globalful

what we am are

the terrible and horrible realisation that you don’t know what somebody is talking about when you think that you probably should

it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

 

but it’s true, if that person is saying it, then omg omg omg you probably really should know it so you can at least acknowledge it and talk about it and update your slides to reference it and then explain how you’ve always been doing it but actually when you were doing it before people had a name for it it was just something you did as part of what everybody now calls holistic interaction experiential lean mapping or something omg omg omg I don’t even believe anything I say any more I’m a terrible imposter and I’m going to be found out why do I bother clearly I should just go back to compulsively rearranging the bookshelf in my bedroom I hate myself and want to die in a professionally self destructive kind of way.

 

but it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

 

but it’s true, if everybody you follow on twitter is making reference to it, then omg it’s even worse and now they’re all actually making it more obscure by making oblique references to some historical precedence which is clearly the foundation for the thing this person is talking about but omg omg since this is like THE CORE PRINCIPLE AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT THEN WHAT HOPE IS THERE FOR ME and this person over here is already saying that the thing is already not a thing anymore and I was going to say something funny about the thing sounding a bit like a fruit or something but now I might as well just not say anything because I have no idea what I’m doing in this industry and everybody knows it and dammit it does sound like a fruit why can’t I just say that omg hang on the person who said it in the first place has now said what they meant was something a bit different to what everybody is saying and they’re all wrong and there’s a bit of an argument going on I wish I could say the fruit thing why don’t I know what’s going on.

 

but it’s alright. you probably don’t need to know.

 

but it’s true, if you’re sat in the half-darkness of a meetup in the basement of the faculty of brain hurt sciences or the half-brightness of a design agency eyebrow in a soho loft listening to that person you’ve always wanted to listen to and then they casually throw out reference to the thing and everybody in the room laughs and you don’t know why so you laugh along but you’re thinking to yourself omg I only just managed to get to grips with ironic self-referential unicorn bon-mots what is this that I’m now supposed to knowingly acknowledge without actually anybody actually ever telling me to my satisfaction WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS AND INCIDENTALLY I’M BEGINNING TO GET AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOESN’T ACTUALLY KNOW RAGE ACTUALLY then, surely, I’m not the only person who doesn’t get it.

 

it’s alright. you’re not. imposter syndrome hits everyone. it’s always been there. except now it’s accelerated and amplified by the immediacy of the broadcast and disseminate model of social sharing. the discoverability of knowing what you apparently don’t know is optimised to a point that it almost happens in negative time. it’s over before it emerges. you’re already too late. you missed the fruit joke.

 

but it’s alright. I’m so far behind I’m actually way ahead. at least, that’s how I deal with it.

 

Untapped

My first speaking gig was at the IA summit. I mean, I didn’t piss about, I went for it. In the end, it was actually a good place to do your first proper public speaking event, because those IA summit folks really know how to look after first timers. But it was rather a deep-end approach to learning the public speaking thing and a pretty expensive and nerve-wracking one too.

Tonight I’ve spent a most agreeable few hours in the company of some other people having their first go at standing up in front of a room full of their peers, talking out loud, and wondering if the words that are coming out are actually being heard by the people in front of them or they are just being thrown into the air and intercepted by some cognitive unbalance field that catches them, turns them into unintelligible arse and thrusts them backwards into the ears of blank-faced gibbons who are suspended in some alternate time universe where the only facial expressions available are wholly blank or mildly indifferent and the occasional metaphor for insignificance in the face of the impenetrable vastness of the vacuum of space gently drift before your eyes like the last dying leaf of the relevance tree as it flutters downwards amidst the eternity of the silent, slow, nod of the donkey of empathy. Maybe that’s just me.

The untapped event, organised with some impressive vigour by Sophie Freiermuth and Richard Wand at Possible, in London, was an admirable showcase for unheard UX voices from within the community. You know, those people you actually work with who say interesting things, have interesting views, and can have a conversation like real adults do, but don’t seem to have a good place to share that with a wider audience of their peers. Or, if you like, it’s a chance to hear from people you’ve never heard of speaking about things that you’ve often thought of. Or, if you like, it’s just not Jason Mesut again. Honestly, that’s not a dig at Jason Mesut, but he would acknowledge, I’m sure, that he is become one of the UX circuit in the UK, and there is room for others. I might say that say of myself. I dunno. WHATEVER. I’m stuck on a train right now waiting for the fire brigade and national rail to assess a chemical spill just outside Hatfield Peveril, north of Chelmsford and my train hasn’t moved for 30 minutes and I won’t be home until at least 2:30 am and I’m suddenly getting a bit stabby.

Notwithstanding that, the reason for my involvement with the event, and, indeed, Jason’s, was that I had volunteered to help out as a mentor for one of the new speakers. I thought that maybe what I’ve learned from my short tenure as ‘most famous speaker from Norwich who occasionally stays on-topic about UX but generally arses about with long words to try and look clever and simply resorts to cheap jokes to see if the audience are still awake’ might be useful to others in some shape or form, and so I was very lucky to included as part of the mentoring team. For each speaker, a mentor. A one-to-one relationship. A chance to pass on some of the things I’d learned over the years to someone who might even find it useful.

And it all turned out lovely. Alex Ng, who is currently working with me at Flow, was to benefit from my exacting principles about literal, metaphorical and unintelligible jokes, slide subversion, easter eggs, audience poking and general narrative intensity. We spent some nice times together, and it was all a bit like that bit in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they ride around on bicycles, laughing in the sunshine to a sensory backdrop of instagrammed Jimmy Webb and teal. At least, he took my point about full-bleed images. And proceeded to smash it out of the park when it came to it. To be fair, all the speakers, including another colleague of mine, Matt Radbourne, did an excellent job for a first speaking gig, but, you know, I only cried into my free white wine following Alex’s 20 minutes, because, like , THAT’S MY BOY! (he’s 33 you know. Yes, that’s what I said.)

Untapped was a hugely enjoyable event. It encouraged those with an idea to come forward and add to it a voice. That voice was their own. New, unheard, untapped. I played a very small part in contributing to the success of the evening. Sophie and Richard incepted, inspired and, um, envisioned, or something, the evening. If I had hats, I would take them off to them, suffice to say, I think I love them. Looking forward to looking forward to the next time.

Why I submit

A couple of years ago I’d not spoken out loud to a room of professionals that I didn’t actually work with notwithstanding the fact that I have worked some places where there was about 75,000 people on a WebEx patiently waiting for you to load up those slides about the global web platform that your boss said was going to completely change the business but which you seem to have mislaid or simply written over with an amusing powerpoint checklist for what colleagues should do when they’re stuck in the corridor between the buildings on campus when security have gone home and your only recourse is the fire alarm.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve been throwing stuff up all over whatever UX calls for submissions are available just to try and get my face in front of a room of professionals and talk about thinking time in experience design or designing mobile wallets or my face or my bike or how to design for a room full of stakeholders keenly anticipating a shift in their business model based on a globalisation proposal you’ve just lost.

Some of what I throw up sticks, some doesn’t. Well, a lot doesn’t actually, but when it does it’s pretty exciting. And then I just have to say stuff and be interesting and actionable and have a joke or two and preferably a drink or two as well and if somebody comes up to me afterwards and tells me they liked it and it was interesting and that actually it was really relevant to what they are doing and could we talk some more about it, then that is what it’s all about. And that’s why I do it.

I’ve been around a while and I’ve done some interesting stuff and maybe if you’ve made the effort to come and see what I’m talking about and I’ve made the effort to come and talk to you then we’ve already got something in common and it could be the start of a beautiful relationship where we can think about changing the world through design one conversation at a time. Or you’ll think I’m a bit of an arse. Either way, I’m not going to pretend to you that I’ve redefined user experience or discovered how to bend the UX time continuum with my new method or practice[tm]. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m talking about half the time. If you’ve seen me facilitate a workshop, you’ll know what I mean. But I do at least know what I’ve done and I can tell you about that. You might have done it too. You might not have. But while I’m up here and I’m telling you about it through the haze of a slide transition and a stumbling near-dad-dance in front of a projector disco light, if I see you curling a smile and nodding your head slightly or even inexplicably writing something down, then, you’re welcome. It was a pleasure.

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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