Wednesday May 02, 2007

Information Architecture Summit 2007: What's Sticking 6 Weeks Later?

I attended the IA Summit 2007 in Las Vegas this year. I recently blogged about being Summit bound and the pre conference session on Managing Experience I attended. I have been meaning to post a summary of the conference but as things tend to get busy after attending a conference, six weeks have somehow magically slipped through my fingers. It's time to sum it up. :)

The IA Summit is definitely enhanced by attending the pre-conference sessions. You get more of a chance to meet colleagues and also to dig in deep on a topic as the seminars are either full or half day session. This year I attended 2 sessions. The first day was the Managing Experience session that I previously blogged about. Day two was a session presented by Peter Morville of Polar Bear fame about IA 3.0. He started the session out by saying that the session title was a bit tongue in cheek, however, it also had a level of meaning as web 2.0 has implications on and for information architecture.

The group had discussions about what we thought web 2.0 was and we examined some challenging quotes from people in the community. All in all the day turned out to be a provocative session that started all kinds of ideas churning in my head. In particular a challenge was issued by Mr. Morville that the 'innies' (meaning Information Architects that work inside organizations as opposed to being consultants) should write a book. All the perspectives are from the outside looking in and clearly there are many people working inside and could benefit from such a resource. (more on this topic later)

The conference started on Saturday. The conference has been over a weekend ever since it began. This year was no different. The theme for the year was enriching IA.

From the Summit web site:

Three trends:

\* Rich information: More and more information becomes available to users and systems alike and these days most of the information comes with meta data, built-in links to other information, and API's or micro-formats that allow for mash ups. How rich is your information?
\* Rich interaction: The web is moving towards a more interactive environment, and desktop apps are adapting web metaphors. How does this affect the way you design applications?
\* Rich relationships: We are all already linked through information and social computing is increasing the possibilities to exchange information. Is your information a social lubricant or is it an obstacle for building relationships?

It began with Joshua Prince-Ramus. A principal architect at REX that discussed much project work from his firm and showed that it was not through the willful imposition of architecture that solutions were derived from. It was more about creative and useful projects coming out of his firm and structures needed to be the way they were and designed as such because of 'dumb reasons'. I really like the practical nature he discussed in the work that his firm did. I also thought it very healthy to hear the working environment he created at his firm was one of equality and encouragement and of teamwork and collaboration. In fact, those attributes are essential. I personally believe this is the only way to get to solutions at work in our complex world so I like hearing stories about it being done in other domains than the digital space.

I learned much from the principal architect and I appreciated hearing stories about working creatively to solve problems. Even though I am a digital architect and not a licensed physical architect, I found the speech very relatable.

He also said something I really connected to, 'create the process to determine the best solution'. Problem solving people. That is what this is all about and it is the message I took away from our keynote speaker.

Session after session I listened, I learned, I discussed. These conferences are very good and help people doing the same kind of work connect to one another. Sure, we've got mailing lists and such but nothing is like being together in person.

It was definitely the year of texting and Twitter. Everyone was twittering away.

The venue was fascinating (as Las Vegas always is). I've never been there for a conference, only on vacation. It was pretty interesting to see that the experience design in Vegas is so tuned to the gambling experience that the conference rooms had terrible sight lines and not so comfortable chairs. People complained but I thought it was brilliant. Las Vegas is in every way about encouraging you to listen to its siren call. I pretty much avoided it because I thought the content was interesting, but I can see why people at conferences that don't have interesting content and have these uncomfortable/hard to see the speaker in rooms, it would encourage many people to forget about the conference and participate in the activity Vegas needs people to participate in.

It was also a very polarizing location. People definitely had an opinion about Vegas, good or bad.

My boss, Martin, was at the conference for a couple of pre-conference sessions. He brought cards along to promote designcomics.org. He shared some ideas with me that I wanted to summarize from the session he attended.

  • How important how people are tagging you is.....
  • Cold start communities issues (people are inherently selfish, something needs to be useful----give me something back)
  • Most powerful social networking tends to relate to objects (flickr, youtube)
  • One of the most powerful social networking site is amazon---a product page has up to 16 social networking components (e.g. product finding, product ratings, product rankings, product tags)

Some hi-lights from the conference:

  • The technique trading cards provided by nForm. These were brilliant and really got people talking. You had to trade cards to get a full set. Those that completed an entire set were up for fabulous prizes.
  • The amazing creative interpretations of wire frames by Chiara Fox. She knitted and she mobiled and she made art from wire frames. She showed off her feat at the Summit Saturday evening 'expo'.
  • Vegas, baby. (C'mon)
  • I was staying at the Tropicana hotel and the exhibit for Bodies was there. I had wanted to see it in MN (where I live) but it left before I made it. In Vegas, it was right down the hall. I had to go.
  • The Adaptive Path gathering at Quark's bar.
  • Insightful content
  • The mentoring booth
  • The IA Institute rubber duckies
  • and of course the continued community building the event fosters.

    If you are interested in finding out more about the conference many of the resources are shared.

    You can find many presentations from the conference on slideshare.

    Podcasts for the Summit.

    All the flickr photos you can handle can be seen under the iasummit07 or iasummit2007 tags.

    As Summit 2007 came to a close the 5 Minute Madness was full of inspirational and emotional moments and it was a good ending.

    Richard Vanguard, organizer for next year, stood up and gave us all a bit of a pep talk for Miami in 2008. The conference is moving out into April. It is usually late March. I think this will be a good change and I look forward to next spring.

    I am going to try and take on the challenge of Peter Morville for the 'innies' to write a book. I think as a collective group we could come up with something really useful for others. Let me know if you are interested in being involved in that project.

  • Thursday Mar 22, 2007

    User Experience: More on Managing

    I went to a pre-conference session today at the IA Summit. Margaret Hanley presented a day long workshop about UX Management. Although I am not a people manager at this time, I have been in the past and I do manage several relationships with vendors so it's really more of a virtual team and I don't spend the time with these vendors to develop their careers. However, the session was useful to me and it is definitely a sub community of the IA community that I want to participate in. My belief is that no matter who helps you get work done, they are equally important as they are helping to extend the reach and the impact of the work that you can do.

    The community of people that need to manage UX is definitely growing. This is the second time this has come up in the last several months. It was the crux of the recent Adaptive Path conference I attended. I think this is probably inevitable due to the fact that there is more work and more people doing the work which means we need structure not only in the experiences we design but in the teams that come together to make those experiences.

    So after a lovely night out at Samba (where they bring you food served on swords) in the Mirage casino with Martin, Lisa, and Dan, I finally got back to my hotel room and I found this in my inbox:

    "It is important to communicate the business strategy and to engineer the oversight of information in a way that aligns the business strategy with the information architecture."

    The above quote is from an article entitled Aligning Information Objectives with Business Strategy The article landing in my inbox on today of all days seemed really appropriate.

    About

    Jennifer Bohmbach was the Sun.com Chief Information Architect from November 2004-November 2007. She left Sun in November 2007 to return to consulting.

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