Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Model trains in St. Jacobs

A daylight scene at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway
I took my sons to St. Jacobs a few weeks back to visit the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway. It’s something that we’d been meaning to do for some time, and after experiencing it we were all delighted that we had finally made the trip. We stayed for well over an hour taking it all in, and surely missed much more than we saw.

A night scene at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway
What you see, hear, and otherwise experience is a vast and meticulously detailed “O” scale model train layout that features realistic train operations. The layout covers rural, city, and industrial landscapes and more, with dozens of tiny vignettes that tell stories about life in southern Ontario in the 1950s. Stay long enough, and you’ll see the overhead lights dim as the night-time layout come to life in a beautifully choreographed way.

They’re open through the end of December, and it’s well worth a visit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A visit to the CanUX conference

Bret Marshall presenting at CanUX
Along with Bob Barlow-Busch, I recently attended the CanUX conference in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa. This was my third time attending the event formerly known as UX Camp Ottawa. As always, Cornelius Rachieru, Tanya Snook, Barb Spanton, and their team put on a fine event, with an interesting lineup of speakers presenting in a great venue (Canadian Museum of History, formerly the Museum of Civilization). It was a special treat to see our friend Brent Marshall delivering his Fluxible presentation to a fresh crowd.

Running Fluxible has made attending other events a bit odd for me, as my attention is always on evaluating experiences that might work well at our own conference. One thing that Fluxible 2016 attendees are almost certain to see is pre-event Friday dinners that will make it easy for UX people in town for the conference to meet each other in informal groups. CanUX set up several of these this year. Bob and I enjoyed lovely evening in Ottawa talking shop with a small group of CanUX attendees and want to bring that experience to Fluxible.

It’s great to see the UX community in Canada thriving in multiple locations, and see such thoughtful events being staged. Hats off to the CanUX team for delivering another successful event.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Looking back at Fluxible 2015

Well, Fluxible 2015 wrapped up one month ago today, and I’ve realized that I hadn’t done any kind of a wrap-up post here. It’s surprisingly challenging to do so, as the message every year is generally the same. That is, it was another terrific event with smart speakers and plenty of engaging conversations to be had all around, along with plenty of fun musical interludes.

Happily, I’ve got a couple of special artifacts to point at that document the conference so that I don’t have to!

First up is a great video created by one of our friends at Communitech. Phil Froklage captured many defining moments, large and small, at this year’s event. Check it out to get a small flavour of what happened.

More recently, our friends Amandah Wood and Matt Quinn documented their Fluxible 2015 experience over at Ways We Work. Moreover, as they were explicitly interested in how an event like this goes together, Bob Barlow-Busch and I chatted with them extensively, and they had plenty of behind-the-scenes access to see how it all happened. The result is a lovely essay in words and pictures. Have a look right now!

Meanwhile plans are already well underway for the 2016 edition of Fluxible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recommended UX books, part 3

A photo of all five books mentioned in the text
Following up on my earlier posts, here’s another set of books in an informal series on recommended UX reading.

As a reminder, the series isn’t meant to provide a definitive list, but rather a set of books that I’ve enjoyed and found helpful in my UX work. Some of them will be well known and already widely recommended. Others may be less so, though no less valuable to me. A few might even be eccentric choices for a list like this.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
by Scott McCloud
I’ve been recommending this classic to designers for 20 years now! It’s a wonderful look at visual communication, exquisitely told using the form that it documents.

See What I Mean: How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas
By Kevin Cheng
In the context of this list, here is a perfect companion to Understanding Comics, as Cheng makes explicit the UX contexts in which to effectively use comics.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink
While not explicitly a UX-related book, Pink’s book is nevertheless a relevant, and fascinating, read.

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights
by Steve Portigal
Thoughtful, humane, practical, and more, Steve has created a great guide for a foundational aspect of UX research.

Tog on Interface
by Bruce Tognazzini
It’s almost a quarter-century old, but while a few of the examples are a little dated Tog’s writing remains vibrant and engaging, and the concepts are as relevant and important as ever.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It’s Fluxible Week!

Well, all the preparations, machinations, and invocations have come together and Fluxible is upon us!

This year we’ve pulled together a whole week of events for Fluxible, and there are UX-related events happening on each of the next seven days, all of them featuring interesting and engaging material presented and shared by folks who are committed to building UX community in Waterloo Region and around the world. I’m looking forward to learning something from all of them.

Things get started today at Boltmade, where my colleagues Brian Potstra and Katie Cerar will be presenting a workshop on learning Sketch, a favourite design tool amongst the UX team there. This workshop filled up quickly, as the Boltmade Sessions events tend to do.

Tuesday sees the September edition of uxWaterloo taking place at Christie, where Alan Woo and Chris Kirby from their design team will be taking us on a deep dive into designing a remote control for one of their projectors. Registration for this session filled up by the end of August. Amazing…

Wednesday features UX Book Club Waterloo Region, and a visit from Abby Covert, who happens to be in town for Fluxible. Abby is smart and articulate — not to mention funny — and this session should make for an engaging conversation. Katie Cerar and Davis Neable have been presenting these UX Book Club events for quite a while now, and they know how to deliver a fine experience.

Thursday finds Christina Wodtke joining Girl Geek Dinners Waterloo Region to talk about “The Architecture of Advocacy”. Christina will be busy while she’s in town, as she’s also presenting a Fluxible workshop on Friday morning (see below) as well as a presentation during the Fluxible main program on Saturday (also see below!).

Friday is filled with pre-conference Fluxible workshops by Christina Wodtke (Design Thinking for Innovation), Stephen Anderson (Design for Understanding), and Jeff Gothelf & Jim Kalbach (Jazz Performance as a Model for Team Collaboration). There’s a lot of learning to be done!

Saturday and Sunday sees all the UX activity comes to a head with the main program for Fluxible. This year’s edition of the UX party disguised as a conference sold out faster than ever, and the speakers will deliver a rich collection of presentations.

Next week I’ll be sleeping it off…

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September kicks off a new season for uxWaterloo

After July and August sessions that featured relaxed conversations over drinks on summer patios, we’re kicking off a fresh new season of uxWaterloo events on Tuesday September 22 with a visit to Christie in Kitchener.

Their design team will be taking us deep into the process of creating a new remote control for their projectors. It’s always a great learning experience to see and hear how a design to team has approached and solved a problem, and the folks at Christie promise to share plenty of insights. It will be a terrific session. I’d usually encourage folks to register at this point, but the event is already full! Be sure to watch for announcements for more great uxWaterloo sessions for the fall.

There’s something special about the September session, though. It’s part of a full week of UX events in Waterloo Region that our Fluxible team has pulled together around this year’s edition of the UX conference disguised as a party.

In addition to the Tuesday uxWaterloo event, there’s a Boltmade Session on learning Sketch (Monday September 21); a UX Book  Club meetup with Fluxible speaker Abby Covert (Wednesday September 23); and a Girl Geek Dinners Waterloo Region event with Fluxible speaker Christina Wodtke (Thursday September 24).

Of course, there’s a day filled with Fluxible pre-conference workshops on Friday September 25, and the week culminates in the main Fluxible program on Saturday September 26 and Sunday September 27!

Great stuff, right?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fluxible 2015 sold out!

Well, that happened fast. Faster, in fact, than in each the last three years!

This past Friday we sold out the main program for Fluxible 2015. Obviously Bob Barlow-Busch and I, along with the rest of the Fluxible team, think that we’re presenting a great program at this year’s event, but we’re delighted that others agree and have registered to attend.

If you missed out, we have good news. Registration has not yet closed for two of our three Friday workshops. (Our Friday morning workshop with Christina Wodtke sold out earlier.)

Join Stephen Anderson on Friday morning for a terrific deep dive into Design for Understanding.

And on Friday afternoon you can join Jeff Gothelf and Jim Kalbach for Jazz Performance as a Model for Team Collaboration.

Sound interesting? Register now before it’s too late!