the GitLab Unfiltered channel.

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