How did I get here?

This blog, created in 2008 to track the pursuit of a new career in UX, lived for less than a month before succumbing to its demise at the hands of a product management job I accepted in April of that same year.

I had driven from the DC area in 2007 to pursue UX (see the epic cross-country blog).  I thought that because I had done a fair amount of UX work in my role as a product manager at the College Board for five years — doing wireframes, data diagrams, and user flows — and had been further inspired after attending Adaptive Path’s UX week in 2006, I was ready to make a go of a career in UX.

But I was hopelessly un-hip (here I am signing in at UX Week 2006 — you see what I mean?), and completely unprepared for the tidal wave of hipness that was about to knock me flat when I arrived back in what I thought was my proper home, the Bay Area, where I’d previously lived.  I’d left California in 2002, when hipness was nascent, but by 2007, it was a completely different, invigorated animal. In DC I’d basically been living in a hipness time warp, comparatively speaking.

I say all this not because I think hipness is essential to the practice of UX (though it doesn’t seem to hurt); I say it because at the time, this perceived deficit of mine was one element that prevented me from pursuing this line (that, and having only the most rudimentary of practical, marketable skills in the field).  I was neither a heavy-hitter nor an effective faker. So I scrambled back into hiding — back into product management, the refuge of the un-sexy folks who get stuff done, on time and within budget, charisma be damned.  After all, I knew it, and was good at it.

Suffice it to say I am in a different place now and ready to follow my interests. So far, without any pushing, I have found myself naturally drawn to many subjects that classify themselves within UX.  I will see where this takes me.

OK, enough woo-woo. Here is the rundown on the BayCHI program I attended last night.

Leah Buley (UX Team of One)
The intro to this post was inspired by something in Leah’s talk.  It was her questioning what other UX practitioners had that she lacked.  She said this was the real secret she wanted to convey, beyond what she wrote about in her book.

The secret: charisma. She saw herself as a “reformed nerd.” For examples of charisma in UX, she pointed to Jeff Veen, Dan Saffer, and Ryan Frietas. When she was just getting started in UX, she wanted to know how she could build support for it within an organization where she might be viewed as a “defensive weirdo.”

She gave a nice reduction sauce of “keystone habits” (referencing Duhigg’s book), that she thinks point people toward success in UX:
– learn code
– do guerrilla research
– seek out design inspiration
– cultivate good taste
– read up on strategy
– write a blog

She referenced her talk, Secrets from a UX Agent of Change, and had these further tips:
– truly listen
– make things together
– recognize “good enough”
– invite people in

She also pointed us to The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk.

Good stuff. Yeah Leah.

Scott Berkun (The Year Without Pants)
This wasn’t about UX, but about working remotely, a topic near and dear to my heart.  When Scott came on board at  WordPress, everyone was working remotely using three tools: IRC, Skype, and the WordPress blog template “P2.”  Using IRC was akin to bumping into people in the hallway and talking. Skype was for small team meetings, but using the chatting feature instead of voice. The blog was a de facto bug-tracking system. He referenced the 37Signals book, Remote.

Also, before Scott came on board at WordPress, it was completely flat — no managers or organization of any kind; everyone reported to the founder. The “innovation” Scott introduced was… wait for it… teams.   Phew, well that wasn’t so scary, was it?  But he had to convince people there to try speaking to each other rather than just sending messages.

It was great to hear about a place that was so extreme. It made me feel that my new demands for my own work/life balance (the ability to work at home a couple of days a week, and to be with a team, in person, the rest of the time), were well within reason.

Flickr Turns 4

Last night I attended the Flickr Turns 4 party. The cupcakes were hands-down the best thing about it, but they were just one indicator of how well the party was planned. Some of my friends suggested that perhaps the space could have been bigger, but the closeness of the quarters made introductions between strangers more likely, as nametags could be read with ease, and one friend met his favorite group moderator that way. The 1000’s of posted pictures gave everyone a focus, as did the several hairy Brides of March, who seemed to deeply enjoy the furtive and not-so-furtive looks they received. Frank Chu, with his incomprehensible sign, was in attendance. The atmosphere was friendly, because everyone already had something in common — they love Flickr. What’s not to love?

After Party Hydrant Dressing

Magic and Mental Models

Last week I attended Jared Spool’s talk for the BayCHI Interaction Design BOF Event at Yahoo!, Magic and Mental Models. Man, the colors there at Yahoo, I was nauseous after 5 minutes, I can only imagine the feeling if you’re working there.

But my merry band and I persevered and made it to Classroom 5 (we’re still in school, kiddies!).

Mr. Spool is a sleeper. And no, I don’t mean he puts you to sleep. He gives the appearance of someone who will be reticent and muttering, but is anything but. He’s animated and entertaining (though if he’s thinking of a second career in magic, I would have to caste a vote of caution on that count). Continue reading →