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Archive for July, 2006

Conference packing – just the essentials

Friday, July 28th, 2006

I’m at a conference at the moment – a 2-day event which meant one night in Sydney.

I hate carrying too much stuff, so this time I brought only the essentials, all in one bag that I can carry all day.

Of course, my essentials list ended up being a bit odd:
- tablet pc plus cables
- iPod
- mobile phone
- USB stick
- one green pen, one pencil (no paper)
- two cross-stitch bookmarks – one almost finished, one ready to start (this is my new can’t-sit-still-at-a-conference trick)
- neuromancer (because it’s skinny)
- purse
- one clean black shirt
- one clean pair of underpants
- toothbrush, mascara, deodorant, lipstick

Thinking about thinking

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but this is a bit of a ramble (it’s a good one though)

I just finished reading the latest instalment in Christopher Fahey’s series about user research and combined with a recent discussion with a potential interviewer about my interests, a journal article I recently wrote, a presentation I’m doing next week, came out here as a post about some important stuff I’ve been thinking about for a while.

In the past year or so I’ve been doing a lot more teaching – via mentoring, speaking & writing – which means I’ve been spending loads of time thinking about how to teach people to do what I do.

I’ve always had difficulty with the idea that teaching methods teaches people how to design. It never made sense to me. But our industry’s focus on methods & techniques made me figure I was just being my odd self and that if I taught methods well enough, people would get it.

But I’ve now spent enough time thinking about this to realise my gut feeling was right all along. And I’m going to be bold and tell you that methods and techniques are a poor and very small part of a designer’s tool-set. They just happen to be easy to define, teach and communicate, so they proliferate in our teaching and writing.

The real key is in teaching people how to think. How to observe the right things. How to mush together the outcomes from techniques in their brains, shake them around and have something good emerge. How to make creative leaps and know they are good.

I haven’t seen so much of this idea written down in our field, but there are some gems – Christopher’s user research series, Peter’s discussion of ‘IA thinking‘ in the closing plenary at the IA Summit, Shane’s ‘deep thought‘ article from a few years ago. Yes, there are probably loads more, but they are swamped by the description-of-a-method articles.

So where does this leave me? I’m in the middle of writing a book, planning a bunch more speaking/workshops and just about to start a new contract in which I lead a new user-centred design effort. In doing these things, I’m not going to fall into the method-as-answer trap. I’m going to do my utmost to help people realise that thinking is important, that creativity is valuable and that methods are just a small subset of the arrows in our quiver.

Music made me feel like a teenager again

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

I had a rotten day at work. You know, really, really, really rotten. The type of day I haven’t had for years.

But I found a cure I haven’t used for a long time – good music, loud. I put my earbuds in, turned up my new Muse album and felt better. Took me most of the album, but I got there. In drifting through grownuphood, I forgot how amazing music once made me feel, and how well it can transform a mood. It made me feel reasonable rather than teary and angry.

Just lucky I didn’t listen to Jeff Buckley though!

Technosocial architect

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Gosh this is a good piece. It has taken me a few days to get to as it is a longish post, and a bit to deep to skim:

Technosocial Architect – Thomas Vander Wal

“What we build is transient and will be gone, but what people find and discover in the information they find in what we build must last and live beyond what we control and can build or design.”

Australia’s first IA retreat

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

Every time I blog about a conference I’ll be attending, I say how excited I am.

But this one, I am soooooo excited about. OzIA – the first Australian information architecture conference & retreat. September 30 & October 1, in Sydney (back to back with Web Directions).

I’ll be there and I hope you will too. It’s going to be so much fun.