UX Week 2008 Is Taking Over My Life

About a month ago I wrote about the progress we’re making planning the conference UX Week 2008. I feel a little sheepish plugging Adaptive Path events on my blog (you’re not here to be sold at!) but it really is a big part of what I’m doing and thinking… And if that’s not what this blog is for, I don’t know what is!

What I’m trying to do here is help put together the premiere user experience conference bar none. One of the first things we realized is that in order to do that, we need a mix of inspiration and information. So the mornings are single-track main stage talks that should appeal to all, and in the afternoons of days 1 and 2, we offer 3 hour skills-building workshops. We’ve recently added workshop on sketching for interaction design, and Indi’s mental models.

We also have a responsibility to point the way forward for the user experience discipline. One piece of feedback we’ve consistently gotten at AP is that folks look to us to know where things are headed. That’s why the last day is devoted to the Future of User Experience, and is coming together as a day on what I (half-jokingly) call Our Glorious Ubiquitous Future. We’ve got everything from designing for mobile, robots, gesture, and large-scale multi-touch. We’ll talk about the future of the browser, and explore the realm of alternate reality games. Much of this might seem far out now, but it’s clear that in 3-5 years, we will need to be ready to design for these contexts. Will we be ready?

And, of course, a conference on experience design can’t be *all* work (but don’t tell your boss!). Day 3 begins with a series of sessions on immersive experience design, which is then followed by our Exploratorium field trip. This isn’t meant to be down time so much as an opportunity to shift gears, to consider experience design from multiple perspectives.

Lastly, I’m really excited about how Day 2 is shaping up. Starting with a keynote by the CEO of Zipcar, we then move into a day devoted to media and service design. We take on media and politics with sessions from Audrey Chen, senior information architect of TheDailyShow.com (she’ll share what it took to put their complete archives online), and Dave Wolf from Cynergy, a company that developed a brilliant conceptual prototype of designing for democracy in the 21st century called Ben (after Ben Franklin). We then follow that up with explorations on service design, and wrap up the day with a discussion of how Milkshake Media developed the LIVESTRONG brand experience.

I’m honestly giddy about what we’re getting together for this event. It’s going to be inspiring, informative, fun, and doubtless exhausting. I hope to see you there!

Register with promotional code FOPM and receive 15% off the registration price. That price goes up after April 30, so register now and save!

20 Minute Book Review: Pictures at a Revolution

(20 minutes is the length of my BART commute.)

All Americans know that 1967 was a heady time of the country. “The Sixties” were in full swing, and the gap between the Baby Boomers and their parent generation was startlingly wide. Studying the pop culture of the time can reveal interesting sociological trends. While mainstream music had already been thoroughly upended, mainstream cinema still largely trafficked in the pabulum from what was increasingly a bygone era.

I just completed the best book I’ve read so far this year, Pictures at the Revolution, by Mark Harris. I first heard about the book on a podcast of KCRW’s The Treatment, where its author was interviewed. I waited for the copy to become available at my local library, and dove in. The book is little more than a historical take on the five Best Picture nominees to emerge from that year — Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, In The Heat of the Night, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, and, most notoriously, Doctor Dolittle. These nominations represent the divide occurring in Hollywood at the time, with Dinner and Dolittle representing the older generation, Graduate and Clyde the new generation, and Heat balancing between the two.

Both The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde are considered the ultimate capturers of their Zeitgeist, so it comes as something of a surprise to find out both had their genesis in 1964, and that it took quite a while to get those stories to the screen. It intrigues me that those are the only films of this bunch to have a lasting presence in the canon — I suspect that these films aren’t so much of their time as being of all time, a Rorschach test that allows any filmgoer to read their contemporary concerns into the narrative.

Bonnie and Clyde easily had the most fascinating gestation — beginning as an homage to the French New Wave, it was very nearly directed by Truffaut, and then Godard, before it finally made its way to Arthur Penn. The Graduate was always protected by the supreme confidence of its director, Mike Nichols, who knew exactly what he wanted, even if he couldn’t articulate it. Heat struggled with social relevance in a time when Hollywood still wasn’t comfortable making bold statements. Dinner was little more than an excuse to have Tracy and Hepburn make one last film. And Dolittle was a disaster from the word go — filled with lessons about what not to do, particularly hiring mercurial prima donnas.

The most poignant story in the book is Sydney Poitier’s. He stars in two of the films (Heat and Dinner) and was considered for a third (Dolittle). Sydney had won an Academy Award, and by the end of 1967 was the top-grossing star in Hollywood. However, he simply couldn’t break free of the typecasting of the neutered irreproachable Negro, and as social mores evolved, he found himself caught in the middle. He suffered the classic innovator’s dilemma — the things about him that allowed him to succeed in the early and mid-60s were exactly the things that rendered him irrelevant as the decade wore on. It’s disheartening because Poitier was very much aware of this, and couldn’t break free from this reality — he was literally damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

There are a lot of good stories winding throughout the book — Warren Beatty’s increasing chutzpah to produce Bonnie and Clyde, the casting of Dustin Hoffman against all conventional wisdom, the establishment of color photography as a medium for stark social commentary (and not just boisterous musicals or Westerns), Benton and Newman’s ascendance from contributors at Esquire to full-fledged filmmakers, etc. etc. It’s a long book (near 450 pages), but moves briskly, and is always entertaining. If you dig films, and Hollywood, it’s definitely worth perusing.

And now I’m at my stop. Until next time!

Adaptive Path is looking for a CEO

As we’ve just announced over on the Adaptive Path blog, we’re looking for a CEO. Jesse and I aren’t stepping down or anything — we’ll still be Presidents. But we’ve recognized that as the company evolves, and complexifies in interesting ways (more people, more offices, more opportunities), we’d love an experienced hand help us navigate.

I tend to think about it as “What do you geek out to?” When I geek out, it’s to experience design practice, events programming, supporting the team. I don’t geek out to Running A Business. We’re looking for someone who geeks out to Running A Business, and who appreciates the impact that design can bring to the world.

We also figure that we probably know the right person for the job, or we know someone who knows that person, which is why we’ve decided to take the search to the public. If you know of someone, or are that someone, don’t hesitate to email my colleague Bryan at bryan dot mason at adaptivepath dot com.

Incompetence

Apart from government positions, is there any job in the public eye so wracked with incompetent practitioners as NBA referees? The final call in regulation that screwed the Raptors is just the latest in an overwhelming display of incompetence.

I tend to agree with my dad that referees don’t determine the outcome of games (there are too many things that happen in the prior 48 minutes to say it all rests on one final play), but the number of blatantly bad calls you see in a single game is startling. Is there no accountability in the NBA? How is the performance of these refs judged?