Monday, November 7, 2016

Conversations about Zeitspace

Having launched Zeitspace last week, I’m now very much out in the world having conversations with people — friends old and new, past Boltmade clients, past colleagues, and more. It’s great to see and hear how much interest there is in the new company and how much our story resonates with people.

The last few weeks, before and after launch, have been a reminder of just how much detail work there is to be done at the beginning of a new venture. Happily, it’s detail work with a highly motivating purpose, and there haven’t been any major issues. On the contrary, things have gone smoothly so far, and progress has been swift. The response since our Hallowe’en launch has been gratifying, and has provided some emphatic validation that the idea remains a sound one.

All of which makes the conversations that much more fun. Let me know if you’d like to get together and chat.

This post also appears on the Zeitspace blog. Go check it out and follow the company’s adventures!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Meet my new company, Zeitspace

Starting a new company can be a scary proposition, as it’s never certain that things will work as planned. So given that today is Hallowe’en, the scariest day of the year, what better time to formally announce Zeitspace, a new software product design and development consultancy.

Why start a consultancy? Well, in this case there’s a pretty specific reason: Boltmade, where I worked, was acquired by Shopify earlier this month. I loved the work that we did at Boltmade — it was great to engage with a diverse range of clients on a variety of projects. The design and technical challenges were invigorating, the people were passionate about the projects that they brought us, and there was plenty of learning along the way. It felt to me that, as much as we had achieved and as far as we had come with Boltmade, there remained so much more to do.

As well, Boltmade’s departure leaves a noticeable gap in Waterloo Region’s tech ecosystem. There’s a real need for a company that can reliably deliver design and development services to a range clients. Zeitspace is an opportunity to pick up where Boltmade left off and continue the journey. We’re excited and looking forward to helping our clients create great products. 

There’ll be more details to share in the coming days and weeks and months — about the team, how we work, what we’re looking to accomplish, and much more. In the meantime, drop by and say hello!

This post also appears on the Zeitspace blog under the title Greetings from Zeitspace. Go check it out and follow the company’s adventures!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Facilitating and presenting at events this week

I’ve got a pair of events coming up that promise to be fun.

First up, I’ll be heading to Edmonton this week to facilitate a user story making workshop at the annual gathering of the Canadian Digital Media Network. It’s a workshop that I’ve delivered multiple times in the past, and in this instance I’m delighted to be joined by Bob Barlow-Busch. It should be a great experience, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing a little of Edmonton.

Then on Friday Bob and I will deliver a presentation at Go North 2016 in Toronto. It’s an updated version of a presentation that we delivered in May at Comunitech. There are some impressive names in the list of keynote & fireside speakers and panelists, so it’s pretty cool to be delivering our “tech talk” at the event.

Update: Instead of presenting at Go North, it looks like I’ll be doing some startup mentoring instead. After running five successful editions of Fluxible, I certainly know at this point how challenging it can be to finalize the details of a conference program!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Farewell to Boltmade

Boltmade was an amazing group of people that designed and built amazing software products for amazing companies. That’s a lot of “amazing” — but it’s all true! As of today, though, Boltmade is no more, as the company has been bought by Shopify, the Ottawa-based success story that just keeps on growing and that has an office right here in Waterloo. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved.

I won’t be making the trip down the road to Shopify, and neither will my long-time collaborator and conspirator Bob Barlow-Busch. But I’m busily cooking up my next thing, and am excited to see where it goes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fluxible Workshops may be full, but there are other options

Earlier this week I wrote about the broad range of Fluxible Meetups that start next Monday. It’s an exciting lineup!

I’m particularly happy to have added these events for 2016, since both of our Fluxible Workshops on Friday September 23 sold out weeks ago.  No real surprise there, as Pam Havlicek and Kai Haley are terrific people who will be delivering enlightening and engaging workshop experiences. Pam’s is on How to Design for Happiness, while Kai’s is on Design Sprints., and both will be filled with practical nuggets.

I’m sorry that I won’t be attending them!

For those of you who didn’t get a spot, do check the Fluxible Meetups schedule for other events of interest. And, of course, both Pam and Kai will also be speaking at Fluxible Conference on the weekend, along with a great lineup of other speakers. So that’s another option for indulging in your passion for UX!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fluxible meetups start next week

The last few months have been busy ones of me. There have been a few side projects keeping me busy but that aren’t quite ready for the public eye.

And there is also, of course, Fluxible coming back for the fifth year. For 2016 we expanded our thinking to create a deeper and richer experience, and evolved into Canada’s UX Festival.

All the planning and work will pay off starting one week from today, with the first of our Fluxible Meetups. There’s a full week of these events happening, and it’s an exciting range of topics and formats. Best of all, most of these events are free! You should really check out the entire schedule, but here are some highlights.

On each day Monday through Friday we have a Brown Bag Lunch event at the Communitech Hub. These events cover hiring for UX, product management and UX, longitudinal user research, and a systems design approach to UX. My personal favourite, though, might be my friend David Jensenius talking about art and technology and UX in the arts. I love that diversity! For anyone who works nearby, it’s pretty easy to grab your lunch and walk on over for one of these sessions.

This year we have some fine site visits to Waterloo Region companies that are doing some great product work: D2L, TD, Shopify Plus, and MUSIC will all be opening up there spaces to share the ways that they work and look and some cool products that their teams have created. And all of them are definitely excited about hosting and event and sharing their work with the community.

We’ve partnered up with several organizations in Waterloo Region this year. Hacking Health Waterloo, Girl Geek Dinners Waterloo Region, Design Chats, UX Book Club KW, and Communitech all have their own UX-themed events happening. I’m thrilled that these organizations are on board this year, and love what they’re doing to build community!

Finally, we’ve decided to present a concert this year. Why? Well, music has been an integral part of Fluxible from the very first edition. We’ve featured a stylistically diverse range of performances as a part of each year’s conference. It felt natural to try a concert, just for fun. To that end, we’re presenting Stealth in a concert at the Communitech Hub on Thursday.

And all these events are just one stream of Fluxible 2016!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Check out Fluxible, Canada’s UX Festival

Somewhat belatedly, it seems appropriate to mention here that the Fluxible 2016 program has been announced, and that earlybird tickets are now available. The program for this year has been expanded into a weeklong celebration that we’re positioning as Canada’s UX festival. And what a week we have lined up!

Fluxible Meetups starts the festival on Monday September 19, and features multiple events each day through Friday September 23. We’ll be revealing more events in the coming weeks and months, but we already have a stellar schedule to share. There’s a daily brown bag lunch series happening at the newly expanded Communitech Hub. We’ve lined up on-site events at some of the region’s technology companies: D2L, Clearpath Robotics, TD 55 Technology Centre, and Shopify Plus. And we’re launching a set of dinner events on Friday that will give out-of-towners and locals alike a chance to enjoy conversations about UX with old and new friends over good food and drink.

Fluxible Workshops continues the festival at the Communitech Hub on Friday September 23 with a pair of half-day pre-conference workshops that provide deep dives into timely topics. Pamela Pavliscak will lead a morning workshop on How to Design for Happiness, while Kai Haley leads an afternoon workshop on Design Sprints. Pamela and Kai are both on the Fluxible Conference program as well, and Pamela will be a special guest at UX Book Club KW — they clearly have plenty of knowledge and expertise to share with the Fluxible community.

Fluxible Conference is the main course of our festival meal this year. As many of you will know from our previous announcements, the conference features an amazing group of speakers in a single track program that means you won’t miss a thing. They’ll be enlightening us on a range of UX topics, along with our now-expected presentations on unexpectedly relevant topics from other disciplines. Fluxible Conference opens on Saturday September 24 and runs for two days at the CIGI Auditorium, a new venue for this year. Check it out, and start making your plans to attend.

Register for Fluxible Conference and Fluxible Workshops right now! And join Fluxible Meetups!

This post originally appeared on the Fluxible blog in a slightly different form.

Monday, May 2, 2016

25 short stories about user experience

Photo by Davis Neable
Last Wednesday, Bob Barlow-Busch and I delivered a presentation as a part of the Communitech Breakfast Series. It was titled Insights that lead to great UX, and the focus was on ways in which to use stories to fuel insights.

We structured the presentation in a way that put the focus on stories, with the bulk of the presentation being organized into 25 Short Stories About User Experience. Perhaps unexpectedly, the structure was inspired by a similarly-titled movie about Glenn Gould, as well as John Cage’s story-telling on Indeterminacy, and Oblique Strategies, an influential card deck by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. And, of course, there was the obvious appeal of telling stories about stories — everything goes meta.

The beauty of the structure for us is that it’s quite flexible — stories can be swapped in and out as needed to emphasize different things for different presentation contexts. In fact, there were stories that didn’t make it into last week’s presentation.

It was the first time delivering this presentation, and we were pleased that people who attended appear to have found it a valuable one.

Friday, April 15, 2016

State of the City of Kitchener

I had the honour of attending the City of Kitchener’s annual State of the City event on Wednesday, representing Fluxible along with friend, colleague, and long-time collaborator Bob Barlow-Busch.

The event was held in the magnificent industrial space at 41 Ardelt Place, and featured Mayor Berry Vrbanovic delivering a State of the City address to a large crowd.

Make It Kitchener was the theme, and it was fun to hear the details. There are six opportunities identified in the strategy:

  • Make it Spark
  • Make it Start
  • Make it Grow
  • Make it Urban
  • Make it Vibrant
  • Make it Connect

It’s exciting to see “Support professional development in user experience” identified as one of the ways to get “Make It Spark” to happen. I’m delighted to help drive that through Fluxible!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hiring season at Boltmade

It’s co-op hiring season, and at Boltmade we’re been deeply engaged in finding students at University of Waterloo who can join us for a four-month work term this coming summer. We’ve been a long-time employer of development co-ops, and have more recently been hiring for our UX team. That’s the side of things that has kept me and my colleagues busy.

It’s fascinating to see the wide range of academic disciplines that we’ve seen in the applications for our UX position. There are, as expected, many great applications from within Systems Design Engineering, but also from Software Engineering and Mechatronics. There are Computer Science applications, of course, which isn’t really a surprise, but we’re delighted to see applications representing many departments and programs in the Arts faculty — DACEnglish, Anthropology, Psychology, Fine Arts, and more.

Because of the diversity of sources, it can be a real challenge to evaluate and compare candidates, but as we like to say, that’s a great problem to have. We’re excited about seeing who joins us in May.

Of course, we’re also looking for full-time software developers to join us at Boltmade. Check us out and let us know if you’re interested!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

O'Reilly Design Conference

Last week I attended the inaugural O’Reilly Design conference, along with my Fluxible co-chair Bob Barlow-Busch. As with last fall’s trip to the CanUX conference, I’m always watching to see what works at a particular conference and thinking about how we might apply it to Fluxible. There was a level of logistical sophistication here that reveals O’Reilly’s years of experience running similar conferences and events.

The program touched on user experience, industrial design, and graphic design, with standard mix of keynotes and breakout sessions. Highlights for me included a briskly paced vision of design from Erika Hall, a primer on effective critique from Adam Connor, and a call from Bob Baxley to bring more people into the design profession.

The venue was Fort Mason Centre, with the main program happening in a cool warehouse space on a pier over the bay, and breakout sessions also happening in what appeared to be old army buildings. It worked well for me, even with a long and steep staircase to climb between buildings!

Beyond the program, of course, there were many fine conversations with friends old and new.