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World Usability Day

These are my blog entries about World Usability Day. First one was November 3, 2005.

World Usability Day 2016

I am presenting "Designing Mission Critical Experiences" at Michigan State's World Usability Day 2016 conference tomorrow. November 16 update: PDF of "public" slides attached and SlideShare version embedded.

Links from presentation

Below are links to things I reference, just in case you want to learn more about something I mention.

Additional notes

Blog topics: 

WUD Research-Practice Interaction pre-work

On November 11th - World Usability Day - I will have the honor of giving a keynote "talk" at the Dayton-area event. I say "talk" in quotes because I really want it to be a more interactive session, where I provide enough background to get the discussion going, then the audience (participants, really) take over from there.

In the spirit of trying to make it easier for attendees to become participants, Douglas Gardner, the awesome organizer of the event at LexisNexis, has asked me to compile some pre-work / questions that he can distribute to people who have signed up to attend the Dayton event. I feel like a teacher giving students homework to do, but here goes!

Issues to consider, questions to ask yourself

  • If you are a user experience practitioner, what types of challenges do you face often that you wish you had a "scientific" answer to? Have you tried to find answers in the research literature? What roadblocks did you encounter when looking for answers? What successes have you had in taking research findings and improving your practice?
  • If you are a researcher, what is the value in engaging with practitioners? What is in it for you? Do you have any examples of success stories, where your research got better because of interactions you had with practitioners?
  • What should students of HCI, interaction design and other user experience disciplines be taught about research to better prepare themselves for the practitioner world?

Things to read

Things to do

  • If you are on Twitter, tweet something about the research-practitioner interaction topic with the #uxrpi hashtag.
  • Get a napkin (or some scrap of paper) and sketch something. Bring it to the session, you will have a chance to share this with every one else. (Even better, post your sketch to Flickr.)
  • Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to what you think are the most important research-practitioner challenges. Or make a list of solutions you know about from other fields. Bring it to the session.

Also, I have not quite figured out how to handle the interactiveness with a session in Ottawa who is planning on listening in remotely. My IBM/Cognos colleagues are hosting their own WUD event and will be joining both IBM's Social Media in the Workplace session (at noon ET USA) and mine (at 3:30).

And we might have others joining us remotely. We will have a LiveMeeting and call in: (800) 963-3556 / Conf ID: 266.4656. 3:30pm ET USA, November 11.

I hope I can make the session worthwhile for everyone who joins us.

November 21 update: I finally got around to posting the slides (as presented) on SlideShare.

Researcher-practitioner interaction update (UXRPI)

I spent some time lately catching up with the status of various things related to my recent researcher-practitioner interaction efforts, my latest "UX community give back" focus. Something I try to make small advancements in during my "spare" time, with the hope of helping foster some longer-term benefits. Some of this is a repeat of postings/comments on gaps and IUE but it helps me (at least) to compile it all together in a new way.

Information architecture research, practice

Andrea Resmini and I wrote up our view of the IA Summit session we led for the August/September 2010 ASIS&T Bulletin. I think we list some do-able ideas at the end that could turn into something concrete for the community to embark on.

I have not seen any reaction to the report or the possible next steps. Even some negative response would be a sign that someone read it and cares enough to tell us we are full of it.

I do know that Dan Klyn has read it: the same Dan Klyn who ran for office in IAI and won a spot on the board. Andrea and others have already done a good job of showing how to mature the IA practice in IAI's Journal of IA. Perhaps one of the progress grants will focus on the increasing researcher-practitioner interaction in IA. The IDEA 2010 program has a Friday session that is related. "(How Is This All) Going To Work?" focuses on the educational aspect: if they could add the "research" role that educators often share, then it would be right on target. So I have some hope the IA Institute will pick up some of our IA research/practice ideas and challenges and run with them in some way.

As for any ASIS&T follow-ups, a few folks had ideas on how to continue the discussion at the ASIS&T annual meeting next month, but I do not see anything explicit in the program. Euro IA was last week: great looking program, but nothing specific about research/practice interaction. The IA Summit 2011 planning continues, so there is still a chance to have a consortium or some other session to help put specific ideas into motion.

CHI conference

I am still trying to digest all that I learned at the 1-day workshop and follow-up special interest group discussion at the CHI conference. The wiki we set up for the workshop - research-practice-interaction.wikispaces.com - has the position papers and notes from the sessions. I have the physical materials (flip charts and post-it notes) from the sessions and should make another pass through them to see what great points have not been captured on the wiki. And clean the wiki up some more.

One thing that has been useful for me is the overall model of the problem space that emerged for me.

Research, HCI culture on left. Corporate, practice culture on right. Bridges: Education, Knowledge-sharing, Communication.

  • There is a "pillar" of challenges associated with the research culture overall and the HCI research culture in particular. Those are on the left.
  • Similar pillar of challenges on the right: the corporate culture overall and user experience practice culture in particular.
  • It is hard to change culture. There may be some opportunities to address some of the challenges directly in each/both pillars, but be aware what you are getting yourself into if you try to tackle them.
  • There are 3 levels of bridging, across the middle: Education (fundamental training and schooling), Knowledge-sharing (helping researchers and practitioners by sharing details on a regular basis) and Communication (just making sure we can talk with each other in an intelligent way).
  • Improving simple communication between researchers and practitioners is one place to start. Sharing knowledge is harder (but has the bigger pay-off) and forming an educational foundation should lead to the ability to address deeper challenges.

Net: what I learned at CHI is helping me understand the landscape. It also inspired me to continue with all of this.

But the workshop/SIG had some specific goals around driving improvements for future CHI conferences. Lots of good ideas were generated, but like all volunteer efforts, they only come to be when someone steps up to make them happen. Here is what is in the works for CHI 2011 to improve researcher-practitioner interaction:

  • Communities, communities, communities. Arnie Lund is leading a revival of the community aspect of the CHI conference. The 4 "established" communities drive specific parts of the program and act as "entry points and guides for researchers and practitioners...help attendees and authors find ways to connect with the conference more effectively." New in 2011 are "featured" communities that provide more ways to increase RPI. For example, Health lists the benefits of research-practice interaction several times.
  • For the UX community (that I am most interested in), Elizabeth Buie and Jhilmil Jain are building upon the CHI 2010 workshop that they helped organize. They have set up a LinkedIn group for the CHI UX community to help the cause. Join it!
  • There are other efforts in progress to fine-tune parts of the process and to make the program more accessible to practitioners (like, doing a better job of providing "practitioner take-aways" for research papers). As I hear about specific advances, I will let you know. The key is always volunteers to make things happen, so if you are interested in helping out, let me know and I will put you in touch with the right people.

Norman, translational developers

As you start pouring time into a volunteer effort like this, you start to wonder if this is an important problem to try to solve. If you are lucky, then someone prominent is reaching the same conclusions as you are. That happened in May when Don Norman published his The Research-Practice Gap article. It appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of interactions later. A must-read for anyone interested in this topic.

When I posted a comment on my site about the article, I mentioned I did not agree with everything in the article. Don replied and that started some email discussion back and forth between us. So in the spirit of disagreeing a bit, let me point out a few things about the article (knowing it is dangerous to debate with someone who is a lot smarter than you):

  • I do agree that the gap between researchers and practitioners exists within professional associations (and their conferences), but one thing that Don does not point out is that those are some of the best means to address the gaps. Don calls for a new discipline, translational developers: it should be created within our existing organizational structures, in my opinion.
  • Separate "discipline"? I am not convinced we need a new "discipline" - maybe we just need more people who are willing/capable of working across disciplines. Find ways to have more people spend a few years as a researcher, then a few years as a practitioner, and so on. And "discipline" seems academic: I am more interested in business models which make this a career path that our best and brightest are interested in.
  • Translational developers? Why "developers"? In my UX practitioner world, "developers" means you write code. In one of his talks, Don used the term Translational Engineering. A little better. I think we need some work on what to call this thing. "Translational entrepreneur"?: someone who has figured out how to get rich doing this.

And on a more "write a better article" slant, I enjoyed learning about Pasteur's quadrant but it really bugged me that the article did not include a figure that was an actual quadrant. So I drew one myself - and Don kindly made it better.

Pasteur's quadrant with quotes from Don Norman's article.

I have not seen any blog postings or online discussions of Don's article, so maybe this post will stir up something. Having Don "raise the flag" should help all of us make progress.

Internet User Experience panel

Don's article was one of the topics at a panel I organized at the IUE conference (slides, Twitter stream and other details). I hope the attendees found the session useful, but I liked it because:

  • I got 3 more people engaged as panelists. Susan Weinschenk, Danielle Cooley and Mark Newman did prep work together to create short and long versions of their position on different issues. They have their own critiques of Norman's article, for example: now we need to figure out how to get the discussion going.
  • We did more napkin drawing to get the audience engaged. That has worked twice now, I want to keep doing it more.
  • One of Mark's points was about the trend of translational research that is catching on in medicine. This is a good reminder that many fields are struggling with the same issues: we may need to look beyond our traditional "industry" for some answers.

Again, check out the compilation of info about the panel to find out more. These are just a few hi-lites.

Demarcating UX

One more thing to mention. I was invited to the Demarcating User eXperience seminar that took place 2 weeks ago. I could not make it, but Elizabeth Buie kindly agreed to attend to help connect researcher-practitioner interaction efforts.

This quote from the seminar shows the relationship: "UX is seen as a holistic concept covering all aspects of experiencing a phenomenon, but we are facing the point where UX has become a concept too broad to be useful in practice. Practitioners have difficulties to understand the concept and to improve UX in their work, and researchers rather use some other term to make their research scope clear."

From what I have heard (and seen), the seminar went well and I am looking forward to what they share as a result (some sort of white paper). You can check out the position papers and other preparation material.

Since I was not there, I will not comment a lot on the preparation material, but my personal favorites are statements from the practitioners whom I know.

  • Nigel Bevan: "UX Should Not be Demarcated!"
  • Elizabeth: "If the practitioners can't use it [the white paper], it doesn't work!"
  • David Gilmore: About the relativity of experience, and the innovation cycle

Staying in touch

As these different strands of activity progress - and more crop up - and we discover other strands that are already in motion, staying in touch with it all is a big challenge. What is the simplest thing we can do? To me, that is to use a common tag that people can attach to different objects that represent progress in researcher-practitioner interaction.

I did some poking around and thought that uxrpi would be a good starting point. Short form of "User experience researcher-practitioner interaction". So I started tagging my tweets with it. And Flickr photos. And this blog posting. Let's see if it provides any value. If we need more mailing lists or groups or whatever, then that is fine, we can do that too.

If this post inspires you to write up your own comments on Don's article, or to dispute something that I said, or if you know of more going on to try to improve researcher-practitioner interaction, use the UXRPI tag. That will help others discover it.

What is next for me? A keynote about this for the Tri-State World Usability Day at LexisNexis & Elsevier in Dayton (Ohio) on November 11th. Hope to see some of you there!

(Oh, and this really did start out as a short blog post. Then it grew and grew and grew...)

My schedule, November 10 & 12

I am attending two "local" events in mid-November. Hope to touch base with colleagues in the area I have not seen in a while - and meet some new ones, too, of course.

The first is the Smarter Cities Cleveland Forum on November 10th. From the description:

Cleveland Smarter Cities Forum will create a peer-to-peer exchange for mayors, civic leaders and businesses to engage with like-minded thinkers and shape the blueprints for smarter cities. We will discuss new approaches to regional partnership, identify roadblocks, evaluate frameworks for investment and review the tools and technologies that are making our urbanizing planet more instrumented, more interconnected and more intelligent. As leaders, we all have a vital stake in ensuring that our cities become more resilient, more sustainable and more secure. Indeed, the health of our planet and of society depends on it. We are pleased you will be joining us to start shaping that future.

IBM has hosted larger Smarter Cities events, so I am excited to be able to attend one near me. I am going partly to get out of the house (telecommuting is great but it wears on you), partly to learn some things myself, but mostly to spend time with my users. That is, get a little closer to the people who are interacting with aspects of the Smarter Planet web presence. I won't be doing any formal usability studies, just hanging out and listening.

If you are attending, leave a comment, send me an email, DM me, whatever, so I know to look for you there.

Two days later on November 12th is World Usability Day, with its theme of Designing for a sustainable world - a definite connection with Smarter Cities. Each year of WUD, I have done something different (05/San Francisco, 06/Hosted locally, 07/Chicago, 08/Cleveland) and I had several good options again this year.

Since I was in Cleveland last year, I decided to attend the festivities in East Lansing, Michigan this year: Designing for Sustainable Communities. It has been several years since I went to something hosted by the MSU Usability & accessibility center, too long.

Cleveland is having a great WUD event again and Dayton has another great WUD event planned (with a warm-up for the "kids"). Kent State has its own this time. There is one in Columbus but usually a few others emerge in the capital area as well. I am sure I am missing other World Usability Day events near me.

IBM celebrates World Usability Day with an internal company-wide webcast. It might be opened up to the outside this year, which would make it fun to attend while at a face-to-face event.

If you are also from the Toledo area and going to the MSU WUD event, drop me a line. I could use a ride up, but do not need a ride back.

World Smart & Usable Planet Day?

Are "Smart Planet" and "World Usability Day" a match made in heaven or is it a silly idea to link them together?

Smart Planet is the buzz within IBM. More than just our next marketing ploy around "innovation" and unlike the declaration that the web was for real, this is something bigger. I am no expert at it (and I was not one of the bloggers given early warning), but I did know it was coming since ibm.com is going to be an important part of whatever it turns out to be.

Here are a few of the things that I have been watching/reading (the things I can share with you, at least):

There are many aspects that interest for me. A few things Sam mentioned during the Q&A of his talk hit home the most. One was mentioning Service science efforts within IBM. Another were the ways we have to work to solve these problems: multi-disciplinary, end-to-end, and collaboratively. Sounds like how I have worked as a user experience professional for many years. And the third piece is the overall importance that connecting things via web technologies will be, something else I am starting to get pretty good at.

What does this have to do with World Usability Day (which is going on as I write this, on the other side of the globe from me)?

  1. This year's theme is WUD Transportation: see the Global Transportation Challenge, read transportation experiences and many of the events will focus on transportation issues. For Smart Planet, one of the examples is about changing driving behavior.
  2. Last year WUD was about Healthcare, another common problem cited in the Smart Planet work.
  3. More generally, my participation in WUD the past few years has forced me to think more planet wide, more "worldly." I think it has helped prepare me for something like Smart Planet.
  4. I suspect I could make many more connections between the Earth-Day inspired World Usability Day and Smart Planet, but this is getting too long already. You get my point.

I have zero pull within IBM, but it makes sense to me that IBM should sponsor it in some way in 2009. If the company is really serious about Smart Planet, it needs to start sponsoring ways to foster the conversation, and World Usability Day 2009, with a theme of "Smart Planet" would be the perfect fit for a design thinking angle. If Sam gives me a call [LOL] then I will happily introduce him to Elizabeth Rosenzweig.

So as I reflect on this blog posting, and in anticipation of my World Usability Day starting tomorrow, I am left with one last thought.

User experience and information architecture cannot solve the world's problems, but with a push from the business world, the right political climate, and some inspiration, I am ready, willing and able to chip in and do my part. I do not really care what we call it.

World Usability Day 2008 plans

World Usability Day 2008 is next week: Thursday, November 13th. Find an event near you (and please try to attend). See worldusabilityday.org for more information.

This is the fourth year for WUD. The first year I was too involved, working on the web site and in charge of the last beer of the day in San Francisco. Two years ago we hosted a small local dinner in Bowling Green to celebrate the day. Last year I was in Chicago for meetings, DUX and for the annual holiday shopping spree, so I attended the WUD session there.

This year I tried several times to organize a local event, but failed each time. I had several possibilities around the "transportation" theme, including something hosted by the University of Toledo Transportation Center. Didn't work out.

Fortunately, I have plenty of choices of things to attend in the Michigan / Ohio region:

I was invited to talk at both the MSU and LexisNexis events, but I could not commit since I was trying to organize something locally. The nice folks at NEOUPA are willing to add me to their panel at the last minute, so I will be in Cleveland this year.

Now the question is: can I attend another WUD event and still make it to Cleveland on time? I could drive 2 hours up/back to Michigan State in the morning. Or I could drive 2 hours to Dayton to catch the first hour of their meeting. Or maybe hit the "lunch hour" at AEP in Columbus. Not sure these will be worth it, but you might see me make an appearance in one of those places.

I hope you get to celebrate World Usability Day with your local user experience community, too.

Blog topics: 

Collaboration week in Chicago

I am fortunate to be in Chicago now, where all sorts of collaborations across the various UX-related disciplines are happening. Today and tomorrow are face-to-face meetings with other User Experience Network volunteers (at the IIT Institute of Design). Then several days of the "fowl" every-two-years AIGA-SIGGRAPH-SIGCHI shindig, DUX: Designing for User Experience conference. Then on Thursday, World Usability Day Chicago: November 8th is the one day this year we can all get along.

"How to keep it simple" week

I think it was coincidence: Parade magazine published John Maeda's How to keep it simple the same week as World Usability Day. John's article was based on his 10 Laws of Simplicity.

Blog topics: 

What happened in Ohio?

I am collecting links to blog entries, trip reports, press releases, etc. about what happened in Ohio for World Usability Day. Leave a comment here if you find something else so that I can update the list.

Also, if/when you upload your photos to Flickr, be sure to put them in the World Usability Day 2006 gallery and tag them Ohio so all of our photos show up together. We have photographs from the Northwest (me) and Southwest (Kara Lock) corners already.

Ohio World Usability Day

I decided to make a little web site devoted to all of the World Usability Day activities in Ohio. I hope this view will make it easier to see what is going on in our state on November 14th.

If you know of additional events, or a change to the existing events, leave a comment here and I will update the site. Afterwards, let me know about trip reports, photos or any other news from the Ohio events and I will include them there as well.

Finally, we have the details on the World Usability Day dinner for Northwest Ohio: 7:30pm, downtown Bowling Green, at Cucina di Betto. Hope to see you there!

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