IxDA Speaker Network

One of the exciting announcements from Interaction 13 was the introduction of the IxDA Speaker Network. This is a new resource that connects willing speakers with local groups. Local leaders can gain access to the network by emailing speakernet@ixda.org. The network will allow them to:

  • Access speakers
  • Discover where & when speakers are available
  • Discover speaking topics available

Of course, it takes two to tango. The network only works if there are willing speakers signed up. If you have a presentation or workshop you are willing to share with local groups, proceed to ixda.org/local/network, and fill out the form. You can specify cities you are willing to travel to and limitations on dates and times for each. It’s a great way to get exposure, get practice speaking, and support IxDA.

Interaction 13: Food

The first four Interaction conferences were real treats for foodies. Every reception/party had enough food to make a meal of. The selected caterers provided a wide variety of cuisines plated with artistic flair. I remember a dessert table in 2009 that ran the width of the hotel ballroom. I remember shucking oysters in 2010. I remember eating an orchid in 2008, and there was the street vendor outside the Boulder Theater in 2011.

The conference food in Dublin was mostly forgettable. The food served during the closing party at the Guinness Storehouse was fantastic, but there wasn’t a lot of it. Interaction 13 was worse. The happy hours had nothing to munch on, and the appetizers at the parties, while tasty, were not meal-worthy.

The lunches were beyond lame. Each day gave us progressively less meat. In fact, the only meat on day three was some crumbled bacon you could put on your salad. The main course was macaroni and cheese. They made a big deal of the fact that we were not to visit the vegetarian table if we did not request it when we registered, and I really questioned whether I was at the right table. The only explanation I can think of is that a vegetarian planned the menu.

The one positive was that when I checked in at the Radisson, I was issued coupons for free breakfasts (tip included) every morning for myself and my wife. That was a great start to the morning, and it was the most protein I got a couple days.

I guess we were spoiled the first few years while the conference was small. Now it has grown to the point that a conference center is required to fit everyone, and conference centers require that you use their own catering. Here’s hoping that Amsterdam has more to offer.

Interaction 13: Workshop

Upon arriving in Toronto Saturday night, I discovered that the conference organizers had provided me with a list of attendees, including their job titles and the companies they worked for. I was very interested to find that they ranged from the standard “Interaction Designer” up to managers and directors. I was a bit intimidated by the fact that there were two software engineers registered. This was going to be interesting. What would they think of my push to get designers involved in implementation, and how would they receive my approach to replacing JavaScript DOM manipulation with simple class swaps? Would they actually find the workshop valuable, or would it all be old hat? I would soon find out.

I presented my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production ready CSS, Sunday afternoon at Interaction 13. There were nine attendees, and everyone seemed to have learned something useful from it. Their technical abilities varied, but they were all able to follow along and understood, at least in concept, if they weren’t able to complete the more involved exercises on their own.

I began with an introductory slide deck that I’ve posted on Speaker Deck. I explained why I think it is important for designers working on web-based applications to not just understand HTML and CSS, but to master it, so that they can contribute directly to the production codebase. I talked about the tools they should be using, and then we got into the code. We started with a simple CSS formatting exercise in which they had to fix a CSS file to adhere to the formatting standards proposed by Nicolas Gallagher in his Idiomatic CSS. Then they used a diffing tool of their choice to compare their work against my corrected version.

After that warmup, we dove into OOCSS. I used Amazon’s homepage as an example, challenging them to reformat the “Get yourself a little something” component so that with a single class swap, it could be changed from the horizontal layout to a vertical layout, matching the “Best Sellers” column also found on Amazon.com.

Finally, we went over the benefits of defining state through CSS, rather than JavaScript. The attendees had to write CSS that would change the display of entries in a contact list, showing and hiding various elements,

In the end, while I could have used a little more time, I successfully fit the content into the three-hour event. Reactions were very positive, and I’m looking forward to giving the workshop again. So, what did the developers think? I’ll let Anton tell you about that in his own words

Interaction 13: Badge

I arrived at OCAD Sunday morning and registered before having lunch and getting ready for my workshop. In addition to the schwag I detailed yesterday, I received my program book and badge. It’s a program book. It’s a badge. These are not two different items.

The design of the program book was alright. It could have been better, but it sufficed. The design of the badge, on the other hand, was pretty bad. The cover of the book displayed my first and last name, my company, and three words I used to describe myself when I registered for the conference (passionate, dedicated, creative). These words were directly below the company name, which made them appear to be a company slogan. Then, below all of that was my Twitter handle, @jackmoffett, in a small, light font. An orange sticker at the very bottom labeled me as a speaker. The book had a hole punched in the top-left corner so that it could be hung from the lanyard in our schwag bag.

Of course, this meant that at least 50% of the time, the book was hanging with my name against my stomach. When it was out, it was difficult to read. The name wasn’t quite large enough, and since the background was gray, the contrast was low. To make matters worse, you couldn’t easily read the book while it was hanging around your neck. There wasn’t enough lead on the lanyard for the size of the book.

It didn’t take long for the conference organizers to acknowledge that we didn’t like the badges. They hinted at some problem they had in production, but they wouldn’t give us their excuse. Instead, they challenged us to “hack the badge”, turning it into a competition. I’m not sure how many entries they received, but not many used the #hackthebadge hash tag. I’m afraid I came down with a stomach flu early Thursday morning and missed the entire last day of the conference, so I haven’t heard who won.

Interaction 13: Schwag

I’ll be spending this week (at least) reporting on Interaction 13, which took place last week in Toronto. It was another great conference, but rather than diving into the details, I’m first going to give my annual schwag inventory.

The “bag” this year was not actually a bag, but a slipcase for an iPad or other tablet. Made of a dark gray felt and screened with the conference logo in white, the case features two leather loops that pivot around the top corners to hold the tablet in. It was a really good idea and genuinely useful. It contained the following:

  • A ballpoint pen branded by YehID. That is going in my drawer o’ pens that I rarely use.
  • Jauntful Toronto map of Tom’s Selection of Amazing Foodie Finds. I didn’t use it, depending instead on my iPhone apps.
  • Field Notes 48-page memo book. It’s a nice little book, and it’s going in the same drawer as the ballpoint pen on a stack of similar little books.
  • A metal Android V1 stencil by UI Stencils. It’s 150% actual size, which I won’t find nearly as useful as if it were actual size. It has a couple button shapes, but is mostly icons. It would allow you to mark the four corners of the screen, and it can be used as a straight-edge. It also has some embossed icons for interaction techniques, but I’m not sure of their utility. The stencil came in a plastic slipcase and was accompanied by a Zebra HB 0.7 mm #2 mechanical pencil.
  • A coupon for one free ebook download from O’Reilly. That’s something I’ll definitely take advantage of, as soon as I figure out which one I want to get.
  • Lanyard, printed with the Ix13 logo.

As far as conference schwag goes, it was pretty light, which is a good thing: less refuse.

Interaction 13 - Bring it!

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving up to Toronto where I’ll be attending Interaction 13 all next week. I will kick off my conference experience by presenting my workshop: Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS. I have my slides ready (well, mostly), and I’ve created a number of CSS exercises that we will be working through. There are still seats available, by the way. I’ll be encouraging attendees to get involved in the implementation of the web applications/sites they design. To do so, they really ought to know how to create good, clean, maintainable, reusable HTML and CSS components. I’ll be showing them how to do just that.

One of the great things about giving a workshop is that I’ll have it done and out of the way before the conference proper starts, so I’ll be able to fully enjoy myself. There are a lot of people I’m looking forward to seeing, and a lot of food I’m looking forward to eating. Oh, and there are those presentations I’ll be attending, too.

If you are going to be at the conference, please find me. I’d love to meet you.

Interaction 13 Shortlist

In past years, the Interaction conference has used Crowdvine to allow people to connect, communicate, and plan what to attend. A couple of the conferences have included custom mobile apps with such functionality. This year, there’s something new: Shortlist.

Shortlist recommends people to meet based on your unique set of goals, professional background and social media connections. We call it “accelerating serendipity.” You’ll call it “amazing.”

Shortlist is also an information hub for essentials like sessions, exhibitors and maps. Everything you need to make the most of your time and opportunity is now at your fingertips. So the only question left to ask is, “Who’s on your Shortlist?”

I can’t say I care about the recommendations too awfully much. I already know a lot of people that will be attending, so I’m more interested in seeing who that I know will be there, rather than a list of people I don’t know. But, the functionality I’m most interested in is the ability to select the sessions I’m planning on attending and then display my personalized schedule.

Crowdvine would allow you to indicate people you considered friends separately from those you would like to meet. Shortlist only seems to allow me to add people to my “shortlist”. Crowdvine would notify you if someone marked you as a friend or someone they want to meet, allowing you to then go and do the same. It allowed you to see each attendee’s list of friends and see who was planning to attend which sessions. As far as I can tell, Shortlist doesn’t make that information public. There is a page for “My Connections”, but it is currently empty, and I don’t know how to add anyone to it.

Of course, all of this is of limited value without the ability to access it on my phone during the conference. I searched for an iOS app and didn’t find one, but Shortlist is optimized for mobile use, so I saved it to my home screen for easy access. That should be sufficient for viewing my schedule as I move from session to session. The only thing missing there is the ability to view one day at a time, rather than having to scroll through the entire week’s worth of events.

Shortlist is less robust than Crowdvine, but it is a solid start for a competing service.

Interaction 13 Program

The daily schedule for Interaction 13 has been posted on the conference website. There’s quite a bit there to choose from. With one full day of workshops followed by four days of presentations and other activities, the program is bursting at the seams. In fact, there is so much to take in, I’m not finding the straight list to be particularly helpful, and I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate. There are some gaps in the schedule, and Thursday morning, in particular, appears to be incomplete. Each day’s 10-minute sessions claim to take place in parallel, whereas I think they are intended to be serialized in a single track running parallel to two 45-minute sessions. Assuming that is the case, I like the format. I can see value in picking three short presentations over a single, longer presentation. There’s a greater chance of gleaning useful tidbits from three short ones if all of the speakers are unfamiliar or the topics aren’t of particular interest. At any rate, I’d like to see a visualization of the schedule, as it would be much easier to see how many tracks there are at any given point and which sessions overlap.

I was struck by the number of game design and healthcare-related presentations. I’m very intrigued by the Idea Markets, and I’m bummed that I won’t be able to attend the Local Leaders Workshop or the Interaction Design Education Summit either one, due to the fact that I’ll be running my own workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS. Be sure to take advantage of early bird pricing!

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to save $100 on half-day and full-day workshops during early bird workshop registration! The Interaction13 conference program includes 13 exciting workshops and all take place on Sunday January 27 at OCAD U. Workshop capacity is 30 seats and during early bird registration, tickets are limited to 10 per workshop. Early bird workshop registration has been extended and now ends on December 7 so register now before workshops sell out and early registration ends!

…and then we got acquired.

IxDA Pittsburgh had an outstanding event tonight hosted by Confluence on the North Shore. The topic was UX Within an Organization, and our panel had a lot of wisdom to pass around:

Ryan Cummings, Manager of User Experience at Dick’s Sporting Goods moderated, leading us through discussions of work environment, organizational structure, designer/developer collaboration, in-house challenges, and growth, among others.

Something that struck me right at the beginning, as each of the panelists gave us a little background about their careers and their companies, was that many of us share the same basic story. We were one of a couple, or the only designer, at a relatively small firm, and then we got acquired by a much larger company and had to establish a UX presence within it. It doesn’t make my job any easier, but I rest assured that I’m not alone on this journey.

Of course, the topic of a designer’s ability to code also came up. I really liked Francisco Souki’s comment. He’s a Game Designer working at Schell Games, and he observed that Interaction Designers in industry have a battle to fight that he doesn’t have. In the gaming industry, it’s a foregone conclusion that a designer is needed on a project. Francisco went on to say that a Game Designer is not expected to code, and in fact, the developers would never let a designer touch their code, but they create tools with which the designers can tweak things. A tool may be nothing more than a text file with a bunch of dimensions in it. That sounds an awful lot like a stylesheet. Hmmmm. Don’t forget, I’m running a workshop at Interaction 13. You too can learn how to replace your specification documents with production ready CSS.