globalful

what we am are

send your children to conferences

here is a revelation for anyone who has never been to a conference that’s relevant to their profession: it’s a great way to validate that you actually know what you’re talking about. I mean, honestly, we mostly operate within the duck quack void of self-appreciation and we’re only really interrogated and challenged when we’re required to present, with authority, our opinion on what our interpretation of ‘good’ is in the narrow context of our own practice. but spending a day or two listening to people just like you, presenting their own ideas, propositions and theories, is a day or two where you quickly come to the realisation that you’re not, in fact, the imposter you thought you might be. you’re actually reasonably good. fuck it. you’re very good.

a colleague of mine is out in san francisco this week, at a conference where there are some very clever, very smart people talking about design practice. I say they’re very clever and very smart, but really, I’ve no idea. at least I’ve heard of them. they’ve mostly written a book about something or other that’s relevant. but, you know, I’ve never worked with them, so I can’t personally say whether they’re any good at what they do. but they tell a good story. and that’s what we’ve got to go on. and this colleague reflected on her first day at the conference with a telling phrase: I am getting the feeling we actually are doing stuff so right! and she means that as a company and as the individuals that make that company what it is. and I’m not surprised. because that’s the feeling I get when I attend similar events.

when you find yourself in a safe environment, and there’s not much safer than conferences, especially those with a significant proportion of first-time speakers, then that’s when you give yourself permission to evaluate your own position. my first speaking engagement was at the IA summit. I’d never done any public speaking before, least of all about my own practice. but that environment was as perfect a place as any to evaluate, compare, contrast and make your own conclusions about how you’re placed on the weird global/parochial peer spectrum. and really, it’s not a question of relativity. it’s much more about reassurance and a sense of acknowledgement.

which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that there is much to be gained from attending a conference of like-minded individuals to understand your own position within that community. I advocate conference attendance as a learning experience. bluntly put, I recommend conference attendance as the place where training budget is invested, because I believe that proactive conference attendance adds value as a career development opportunity by a factor of at least ten over traditional training or courseware. it’s definitely where I spend all my training budget. and if that runs out, especially where the IA summit is concerned, I’ll pay for it myself. it’s a no-brainer.

listening post: xtc – towers of london

the glorious IA summit

it feels like it’s been a lifetime since I returned from Baltimore after the glorious IA summit at the beginning of April. it’s the event that leaves you feeling like that when its over, like the end of a long hot summer where you gambolled through the shimmering and abundant fields of learning, dancing like a teenager with your new best friends dipping your toes in the stream of enlightenment and talking like you don’t know the words for the things you have to say, watching the proud and beautiful stags of truth barking atop the mountain as if to say THERE IS NO TRUTH, JUST THE ONTOLOGY OF TRUTHS, COME HEAR ME, FOR I AM THE STAG OF BEAUTY AND I SPEAK OF THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO MAKE AND BY THE WAY SINCE I’M A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF ALL YOUR ENDEAVOURS I REALLY AM THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN THE COGNITIVE AND SPATIAL DEFINITION OF CONTEXT THAT DEFINES IT ALL. HURRAH!

or something like that. to be clear, there is a reason I allocate 100% of my available budget to attend this one event each year. it’s because I get a year’s worth of worth from it. I mean, I go to quite a few smaller events throughout the year and meet splendid and lovely people and see inspiring and challenging speakers and learn so much about things that are totally relevant to me. but the IA summit is quite different. without wishing to get weirdly evangelical and creepy about it (and not the dan willis kind of creepy), I believe it’s an event that changes lives. overstating it? maybe. but I know that attending for the last few years has changed me for the better. and I’ve spoken to many people who have attended, often for the first time, who are so touched and moved and surprised and enlivened by their attendance that they can’t quite express what it is that it’s done to them. I’m not about to qualify what ‘better’ means, because that’s not the point. I don’t do definitions. but what better means to me is what counts. the change for the better is what I recognise in myself and how I attribute that change to my attendance at the IA summit is up to me. nobody can alter that.

in the grand scheme of things, with so much going in the world, and so many demands and so little time and so much to do and so much to say and so many responsibilities and so on and so on it is perhaps easy to say fuck’s sake it’s only a conference for people who get weirdly obsessed about the structure of things and why are you getting so worked up about it there’s more important things to worry about but whatever. let me bark this at you. THIS EVENT IS AN OASIS OF AWESOME. IT CHANGES LIVES. I AM THE STAG OF TRUTH SO HEAR ME ROAR.

thank you to the beautiful people, old and new, that make the change happen. I love you. if anyone would like to tell me to calm down, don’t bother.

I’m bored of this UX event

If this is you, get out of the way. I’m off to the IA Summitnext week and it’s the highlight of my year. Honestly. If you want to bring your event-weary commentary along with you and bemoan the fact that it wasn’t like it was 10 years ago then if you don’t mind having that conversation with yourself that would be lovely. I don’t know if I mentioned, but it’s the highlight of my year. Some people never get to go to events at all.
Really, I’ve nothing wrong with some kind of constructive criticism of events and conferences, and that has appropriate channels, to make sure it gets back to the organisers. You know, the event organisers. That small army of people who took upon themselves 11 months ago to make the event in 11 months the most awesome event in eleven month’s time it can possibly be notwithstanding the fact that actually no we’re not getting paid to put this thing together and we possibly didn’t realise 11 months ago what a monumental task we agreed to be a part of and now it’s upon us we could literally weep with the joy and relief of letting loose the staggering waif of the fawny event calf as it teeters into the forest of discovery like some conference Bambi, slipping and sliding on the ice of enlightenment, growing, living, flourishing and maturing into that majestic stag of experience, standing proudly atop mount adversity, barking, or whatever stags do, I AM THE EVENT STAG, HEAR ME BARK, OR WHATEVER IT IS I DO. What you probably don’t want to hear at that point is “Yeah, that event stag isn’t as good as last year’s event stag. It’s a bit shit. I’m going #sightseeing. Who’s in?”.
If you really are having a bad experience at your event, conference, meetup, bootcamp, jam, summit, unevent, unconference, unmeetup, unbootcamp, unjam, unsummit, (unjam is a word? Who knew?), then I’m sorry about that. Not all events are as advertised. Not all events run smoothly. Not all events meet expectations. But it might be just you. Well, maybe you and a couple of others. Alright, maybe it’s really bad. But if you’re quietly snarking at the back, that’s fine, I can deal with that. I mean, it’s annoying and once I’ve noticed you doing that I can’t unnotice you doing that and you’ve already planted a seed of distraction that will grow like a triffid in my subconscious, like some venomous metaphor for something really distracting and vegetative. However, in a parallel universe-made-the-opposite-of-parallel, it’s now pretty much alright to do that snarking out loud. And when I say out loud, I obviously don’t actually mean out loud. I mean on the #backchannel, which isn’t a backchannel at all, but a Norwegian bridge that small children skip lightly across to get from #whatisthis?land to #Ilovethis!land with faces that radiate with pure delight, but being a Norwegian bridge, thereunder treads a recalcitrant troll, lobbing poo bags at minors squawking BLAH BLAH BLAH I’M BETTER THAN THIS. Even worse, some trolls have got so good at lobbing their poo bags of derision that they can make them stick when they’re not even at the event.
You take the joy out of it. Stop it. 

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