I’m off to Portugal!
I’m presenting a workshop, twice, called “Web Analytics for User Experience.” It’s the next generation of material I last presented at UXPA 2013. I wasn’t fully satisfied with the direction I went in for that workshop, so when I was invited to UX Lisbon, I decided early on to take the gig very seriously and to start over on the workshop.
I’m satisfied with what I put together. Web analytics is a big, complicated topic. The tools themselves are the most boring part. The magic is in thinking about quantitative data, which is something that UX people don’t necessarily get a lot of experience at. But we can be quite good at it because we tend to be pretty analytical people.
This is my first trip to Portugal and my first trip to Europe and my first time leaving the country in years! It’s going to be exciting.
Conference season is always upon us, and as my talks always seem to get rejected by conferences, I’m always trying to think of new ideas to pitch. I’ve kind of gotten away from the analytics topic—it seems like ever since 2013, I haven’t managed to get anyone to take one of those talk submissions (on the other hand, though, I’ve certainly been invited to talk on analytics, so I don’t get what’s up with the market right now). Lately, I’ve tried to think of more process-oriented things.
An idea that occurred to me the other night is to talk about something that I do think I know a lot about at this point: organizing a professional event. There’s a lot that goes into it! Finding a venue, figuring out the revenue aspect, potentially finding sponsors, promoting the talk, dividing up work, handling money. More and more stuff.
I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I’m not still figuring this stuff out, even now. But I do think I’ve learned a lot on the topic. While I think it’s possible for any dedicated person to organize an event, hearing about others’ experience is going to make it a lot easier. We’ll see if any conferences actually think this would be a good idea.
The most recent issue of Jacobin had an interesting article by Eden Mesina from Indiana University on the Cybersyn project. To put it briefly: in the days of Chile’s democratically elected socialist government in the 1970s, they built a computer system to help them manage the economy. It collected data from all over the country while trying to preserve privacy and autonomy at the local level.
There is, of course, a political dimension to research and design, and this story is a good illustration. We can design tools to enforce existing power structures, or in service of new ones. For public good or for exploitation.
Mesina makes passing reference in this article to some amount of user centered design that went into Cybersyn. Apparently the designer, Stafford Beer, worked with actual workers from factories to build this system. I would have liked to have learned more about that, but I can understand that my interest there isn’t necessarily a common one.
On Thursday and Friday, April 30th and May 1st, I was at Agile & Beyond (or, as I mentally refer to it, Agile & BEYOND!) in Dearborn. The conference doubled in length this year, making for two solid days of pretty good talks on Agile and Agile-friendly topics.
The question of how to integrate with Agile has been at the top of the collective UX mind for years, at this point. There seems to be an insatiable appetite for people asking and talking about how we can work in Agile. Maybe it comes down to there just being new UX people encountering Agile for the first time, year after year, as their organizations adopt Agile or the UXer enters the workforce. Maybe it also comes down to the flexible nature of Agile – as a methodology that embraces adaptation, perhaps it’s more slippery than many other concepts.
While UX is talking about Agile, Agile sure doesn’t seem to be talking about UX, at least based on the sessions of this conference that I went to. If this conference was all I had to go on, there doesn’t seem to be any need for effective user research or any recognition that design is something that gets better when people deeply engage with it. When there was talk of usability, it was as though it was a commodity (“and then get some usability at the end”), and there was some talk of personas, as though they are a thing that magically appears.
Ultimately, this lack of visibility is on us. If people don’t recognize what user experience specialists can bring to the (figurative) table, then we simply have to make it more clear.