A few years ago, my friend Rob (who works at Microsoft) pointed me to the work of Scott Berkun. Up until very recently, Berkun was a sort of in-house evangelist for good UI design at Microsoft. He has lots to say about design at his UIWEB.COM site. There are many web sites out there about web and user interface design, but Berkun seems to be particularly good at dishing out practical advice that you can put right to work. Here’s an essay that caught my eye: How to get the most out of conferences. Anything can be designed and optimized, including how to go to a conference. Is this obsessive or helpful? Maybe both… I found it entertaining, at any rate.
I have always enjoyed asking people how they solve problems that nobody teaches you answers to. How do you read the newspaper? Where do you start and how do you know when you’re done? How do you choose which line to wait in at the grocery store? And this conference question is another good one: how do you like to “do” conferences? Do you float and filter-feed like a jellyfish or attack like a shark? Mary Beth, our usability lead at the MathWorks, likes to focus on a big question for each conference. It gives her a way to start conversations and solve a real problem that’s on her mind. For instance: what is your company doing about online vs. paper documentation? As for Berkun, giving a presentation is highest on his list of things worth doing, and watching a paper session is lowest. It may be better to give than to receive, but if everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening then… hello? Are you still there? Hello?