Monday, September 17, 2012

Fluxible is almost here and you should register if you haven’t

The last few months have been busy on a number of fronts, but the one I that want to mention now is Fluxible. Fluxible, as I have written previously, is a user experience conference that I started with Bob Barlow-Busch and that he and I have been organizing along with a team of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.

The work is all coming together as we enter the last few days of preparation in anticipation of our morning start on Saturday September 22 at the Conrad Centre in downtown Kitchener. The program that we ended up with is far more ambitious than we had initially envisioned, in part because so many amazing speakers were willing to join us, and in part because we lined of some very supportive sponsors. This is going to be a great event, with talks, workshops, and the chance to meet and learn from all kinds of amazing people. And we still have a few more surprises in store for everyone, which is saying something when you consider that we unveiled a theme song last month!

If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time to do so. If you register now using the uxWaterloo promotional code, you’ll receive a $200 discount over the regular rate. It’s a fantastic deal for a weekend that looks like it will be an exceptional experience.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How we found venues for Fluxible

I wrote previously about how Bob Barlow-Busch and I approached finding speakers for Fluxible. Here’s a little bit of what went into finding our venues.

At the same time we were looking for speakers, we were also trying to figure out where Fluxible would be held. Obviously, decisions about venues were influenced by our program. But the reverse was also true, in that the venues we looked at affected our thinking about the program.

Going into this, we knew that we wanted to have talks. We knew that we wanted to have hands-on workshops. And we knew that we wanted a big party where everyone could socialize and have fun. As we looked at potential venues, our thinking clarified and we began to get specific ideas about what each of the spaces could offer.

In addition to what we wanted to use spaces for, there were a few constraints that we needed to keep in mind. These included:
  • a target date of Fall 2012
  • avoiding other major events that would be of interest to our audience
  • accommodating around 200 people
  • finding inspiring and energizing spaces that we’d enjoy spending time in
  • venue availability
  • access to parking, public transit, and restaurants
  • technical infrastructure to support our needs.
I had some experience with suitable venues in the region, from my years of helping to organize Ignite Waterloo. In fact, Ignite Waterloo had previously held events at two of the venues we eventually selected for Fluxible: the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts and the Communitech Hub. We wanted to be thorough, though, so we made sure to visit many other candidate venues as well.

In the end, after balancing our very real needs and constraints, we came up with a set of venues that worked out very well and that showcase some terrific buildings in downtown Kitchener. The Conrad Centre, where Saturday’s talks will be presented, is an amazing performance space that will put the focus on our speakers and their talks. Kitchener City Hall has some beautiful interior spaces that we’ll take full advantage of for a Saturday evening party. Finally, the Communitech Hub has been a big success story over the last couple of years, and will make for a delightful host for our workshops and closing party on Sunday.

As with our experience approaching speakers, the people who run these venues have been enthusiastically supportive of our event. They’ve made suggestions on how to get the most out of these spaces, and have pointed out a few surprising things that hadn’t even occurred to us. For example, we’ll have use of the beautiful council chamber at Kitchener City Hall!

We’re confident that Fluxible has found several good homes for 2012, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone there.

Note: A sightly different version of this post originally appeared over at Fluxible. Thanks to Bob Barlow-Busch for the helpful edits.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to find speakers for a conference

As some of you may know, I’m co-chair of Fluxible, a user experience event that’s coming to Waterloo Region in September. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the thinking and activities that go into organizing an event like this. For today, let’s start with the process of finding people to speak and lead workshops.

My co-chair Bob Barlow-Busch and I had some pretty simple criteria in our early stages of thinking about the event: we wanted to have fun; we wanted to learn something; we wanted to meet interesting people.

We had the good sense to ask for advice from Daniel Szuc, a supremely interesting person whom Bob has known for about 10 years. Daniel was generous with his time and thoughts, and shared some excellent advice based on his experiences running UX Hong Kong. That was an important and inspiring conversation for us.

We still weren’t certain what level of interest to expect from potential speakers, since Fluxible is a brand new event. But we had a few ideas and made some enquiries. Almost immediately, we discovered that interest was very strong. When I invited my former colleague James Wu, he accepted right away. Similarly, Bob’s former colleague Patrick Hofmann jumped right on board as well.

We were off to a great start. We thought about the kinds of things we wanted to learn and about our favorite speakers from other conferences, then started asking around more widely. At the same time, people started approaching us as word got around, and our newly-formed volunteer team brought some great suggestions to the table as well. Most of the potential speakers we invited agreed to participate, aside from a small number who were unable due to prior commitments. But everyone was encouraging and offered assistance of some sort. Pretty soon we realized that we’d gotten caught up in our own enthusiasm — and that we had more people on board than we had originally planned!

Admittedly, however, that was a delightful problem to solve.

As things stand now, we’ve announced eight speakers on Saturday, eight workshop offerings to choose from on Sunday, and a closing keynote speaker. We have designers, developers, and researchers from academia and industry, from global companies and from cutting edge boutique consultancies. These generous experts are delivering hands-on workshops, visionary talks, and plenty of inspiring moments in between.

And even with all that, there’s one final announcement still to come!

We’re thrilled with the program we’ve put together, as it’s an extraordinary group. We hope you agree.

Note: A sightly different version of this post originally appeared over at Fluxible. Thanks to Bob Barlow-Busch for the helpful edits.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

An omnibus post to wrap up June

I had another busy month in June, which made for another sparse month for blog posts. Here are some of the highlights of what kept me busy.

Damian Pope delivers a talk at Ignite Waterloo 9
Ignite Waterloo 9
On June 12 Ignite Waterloo held its ninth event, this time at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Once again, it was hugely popular, with tickets selling out in just a few hours. I’ve helped to organize these events since the very first one, and this version really felt like the best yet — the speakers were great, the venue was fantastic, and everyone had a great time.

After nine events, though, I need to take a break from Ignite Waterloo, mostly because I need to focus on Fluxible, a conference that I’m co-chairing with Bob Barlow-Busch in September. It’s been keeping me busy finalizing details around speakers and the program. Bob and I are pretty excited about it, and we’ll be opening up registration very soon. I’ll write more about Fluxible in the near future.

Artifacts from one group at uxWaterloo design workshop event
uxWaterloo design workshop
June featured two uxWaterloo events, rather than the more usual one event. The first was another visit to Felt lab, while the second was a design workshop focused on helping out Tula Foundation, a not-for-profit with a health-care project in rural Guatemala. I’m happy that uxWaterloo is easing into summer mode now, with a couple of low key social gatherings in July and August, details of which will announced soon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scrolling in the Apple TV UI

I’ve written before (here, here, and here) on the differences between scrolling on an Apple Macintosh and scrolling on an iOS device like an iPhone, and how those differences are going away.

It turns out that there remains at least one remote corner of the Apple universe where the reconciliation of gestural meaning is still a little awkward.

The Apple TV is a content delivery device that provides an elegant user experience for delivering content from a variety of sources to a television screen. It includes a wonderfully simple remote control that is generally a delight to use. One less than delightful aspect of the remote control, though, is the cumbersome method for entering text, such as when searching content. Happily, Apple provides an iOS app called Remote, which can be used to control the Apple TV and which enables easier text input using a keyboard.

Of course, the Remote app can control all aspects of the Apple TV, using a gestural UI that one would expect from iOS. It’s here that things get a little awkward.

Note the following models:
  • On a Mac (in OS X Lion), dragging two fingers on on the track pad moves the contents of a window (e.g., scrolling through a list) 
  • On iOS, a swipe gesture moves the screen (e.g., scrolling through a list). 
  • On Apple TV, clicking the arrows on the remote control moves the on-TV-screen selection indicator (e.g., selecting an item in a list).
Using a swipe gesture in the Apple TV Remote app, which in effect turns the iOS device into a trackpad when used this way, also repositions the on-TV-screen selection indicator. This is quite similar to the behaviour of the gesture on a Mac trackpad prior to Lion, where the gesture controlled a UI widget (scrollbar) rather than the content itself; it is the selection indicator that is being controlled by the gesture not the screen content. This makes sense for a point-and-click remote control, but not for a gestural one.

For me the awkwardness arises when scrolling through a long list, such as many rows of movies.

That is, when scrolling vertically the selection indicator stops moving in the middle of the list view port, and the list moves through the selection indicator. The experience for me feels strongly like the swipe gesture is moving the list in the opposite direction to the swipe. As a result, I use the regular remote control for navigating screens on Apple TV, one click at a time, and I use an iOS device for entering text when needed. This isn’t really optimal and I’m curious to see how the Apple evolves and improves the experience.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A brief update on Fluxible

Fluxible: A User Experience Event
I mentioned Fluxible a few weeks back. Since then, we’ve been busy rounding up speakers and rounding out the Fluxible team.

Bob and I are thrilled with the speaker roster, and humbled that so many top user experience professionals have agreed to join us at our Fluxible event this year. As I write this, we’ve already announced six of them, and more announcements are coming shortly.

We’re also thrilled and humbled with the volunteers who have come on board to make this thing happen. An adventure of this size is beyond what the two of us could do on our own (despite our experience presenting monthly uxWaterloo meetings). Thanks to everyone for your faith and interest in Fluxible.

You can watch our ongoing progress via our Twitter account @TheFluxible and at the Fluxible site.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cooking with an iPad

Some time ago ago, my friend Linda asked me to share a recipe for cabbage rolls that I had been taught by my mum.

I decided that I’d try documenting the recipe using Pages on my iPad. I had previously created a few simple documents in Pages, and wanted to explore it some more.

I first confirmed the details for the recipe with my mum, making a few notes during a phone call with her. Next, I documented her secret recipe in Pages on iPad, discovering in the process that Pages includes some easy-to-use and reasonable-looking templates. The recipe was easy to create, and because the template included a photo, I added one that I had taken the during and earlier cooking session when I had made the recipe with my mum and son. The result was quite pleasing, and had taken only a few minutes to create.

I next decided to try the documented recipe before sending it to my friend. My son and I made a batch of cabbage rolls one weekend, and this is where the story took a fun turn. While cooking we did a video call with my mum on the iPad. The surprisingly engaging part was using the rear-facing camera on the iPad to document the creation of the meal live for my mum during the call. The mobility of the iPad made it easy to show our progress, with my son and I periodically swapping roles as cook and videographer. The immediacy of the experience made it feel like the three of us were working on the meal together.

I sent a PDF of the proven recipe to Linda, who later reported that she successfully made and enjoyed a batch of cabbage rolls.

Nothing novel here, but I was still struck by how easy, empowering, and downright fun the whole process was, and by what an amazing product the iPad is.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I’ve let my blog slide more than usual lately, in part due to being busy on a number of fronts. Here’s a bit of an update that also serves as an explanation!

There’s always plenty to do in my regular work at Karos Health, including a February trip to Las Vegas for the annual HIMSS conference. It was the company’s first trip as an exhibitor to that particular conference, and with our successful visit we’re already committed to going again next year.

February also saw the eighth Ignite Waterloo event at the terrific Waterloo Region Museum. I’ve been an Ignite Waterloo organizer since the very beginning, and it was great to see that people continue to enjoy our events. The next one will be even more special, as we have some very cool plans in the making for our ninth event.

uxWaterloo remains on ongoing pursuit for me, and our monthly meetings are a wonderful way to spend my time. Organizing them with Bob Barlow-Busch is a real treat, and the support that we get from our community of attendees is gratifying. Our February event was essentially a socializing one, where the discussion centred on conference experiences. Our March event was a trip to Felt lab to see the projects that REAP student teams have been working on. It sounds like everyone found the meeting productive and fun.

Speaking of REAP, I’ve been involved there from the beginning as well, acting as a sort of design mentor to the student teams. It’s an easy thing to do, as the student teams really do all the work. I just ask them questions about what they are up to and answer their occasional questions. Connecting REAP with uxWaterloo was a happy opportunity that just seemed inevitable.

A newer initiative is Fluxible, a design event that Bob Barlow-Busch and I are planning for September 2012. We’ve got some interesting speakers and great venues lined up, and we hope to announce more news soon.

Finally, I’ve been busy since January teaching an undergraduate course in presentation design at the University of Waterloo. It’s a joint offering under both Digital Arts Communication and Speech Communication, and the course is another rewarding experience for me. We’re nearing the end of the term, and I’m looking forward to the Ignite-style presentations that my students will be delivering in class. Maybe one of them will apply to Ignite Waterloo and deliver a presentation there.

Sometime way back in January I also managed to make it out to DemoCampGuelph and StartupCampWaterloo, both of which are always enlightening and entertaining.

As I said, I’ve been busy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fluxible is coming to Waterloo

It’s a bit of a soft launch, but yesterday my friend Bob Barlow-Busch and I announced something that we’re planning for September 2012. It’s user experience event called Fluxible, and we’re pretty excited about it. As long-time organizers of uxWaterloo, Bob and I know that there’s a lot of great UX-related activity in our community and we want to introduce Waterloo Region to the rest of the UX world. We also want to bring some of the UX world here. As we put it on the currently-simple launch site:
Coming September 2012 to Waterloo Region: 2 fantastic days with some of the world’s top UX pros. Hone your skills at this fun and social event! Fluxible’s format mixes hands-on workshops with informative presentations, tours of leading global businesses, and plenty of chances to make new friends over great food and drinks.
We’re still working on details, of course, but we hope to reveal more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, sign up to receive email updates about the event as we announce them, and follow Fluxible on Twitter. And, if you’re comfortable doing so, please share the news about Fluxible with anyone that you think might be interested.