“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

A real UX Conference

I had an opportunity to convert a purely virtual relationship into a real one last night, when Julie Stanford of Slided Bread Design, and I got together for dinner. She was visiting from the left coast (in the US that means the Pacific Coast) and she asked if I was interested in getting together.

It was a great meal, filled with banter about design and what not. Then I turned to topic of discussion towards conferences and what would it take to create an IxD conference. Julie’s reply was interesting and I think worth bringing out into the world. As UX practitioners how many of us ONLY do IxD? or for that matter usability, or IA, or CHI? Julie basically said that none of the current organizational conferences speak to her needs as a complete digital designer.

She then explained that is why she likes DUX (Designing User Experiences). I then explained that for me that is a great get-to-gether, but is not a conference like the others. Ya see, I love DUX (even presented), but it is not really a learning experience. It is a social and inspiration experience. It is also an opportunity to explore cases. I don’t think conferences should be limited to case-review. There need to be other types of presentation and there needs to be more than just listening (too many other conferences are just about listening).

What would a real UX or digital design conference look like? How do you have a conference that expresses the needs of practitioners who specialize, while still giving opportunities for generalists to learn about specializations and for specialists to learn about the other 20-40% of digital design outside their specialization?

My idea is to create a conference on UX. Maybe it is juxtaposted to DUX, or DUX is redefined to be more than just a case-study review. The idea is to have a multi-faceted digital design conference. To start each of the current pieces of UX can have its own 2-3day focused conference just on that piece. Specialists and people looking to broaden can choose a conference to go to, or maybe there is a way to move between them for the true generalist. Then there could be the DUX-like event, where practitioners and researches are listen to case-studies. This shouldn’t be more than 2 days. Then there should be session series meant as bridge crossing sessions, where general ideas in UX are presented, or ideas of specialization are presented in the more practical context of a more complete whole. Lastly, there should be a leadership summit. The leaders of the various organizations should get together and talk about how to build a truly unified UX community, that still respects the differentiation and contribution of the specific areas of work.

Anyway, a single conference every 2 years like this one will give room for the current organizations to better focus their own conferences on their specialization, instead of branching into areas that their members have interest in, but didn’t really sign-up for.

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