On Tuesday November 5, Bjorn Freeman-Benson of New Relic descended upon the Atlassian Dev Den to tell us all about what he calls “the platform holy grail.” What works? What doesn’t? What does it take to create a platform that users and developers love?

Bjorn Freeman-Benson presenting at Dev Den
Bjorn Freeman-Benson presenting at Dev Den

It’s important to note that Bjorn’s title is “software psychologist,” which may sound a little odd at first, but hear him out. Anyone who took general psych in college will see that Bjorn’s approach to platform software draws from psychoanalysis: “A software psychologist is someone who puts the code on the couch, listens to it talk about its pain, and then goes and solves its problems,” he says.

Instead of asking the code “tell me about your mother,” Bjorn wants to know about its users; in order to be successful, a platform obviously needs users, and learning everything there is to know about them is therefore key. Bjorn likes to know about the code’s childhood – its beginnings, the foundational technology that it was raised on, and its learned habits.

Next comes communication style, or in this case, APIs, which give insight into how the platform communicates with others. What are the platform’s friendships like? Does it have a solid social structure that enables users to connect with each other? What about community?

By using a psychoanalytical approach to software, Freeman-Benson is able to delve below the surface, and gain insight into a platform’s strengths and weaknesses. And evidently this approach works, because New Relic is a shining example of platform success. You can hear all about Bjorn’s unique approach, and what he considers to be the “software holy grail” by checking out the video below.

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