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IA Summit 2009: A functional family reunion

Families fight. When you share that much time with the same people, and put your faith in them, and share a common history, and become reliant on one another’s successes, it’s very easy to feel disappointed and confused and argumentative when things don’t seem to be going right. But ultimately what allows you to express the fear and concern is a feeling of unconditional safety.

I think it’s a true testament to how far we’ve come that the user experience community is capable of presenting very disparate opinions on the practice in an open and public setting. This is not the end of us. This is just the beginning. And I’m prouder than ever to be a part of it.

Here are my Twitter notes from the conference:

“Mediated Cultures” by Michael Wesch

  • I’m Twittering from @ias2009. Michael Wesch @mwesch is giving the opening keynote on Mediated Cultures.
  • “We dont just shape our tools, our tools shape us…Not just a tweet here & there; you look around, it’s a new way of communicating.”
  • @mwesch talking about a video he put online. Was thrilled to see 200 views, but then jumped to 1000. Realized it had been put on Digg
  • User-generated content (vid) > filtering (Digg) > organization (delicious) > distribution (blogs, tags) > ratings (technorati)
  • “There are social biases in that every media creates a social scene around it” — how you consume it, share it, etc. @mwesch
  • In a class room: “How many of you don’t like school?” Several hands raised. “How many don’t like learning?” No hands. Disconnect.
  • Pre-1960: Whatever=”That’s what I meant” Late-60s: “I don’t care” 90s: The indifferent “meh” 92: Simpson’s meh. 2001: more meh
  • Late-90s to present: Whatever = “I’ll do what I want.” @mwesch showing a South Park clip of Eric dressed as a woman
  • http://www.generationme.org/ Generation Me book. We’re more confident, assertive, entitled –and more miserable– than ever before.
  • @mediajunkie I agree. That “Whatever” music video is a spoof.
  • “It’s not supposed to be a glorified television channel.” — Tim Berners-Lee, 1997 (father of the internet)
  • “The medium shapes the message. The medium shapes the conversation. The medium shapes the possibilities, and creates self-awareness.”
  • @mwesch showing remixed YouTube videos, how a single video can set off a global imitation. Google the SoulJaBoy dance
  • “New types of self-awareness are emerging.” — @mwesch We’re watching a bunch of random YouTube video confessions
  • How did @mwesch gather all of this amazing, multidimensional content? It’s kind of blowing my mind.
  • Check out a bunch of the videos that @mwesch references on his website: http://mediatedcultures.net/youtube.htm
  • @mwesch is talking about and showing images from http://4tran.org
  • @mwesch is talking about and showing images from http://4chan.org
  • Realizing I’m a lot more chaste than I ever realized as I’m not catching half the references in @mwesch‘s keynote. Kinda glad.
  • Wanna keep people awake and listening during your 8:30am keynote? Talk about penises and pornography
  • No surprise. We just got rick-rolled.
  • Context-collapse: You never know who you are talking to, where, when, how it will be repurposed, reframed.
  • Fervent applause for @mwesch. That was a rockin’ keynote.

“You are (Mostly) Here: Digital Space and the Context Problem” by Andrew Hinton

  • I’m Twittering from @inkblurt‘s “You are (Mostly) Here: Digital Space and the Context Problem”
  • What if Vegas watched everything you do, kept record of everything you do (what you buy, services you use, what you see)…
  • …and then what if all of that data was shared with everyone you know? That would suck, right? Well that was Facebook’s Beacon.
  • Facebook thought Beacon was going to be much loved. But they didn’t understand the context of FB “friends” not all actually friends
  • Duchamp submitted a urinal to an art show just with “R Mutt” on it. “Disrupting ppl’s ideas of Western art and culture” — @inkblurt
  • The trolley conundrum: if there were 5 people on one side and one on the other, would you pull the lever to save the 5?
  • What if you could push one giant to his death to save the 5? Most people would say no, even though it’s the exact same question
  • Asking these questions while in an MRI giving us some insight. Pulling the lever: frontal lobe. Pushing the giant: limbic system
  • “The vast majority of the stuff we do on a regular basis is coming out of the recesses of our brain and the front lobe is…
  • …catching it and making sense of it.” Frontal lobe is a rather new part of the human brain. Frontal lobe limbic system = morality
  • One bottle of wine with price tag of $5.99, another with $100. The $100 lit up all the pleasure sensors. But guess what, same wine!
  • @inkblurt talking about the historic Boyland Heights in NC. Map (language) and territory (context). Lights, water routes, car spaces
  • Same homes get mentioned most frequently in the local newsletter. Corresponds highly to homes that hang holiday decorations.
  • Those families are the most engaged with the community. There’s a context we’re not even aware of. Territory first, map came later
  • But maps shape how we understand the territory, what we see. — @inkblurt
  • BUT in digital space, maps create the territory. Just like Google (a map) forces us to experience web in the way they’ve created it
  • Increasingly the space we live in is less and less exclusively “physical”. People say “I’m leaving” and “I’m back” on Twitter. Where?
  • We feel like we’re “here” on Twitter, but it isn’t a physical space.
  • On Twitter: d (private), @ (public). In the flesh, near impossible to mistakingly do one in haste. But on Twitter context is dramatic
  • Context shapes identity: an office makes you feel one way, a nightclub makes you feel another way. About yourself.
  • When you see ppl from 1 world in another & they’re out of context, it can be hard to recognize them right away. Differing identities
  • Facebook (school me), LinkedIn (work me), Livejournal (diary me), Etsy (crafty me), Myspace (party/music me), Chemistry (dating me)
  • Then suddenly FB decided to be “Everything Me” — ppl aren’t sure what to do with it. @inkblurt‘s unsure to connect w his 13yo on FB.
  • Sherry Turkle’s “Life on the Screen” http://is.gd/od1p talks about the self as “multiple, distributed systems”
  • Twitter intended to go on phone (one message at a time), then they put it on the web (linear, serial feed), then ppl started replying
  • Tweetdeck completely changed the architecture of Twitter: multi-column, parallel feeds, wide aperture, central attention – @inkblurt
  • “Use your inside voice” an ex of recognizing your context & changing your behavior. But you don’t know followers’ context in Twitter
  • Google’s map of the destruction of villages in Darfur in practically real time with http://ushmm.org You can see, but you can’t help
  • Language (information) informs context (architecture) and vice versa. This ultimately defines IA = designing context.
  • @iamshimone asking about the post once ping many services, where context is immediately lost & replies in other venues make no sense
  • “I can’t even handle Facebook with my attention span…Zombies are getting thrown at me.” — @inkblurt
  • “Creative commons has these various levels. Would be great if we could come up with patterns of privacy. Just made that up” @inkblurt

“Experience Themes: An Element of Story Applied to Design” by Cindy Chastain

  • I’m Twittering from @cchastain‘s “Experience Themes: An Element of Story Applied to Design”
  • @cchastain said that at last year’s IA Summit she never thought she’d be speaking this year (me neither, Cindy!)
  • How can we use storytelling for design? @cchastain brought her experience writing screenplays to her UX practice
  • This talk is about “themes”, a small piece of storytelling that can be applied to design. This could be part of a larger series
  • Comics, storyboards, scenarios used as communication tools & design frames. Theme can be used as vehicle for engagement/response
  • @cchastain just admitted this is her first time speaking at any conference. Big applause! Be gentle, but rip apart if you have to ;)
  • Theme: “the subject-matter, topic or idea on which a work of art or literature is based.” Writers weave stories around themes
  • Themes organize what we’re saying, and readers respond to stories based on their relationship to the themes, what resonates.
  • Robert McKee getting a shoutout from @cchastain. “Theme shapes the writer’s strategic choices.” Theme as controlling idea
  • The theme drives “what may be kept versus what is irrelevant to it and must be cut.” Robert McKee
  • “When a theme is manifest in a product, it can create pleasure, emotion & meaning.” This differentiates it from a strategy @cchastain
  • Flickr theme is “define yourself w photos” playful, fun, helps ppl easily manage vast store digital pix & share them with one another
  • @cchastain giving props to @russu and @chanan‘s new book. To her, it’s about the ying-yang of UX: tangible and intangible.
  • Intangible: emotion, pleasure, meaning. Tangible: content, pages, flows, visual design. @cchastain
  • @jjg is in the room while @cchastain is trying to heighten his elements chart by adding emotion/pleasure/meaning to the top of it
  • @jjg‘s Elements of User Experience diagram made in 2000: http://is.gd/of9g
  • In film, the tangible elements (lines, actors, sets, cinemat’y, etc) are all coordinated, but in web (VD, copy, IA, sound) they arent
  • RT @jessmcmullin: UX iceberg diagram by Trevor van Gorp based on @jjg‘s Elements Diagram http://www.affectivedesign.org/archives/209
  • @cchastain talking about a website on which she used this themes technique and applied each one to concept, story premise, activities
  • @cchastain brought 3 possible themes to the client with these elements filled in & suddenly client was able to say what they wanted!
  • I am loving this stuff that @cchastain is putting out. I NEED to use this themes template. Cindy, please post on Flickr for us!
  • Cross-check themes against functional and content requirements. If the requirements don’t fit, drop ‘em! @cchastain
  • @livlab This seems way less time intensive to me and much, MUCH easier to consume.
  • Leverage themes when considering all user paths, and during content presentation and flash interactions. Always the guiding force
  • The process of finding a theme can be intensive (mental models exercise), or just talk to users. @cchastain gathered “exp attributes”
  • @kenrachynski YES! We’re creating experiences here. Deleted scenes in a film might be good, but they weren’t right so they got cut
  • Experience attributes v system attributes. “Satisfaction from getting an edge on the general public” instead of “preferred discounts”
  • Turn your system attributes into experience attributes, and from that list the themes will emerge.
  • @cchastain is 15 min over time but has so much great stuff to say that almost the entire room is still here listening to her insights
  • Wow I really need @cchastain‘s slides so I can dig into it further. Some paragraphs on here I need to digest. Blog post forthcoming!

“Evolve or Die: The Future of IA Examined”

  • I’m Twittering from “Evolve or Die: The Future of IA Examined” with @gsmith @bokardo @russu @cwodtke
  • “What would IA be if the Polar Bear book never existed?” — @gsmith Where would our roots be? In traditional architecture?
  • Findability & usability surrounded by politics, citizenship, understanding, behavior, decisionmaking, sensemaking, culture &community
  • We’re all grappling with social design, massive IA, usergenerated IA, creating tools, automation, evolution. IA has been too narrowed
  • “If an ordinary person can understand what you do, you’re already half-way to becoming a commodity.” – @gapingvoid showed by @russu
  • Little IA: focus on sitemaps/wfs/flows. “Sorry to tell you, but you only have 2 options” @russu Work for giant corp or move to India
  • @russu is officially on my shit list. Just put up a photo of @bobulate and I singing karaoke at IDEA 2008. You bitch!
  • Instead, be a Big IA: be involved in whole project development life cycle: pitch, biz reqs, research, brand design, content, VD etc
  • “To all those folks who want to be wireframe jockeys: wake the eff up… Maybe the Polar Bear book isn’t the place to start today”
  • “Never identified myself as an information architect. I’ve always called myself a web designer for all of my career.” — @bokardo
  • With @bokardo‘s clients, “the problem trumps the process.” They don’t care about his process as long as he solves their problem
  • Some people spend so much time worrying about the deliverable, that you’d think it was the final product. — @bokardo
  • “Sometimes it’s as if we make our decisions based on the process we’re using.” It should be able the behavior 1st and the design 2nd
  • RT @livlab: I don’t give a shit about info architects. I do care about the practice of info architecture. They are different things.
  • “I wrote some blog posts that got me in hot water with the IA community…to say the least.” @bokardo Learned how passionate comm is
  • There’s a tendency to identify problems as information or content problems instead of by the user’s activity. @bokardo
  • @bokardo talking about NYC law in which a plaza could be built beneath the building in order to build a taller building
  • “The space defines the behavior”- @bokardo. When people sit inside the square of plaza, they can watch each other. When outside, cant
  • Facebook has symmetric relationships (must reciprocate), private profiles, was lossy stream. Twitter is asymmetric, public, non-lossy
  • Structure determines/restricts/changes behavior. @bokardo sees this as the future of IA. Thinking about & designing these structures
  • @cwodtke says “You are not your title.” @peterme @louisrosenfeld @morville are outgrowing their favorite jeans: IA
  • Why would a human ever do a content inventory when a computer can do it in 30 min? Why go to India when you can use Mechanical Turk?
  • “At LinkedIn, we spend 98% of our time talking about navigation when users only spend 2% of the time clicking on it” — @cwodtke
  • “We do wireframes b/c we don’t believe our designers can understand content hierarchies. Instead, work w smart designers” — @cwodtke
  • @zeldman‘s photo shown by @cwodtke as example of smart designers. “Work with people like these” I DO!
  • @cwodtke showing photos of @louisrosenfeld and @morville. “Are these IAs? I don’t think so! These are search experts.”
  • @cwodtke showing pix of @rashmi & @emalone: “They’re *social*, they’re not IAs.” @peterme & @jjg not IAs either. “They do everything”
  • Who here has the title of IA? Few raised hands. Who here does information architecture? Everyone raised hands.
  • @zakiwarfel We are all responsible. Recruiters need us to educate them. I respond to every inquiry I get for an IA. Do you?
  • @andersr citing @jeffpatton‘s pics of plastic toy next to plastic heart valve. Incredible diversity. “This is the Plastics Summit”
  • @zakiwarfel Maybe next year it won’t be run by an organization and instead will be developed by a collective of diverse practitioners

“Integrating Effective Prototyping Into Your Design Process” by Fred Beecher

  • I’m Twittering from @fred_beecher‘s “Integrating Effective Prototyping Into Your Design Process”
  • “A sketch is not a prototype. Two sketches is a prototype. You need a way to communicate flow.” — @fred_beecher
  • Visual fidelity vs functional fidelity: wireframe sketches low on both; paper jpg highest viz fid, but still low func fid.
  • Proof of concept prototype is high func fidelity but only mid viz fidelity. High viz &high func fid prototype looks/feels like system
  • Clickable wireframes are mid functional fidelity & mid viz fidelity. Image mapped JPGs (“Slap and Map”) mid func & high viz fidelity
  • 2 additional dimensions of fidelity: technical (production-ready prototypes constrain UX design concepting, expensive, time consuming
  • Production-ready prototypes can work if you have “mad coding skillz” or your organization has “mad resources” — @fred_beecher
  • @fred_beecher gives a shoutout to @yoni who “designs in code”
  • Other dimension of fidelity is content. Your prototype is not just interaction. Content plays large role in testing @fred_beecher
  • Poor @fred_beecher. The screen just rolled up into the ceiling all by itself and now his slides are being projected on ugly curtains
  • Not all content needs to be written for the prototype, but it needs to be plausible. Need to observe user understanding @fred_beecher
  • “There’s no such thing as a high or low fidelity on appropriate fidelity.” — Bill Buxton. @fred_beecher disagrees with the 1st part
  • “There’s no such thing as a high or low fidelity only appropriate fidelity.” –Bill Buxton. @fred_beecher disagrees with the 1st part
  • Low viz fidelity/low func fidelity prototypes are good for discovering missing func, finding probs with user flow @fred_beecher
  • Low viz/high func fidelity prototype for usability testing; testing of isolated interactions, enables remote testing @fred_beecher
  • Low viz/high func fidelity prototype also validates UX design direction and implementation with stakeholders @fred_beecher
  • High func prototypes also allow for reduced documentation for dev teams. Yay! @fred_beecher
  • High viz/low func fidelity prototypes help discover usability probs introduced by VD and flow probs for non-savvy users @fred_beecher
  • High viz/high func fidelity prototypes help test new func in established systems and with non-savvy users @fred_beecher
  • Also supplement printed documentation for offshore dev teams, and can be used to “wow stakeholders into submission” @fred_beecher
  • Integrate prototyping into your process. Start small (tiny, cheap proof of concept). @fred_beecher uses Axure http://www.axure.com
  • Know what Qs your prototype should answer. Early in design, Qs more structural. Later, more related to usability. @fred_beecher
  • Choose level of fidelity that will answer those Qs. Low fi better for big structural issues. High for usability issues. @fred_beecher
  • If you’re in a big corp using Agile methods with mature UX group: develop detailed scenarios you want to test then…
  • …sketch 2-3 UX design concepts into simple prototypes and test to find the right one. Build small func prototype of critical…
  • …interactions and do proof of concept testing to validate flow, then more robust prototype to test usability issues @fred_beecher
  • For folks in a big corp using waterfall method and newish UX practice: develop scenarios to test, walk stakeholders through prototype
  • Test same prototype with users. Walk through printed documentation and prototype when handing off to dev team @fred_beecher
  • If you’re a consultant or work in an agency: sketch 2-3 UxD concepts, simple prototype, test to choose 1 and walkthrough with client
  • Build small interactive prototype of critical interactions & test them, walk through with clients to validate direction @fred_beecher
  • Once fleshed out, walk through with visual designs and developers, and deliver with documentation @fred_beecher
  • Designers of hardware devices: “you cannot do too much low fi prototyping” — @fred_beecher
  • You’ll have to do a high fid func prototype to supplement printed documentation for engineers, but stay involved during dev
  • Expression Blend just released SketchFlow two days ago for sketching and prototyping: http://electricbeach.org/?p=145 @fred_beecher
  • The moral of the story: *always* plan your test before you create prototype, and choose right fidelity based on Qs you need to test

“A House Divided Against Itself” by Eric Reiss

  • Eric Reiss’s “A House Divided Against Itself”. He just put a dozen uncooked eggs in the audience in case we want to throw them at him
  • Eric Reiss is asking whether this will be the “last annual IA Summit”
  • Tribes. Politics. Shameless self-promotion. “If anyone takes this personally, you probably should.” –Eric Reiss
  • Tribes aren’t the same as communities. Politics isn’t progress. Self-promotion isn’t leadership. — Eric Reiss
  • “Tribes exclude. Communities welcome. We need to change our attitude.” — Eric Reiss
  • The IA Summit has had its first drop in attendance in 8 years this year, and it’s drastic. — Eric Reiss
  • Eric Reiss is pulling no punches in this talk. I’m almost afraid to repeat it.
  • “Anyone who’s divisive is making a fatal error, something that will kill our community.” — Eric Reiss
  • Eric calling out a bunch of names with their quotes saying IA is dead. “3 of these are former presidents of the IAI.” — Eric Reiss
  • @cwodtke wrote “Defining the Damn Thing” post on her blog in 2001. Eric Reiss tried defining it for Fortune Magazine the same year
  • “The true definition of IA: whatever you do” it’s a big community and we shouldn’t make it narrower than it already is — Eric Reiss
  • Birth of IxDA: blog post by Ask Tog post spurred IxDG, later changed to IxDA — Eric Reiss
  • “You have to be out of your mind to be on the board of one of these organizations. Did 3000 hrs of comm svc as IAI prez”– Eric Reiss
  • Eric Reiss just showed my Twitter profile (name blurred out) noting the high # followers and said, “Noise does not equal leadership.”
  • The 5 Cs of IA: creators, communicators, collators, critics, cheerleaders. “Cheerleaders send lots of tweets.” — Eric Reiss
  • Is it possible that Eric Reiss sees Twitter as noise because he doesn’t understand it?
  • Unforunately Eric Reiss flat out denied that that was my Twitter profile when it couldn’t have been more obvious

Check out the full schedule of IA Summit 2009. Memphis was wonderful (much classier than I expected), and the fine folks at the Peabody Memphis were incredible hosts. Follow them on Twitter!

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  • http://www.hotstudio.com Josh Damon Williams

    Wow! Sounds like I missed quite a conference. Hopefully I'll be there next year when we all hug it out.

  • ericreiss

    Dear Whitney,

    When you accuse someone of lying, you'd better be damned sure of yourself.

    Sorry to disappoint, but this wasn't *your* profile. It was an amalgam of several profiles because I didn't want to single out anyone in particular – there are a lot of silly noisemakers in our community and I didn't have anything particularly flattering to say about them. Frankly, I'm surprised you really want to associate yourself with this slide.

    But since you have made such a fuss, here's the backstory. Part of the specific slide visual may well have originated in your profile (I did take a screenshot of your page at one point). But most actually came from @gretchenrubin's Twitter account because I was looking for big, anonymous numbers. Alas, your indignation caused you to quickly forget my point – noise does not equal leadership.

    Regarding the Five C's of IA, you're right when you quote me as saying “Cheerleaders send a lot of tweets”. But again, this doesn't have anything to do with you personally. There are others who send a lot of tweets, too. Honestly, I've never viewed you as a cheerleader (although you do succumb occasionally). Rather, you've been an excellent collator (journalist). And I would hope that you will eventually demonstrate that you are a true creator.

    Regarding my understanding of Twitter – or lack thereof – I refer you to http://is.gd/2jB4i

    Regarding my definition of IA, I did not “try” to define it in Fortune in 2001 – I *did* define it in Fortune in January, 2008 (http://is.gd/2jD6u). What struck me as odd was that for all the noise in our community, although 600K business leaders saw this definition in the TimeLife publication and it was quoted in other business media, it did not cause a ripple in our own community. So much for “defining the damned thing” – a useless pasttime if you ask me.

    Your friend (believe it or not),
    Eric