Astoria, OR – The Good and the Bad

Last night, we stayed in Astoria, OR, after a day of driving from Seattle.

Washington proved a little disappointing to me — we didn’t have the time to head north up the Olympic peninsula, so we headed due West to Aberdeen and then Long Beach, which were just not all that interesting. Though Long Beach did have a killer pinball arcade.

We continued south and found nothing worth stopping at until we got to Astoria. We ate at Gunderson’s Cannery Cafe, where I got an excellent Manhattan, and a tasty order of Laksloda — a Scandinavian preparation of salmon and potatoes. Oh, and the desserts, a berry cobbler and a Pavlova, were divine.

We stayed at a delightful little motel, the Crest, the was dog-friendly (and didn’t charge extra for pets!).

We tried to get breakfast at a popular spot in town, the Pig ‘n Pancake, but the quality of the coffee and food was *so bad* we couldn’t eat it. Avoid at all costs.

It was unfortunate that our last experience in Astoria was so poor, as the rest had been delightful!

(We then proceeded in search of Mist, OR, which we found, but, upon arrival, wondered why we bothered looking. I’m writing from Portland, and we’re on our way toward the Cascades, and Crater Lake, shortly.)

IA Summit 2006: Closing Plenary

Yesterday, I had the honor of presenting the closing plenary for the 2006 IA Summit.

You can download the slides, with notes. (6.5MB PDF)

I had tough shoes to fill. Andy Dillon’s closing plenary last year was excellent.

Giving a closing plenary is a nerve-wracking experience. I realized I had a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself at the summit, because in the back of my mind, I was continually tweaking my talk.

It’s also a bit scary to be the person to Say Something Meaningful to an audience. This was perhaps the first talk I’ve ever given that had an explicit emotional bent, where uplift and inspiration were essential qualities.

Delivering the talk was an amazing experience, and I am glad to have done it.

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What You Don’t Drink, Serve

I’m in Vancouver for the next 6 or so days. The first four are devoted to the IA Summit, and then Stacy and I plan on staying a couple extra days to look around. (If you are a Vancouver reader of peterme and want to get together, email me.)

Anyway, this morning I wandered into the closest coffeehouse, Fahrenheit/Celsius Coffee. Looking at the choices, I asked the man behind the counter which roast is best. “I don’t drink coffee,” he replied. I turned to the woman behind the counter, “Me, neither.”

Oops. By that point, I couldn’t really turn and run, so I forged ahead with a cup of French Roast. Which was not a great cup of coffee — brewed bitter and acidic.

But, really, mostly I was surprised that a coffeehouse would be run by people who don’t drink coffee.

Off My Chest

Maybe it’s the forthcoming IA Summit. It’s also probably my role as president of the IA Institute. But I feel obliged to stand up for my peeps (information architects), who have been oddly denigrated in this passage from 37Signals’ “Getting Real” book:

Go for quick learning generalists over ingrained specialists
We’ll never hire someone who’s an information architect. It’s just
too overly specific. With a small team like ours, it doesn’t make
sense to hire people with such a narrowly defined skill-set.

What I don’t understand is why 37Signals singled out “information architect” as the bugaboo job title.

It would have made a lot more sense to me if they had said, “We’ll never hire someone who’s just an information architect, or interaction designer, or graphic designer.” Their point is that they need generalists not specialists.

But for some reason they decided to pick on a single profession. And of all the professions they chose to pick on, they chose the one that I consider to be (historically) the most generalist, so that doesn’t make sense either. “information architects” typically do a lot more than information architecture.

All of which confirms my belief in the shallowness of 37Signals’ views and rhetoric.

BSG + FSM

So, I finally got around to finishing the season finale of Battlestar Galactica, and…

SPOILER ALERT

there they are on New Caprica, and Chief starts rousing his union members with a speech that sounds oddly familiar. And I realize, Hey! That’s the speech Mario Savio gave standing on a police car during the Free Speech Movement protests. Any Cal graduate is familiar with that speech — you’ll see it at least once during your time there. And I thought, “Damn! It’s pretty cool that that speech has such resonance over such a long period of time.”

The power of well chosen words, spoken from the heart.

You can listen to it here. The passage used on BSG begins at 0:59.

Bruce Sterling dissects me

In a highly entertaining post on his blog, Bruce Sterling has at a passage from my conversation with GK Van Patter. It’s a remarkably bit of linguistic and conceptual insight; Bruce is like a cat with a toy, bouncing it between his paws, picking it apart, not out of malice, but because that’s what he does.

I should demur on the phrase “That Measure Map thing of his is amazing,” as it was largely the work of others at Adaptive Path.

South by Southwest Afterthoughts

A few takeaways from the 2006 South by Southwest Interactive conference (other than my head cold):

It’s not about the content

The last time I attended SxSW was in 2002, and I stopped going for a while because I was so upset at how poor the content had gotten. This year, I didn’t let it get to me. So while the content was mostly unengaging, I didn’t care, because the socializing was tops. And any excuse to visit Austin is welcome.

That said, there was some decent content

Adam Greenfield’s Everyware talk (book in stores now!), Prof. Gilbert’s “Make the Right Decision” talk, Jeff’s panel on designing for next generation web applications, and bruces‘ rant-like coda were worth sitting through.

Let’s Put On A Web App!

The prevailing themes for the conference seemed to be a) the ease of creating web products and b) starting businesses to sustain them. It’s interesting to see the independent spirit that, in 1999, was largely around more artistic expression and creativity online has shifted focus towards sustainable pursuits.

Apart from Jeff’s Talk, Design was Served Poorly

I went to two other panels on “design,” and was dismayed. The first, on “Traditional Design and New Technology” was a surreal bitchfest where traditional designers moaned that the web didn’t have the emotional resonance of a Penguin paperback cover. Particularly distressing were Mark Boulton’s reactionary diatribes suggesting that the Web doesn’t have the emotional resonance of a car. (And look at that link to his personal site! He can’t get 6 words in without the phrase “award-winning”! What is it with designers and these meaningless meaningless awards?)

Also, the “Dogma-Free Design” panel should have been renamed “Content-Free Panel.” After an initial poke at design dogma (Flash 99% bad, web apps need ethnography, other stuff I forget), the panel went on a meandering journey that lead nowhere. It was clear they had no criterion for the success of their panel, and so it just became on unfocused discussion around what whomever was speaking thought of design.

DJ Mel ROCKS THE HOUSE

I lead a muthafuckin’ conga line while DJ Mel spun on Sunday night. He definitely got the nerds onto the dance floor, and we had a great time.

Styn on The People’s Video

Halcyon interviews me, and a bunch of other folks at the conference (including luminaries such as danah and Craig) on the subject of video in the hands of the masses. If you wonder what I sound like with a hoarse voice and a head cold, download it. (18 MB)

My favorite photo of me

Seems appropriately confrontational. Thanks Brian!

It was also great…

To get quality time with Tom Coates, Eric Rodenbeck, Heather Hesketh, and many others I don’t see enough of. And there’s little as amusing as Micki with laryngitis. It’s not quite oxymoronic or ironic… just… funny.

And in Austin…

Blackmail, Toy Joy, Spider House: Still got it.
Jo’s — getting a bit too popular for its own good.
Home Slice Pizza: Dear god was that good.
Las Manitas: has the quality gone down? I wasn’t blown away.
Amy’s Mexican Vanilla: there’s no way you can go wrong.

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Bruce Sterling doesn’t use key commands

I sat next to Bruce during a session at SxSW. He was typing like a demon, but when he wanted to move what he’d written between apps, he selected “Copy” from the drop-down menu, and then “Paste” from the drop-down menu in the other program.