Category Archives: Events & Conferences

Events and Conferences featuring UE-related topics

HCII 2007 – July 22-27, Beijing, China

I've just returned from my trip to the HCII 2007 conference in Beijing, China – a huge event with some 2,300 participants, ten sub-conferences ranging from ergonomics in the workplace to augmented cognition, and literally a hundred paper sessions. Three days of tutorials preceded the actual conference and offered beginners and participants with intermediate knowledge lots of first-hand insights into topics such as Social Network Analysis, Fieldwork for Designers, and Task Analysis, all of which I attended (unfortunately, some tutorials, I heard, have been quite disappointing though – which is tough considering the cost and that you cannot switch tutorials if you find it not to meet your expectations).

Paper Session

The paper sessions were … well, some were really good (e.g., User Experience Modeling on Wed, 4 to 6pm), while many more were not quite as good as I had expected (e.g., Meta-Design, Wed, 10:30-12:30am, which was rather disappointing, or Developing On-Line Communities, Fri, 10:30-12:30am). I kept wondering whether the review process had just been too soft or whether I was expecting too much … anyway, I met a number of interesting people and learned about some fascinating research that's going on. Plus, the keynote by Prof. Takeo Kanade was inspiring if a bit convoluted 🙂

In addition, we quite enjoyed syncing up with our colleagues in the Beijing and, later, the Shanghai offices. As people in Asia use products differently, new (different) approaches to product design have to be found. It was good to get a feel for some of these issues.

 HCII 2007

Steve Wozniak: How I invented the Personal Computer … and more

Today, I watched the video of Steve Wozniak, the hardware engineer of the Apple I and II and one of the founders of Apple (Computers) Inc., giving a speech at Google HQ in Mountain View. It was an eye-opening experience – the enthusiasm, fascination, and dedication "Woz" brought across. But see for yourself …

[youtube ctGch5ejjT4] 

BTW: Woz will be in Zürich at this year's Tweakfest – he'll speak on Thursday (May 24).

euroGel 2007 is around the corner ? kind of :-)

I just registered for euroGel 2007 – it's going to take place in beautiful Copenhagen[GP:Copenhagen], in the Black Diamond again, from 6 to 7 September 2007 – and Dec 13 is the last day for an early bird price on the tickets: they are $600; after the 13th, they will be $800 (and after June 13, $1,000). This time I've bought two tickets to share this great experience with my wife as well. I'm very much looking forward to euroGel 2007!

Interaktivni festival IF 2006 ? October 26, Ljubljana, Slovenia

logo_if.gifYesterday I paid my first visit to Slovenia's capital Ljubljana[GP:Ljubljana] to attend the "Interaktivni festival IF 2006" and to give a talk on the AOL Phone Box. Vuk ?osi?, whom I had met at the euroGel 2006, had asked me whether I wanted to deliver the talk and share some insights and information on a successful interaction design project, and I had decided to use the AOL Phone Box as an example. The AOL Phone Box is an ADSL 2+ modem with built-in Voice-over-IP (VoIP) functionality. It's based on a hardware platform from our hardware partner Sphairon; we have done the interaction design for the configuration Web Interface, the CD-based connection assistant and the built-in setup assistant. I'll go into more detail on this nice project in a later post. Vuk had asked me to prepare a 30-minute talk and be open to q&a for another fifteen minutes. I happily obliged, and we had a great session with lots of questions from the audience as to the design methodology, our usability evaluation methods, and metrics we would be using to determine the (economic) success level of the product. I feel grateful and deeply honored to have been invited to give this lecture, and I enjoyed my stay in beautiful Ljubljana with lots of highly motivated Internet professionals.

Mensch und Computer 2006 ? September 3?6, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Gelsenkirchen[GP:Gelsenkirchen], in Germany's far West, hosted this year's "Mensch und Computer" ("Man and Computer") conference, the most important conference for the German-speaking usability community. As usual, A UPA track accompanied the research and science paper sessions. Again (like in 2004 and 2005), the UPA track featured the sessions I found most interesting – there were a presentation of a non-intrusive remote usability method, some important discussion on whether or not usability professionals had to get a certificate, and the founding session of a new workgroup for in-house usability consultants.

Discussing the Certification issue

Of the invited talks, I much preferred the one by Prof. Dr. Matthias Rauterberg, TU Eindhoven. Back in 2000, I interviewed Mr Rauterberg for my thesis on Joy of Use. I must confess it was quite difficult to stick to my prepared set of interview questions – actually, I didn't manage and got a long, very interesting and though-provoking, but not too focused interview out of it. Now, Mr Rauterberg's speach on "Usability in the Future – Explicit and Implicit Effects in Cultural Computing" tackled Eastern and Western design philosophies, C.G. Jung's archetypes, who we thought the 21st century Copernicus could be, and Alice in Wonderland. I guess he left most of the listeners puzzled, but some found harsher words. I myself must say I quite enjoyed it. Overall, the conference didn't present any surprises. The talks, papers, and posters were ok, but not as inspirational or innovative as I had hoped. It might be a good idea to switch from an annual schedule to every second year to give researchers and practitioners more time to prepare better material. But maybe I've just been spoiled by the euroGel conference experience just two days before.

The Fachhochschule Gelsenkirchen (University for Applied Science)

euroGel 2006 – Inspiration and Enthusiasm

Thursday and Friday saw euroGel 2006 in beautiful Copenhagen, Denmark[GP:Copenhagen] – the first Gel (Good Experience Live) conference in Europe. Mark Hurst, creator of the widely successful Gel conference series in New York, wanted to transfer the Gel idea to the Old World as well, and I guess even he was surprised by the number of participants coming from all over the world. There were 185 attendees from 17 countries: 99 from Denmark, 20 from the US, 16 from the UK, ten from Germany and from Norway, eight from Switzerland, six from Sweden, four from France, two from Belgium, Finland, Spain, and the Bahamas, and one each from Luxembourg, Brazil, Iceland, and India!

The sheer number and great diversity of participants with vastly different backgrounds created an atmosphere buzzing with energy and excitement. It was a truly inspirational get together – nearly two hundred people sharing the same idea: something is amiss, our culture and our technology doesn't satisfy the desire for a Good Experience, and we need to start doing something about this. Mark and his team had set up a number of techniques to make it easy for everyone to start connecting at once. Not only had they asked everyone to upload their photo to the conference community website and add some profile information, but they had made the participants contact at least one other person from the list of attendees before the conference and set up an appointment. Moreover, at the very informal conference meet & greet in the great Barbarellah bar[GP:Barbarellah], they handed our glowing bracelets to everyone so that you could see who was a Gel aficionado as well. This, together with the Thursday afternoon seminars organized on short notice, helped tremendously creating some new relationships.

I was happy to finally meet Mark in person (not only technology-facilitated). I attended the Thursday afternoon seminar on "Bringing the Corporate Brand to Life", which not only sported two insightful presentations on branding and changing the awareness of corporate values in big organizations like Novo Nordisk, but also featured a creative session: We were asked to do a visual representation of our corporate / personal / professional brand, which yielded some great insights and will lead to further thoughts.

Friday started with Mark welcoming us to the conference and setting the scene for the talks. He had invited a great variety of speakers from completely different backgrounds: art, architecture, technology, music, writing … people focusing their work on changing the world (or a small part of it, anyway) to create a better, more human(e) experience. A number of themes and motifs emerged in the talks:

  • Winning our towns back for the inhabitants – cars have been at the center of city planners' attention for far too long.
  • Taking into account handicapped persons' needs and contributions – once we grow old, we will all be happy if we are treated respectfully and can perform our everyday tasks effortlessly. And who says handicapped people cannot contribute their creative share?
  • Focusing our actions and goals on a number of basic human values, or Simple Truths, as Reverend Stephen Bauman put it: Human Dignity, Integrity, Mature Love. These values (or variations thereof) kept surfacing in most of the talks, together with Simplicity and Meaning, and Authenticity versus Fake.

I especially enjoyed the talks by Ted Dewan on his Roadwitch project, which focuses on pushing back the cars to make living quarters inhabitable again through rather drastic installations, and Vuk ?osi?, who showed us some hilarious pieces of proof of concept art (e.g., the ASCII version of Deep Throat). Christopher Bauder's presentation (featuring, among other things, the Toneladder made the audience groove along with him (during the breaks, people kept jamming on his ladder), and Alison Young's great voice and angry, sad and happy songs (too few of them!) made everyone shout for more.

[youtube a-dXbijmDRE] 

Han Bennink's intricate jazz drumming ("all that noise") was a pleasure not only to listen to but also to see. Lise Autogena told the story of her unfatiguing efforts and fights with bureaucrats on both sides of the English Channel to create an arts project involving both France and the UK.

[youtube Aku8FOzYlU8]

David McQuillen's talk about how they created awareness for the needs of handicapped people within Credit Suisse helped create hope that organizational and mind change is possible. It takes staying power, though, to achieve mind change – and drastic measures like "Experience Immersion", in this case: spending a whole week in a wheelchair to really understand what it means to be handicapped (and it's not the doors or the toilet that's most problematic, it's the way other people treat you – as though you weren't there at all). Stephen Bauman proved that he's a great preacher; after his address (well, sermon, rather), not only he himself seemed close to tears. Max Gadney (BBC) spoke about the importance of truthfulness and attention to detail in news – and how tempting it can be to be suggestive of having greater insight into some matter than one actually has.

Jimmy Wales related his experiences with the press and that the Wikipedia idea seems so hard to grasp that it's often misrepresented. Steffen Gulman and Jan Gehl talked about re-conquering our cities for people and creating a community spirit to revivify a seemingly hopeless town form a city planner's perspective. (More info on the speakers can be found on the euroGel website.)

The attention to detail by Mark and his team created an incredibly rich and satisfying conference experience. Lots of good ideas – like the conference schedule printed upside down on the participants' badges so that one could refer to it without paging through some booklet – let the participants feel completely at ease and being taken care of (nearly pampered), so that we could focus on the talks and the discussions during the breaks and expanding our networks. Good food, a great venue (the Black Diamond), nice, efficient, and attentive service staff – everything contributed to the best conference experience I've had so far. I guess Mark's idea – make people listed to great talks, make good contacts, have a great time, overall: a Good Experience that will carry over into one's work – works quite nicely. It will be a source of (spiritual, even) inspiration and energy for me for quite some time, and it's good to know we're not alone.

Addendum (Sept 15, 2006): Mark has compiled a page with the reports and pictures from euroGel 2006 attendees. I especially like Eric Reiss's comments and Andrew Ferrier's observations. And, if you've got the time, don't miss the Flickr photos tagged "eurogel2006".

It’s Conference Time! “euroGel 2006” and “Mensch und Computer 2006”

The next week will be quite busy conference-wise: Next Thursday, I will catch a plane from Hamburg to Copenhagen, Danmark, to get to Mark Hurst's euroGel, the first of its kind on European soil. (Mark calls, and everyone is coming!) Mark has managed to get a great number of fascinating speakers onboard the conference, and there are even two seminars on Thursday afternoon. I'm very much looking forward to a supposedly completely different conference experience – and I'm excited to participate in this trial. I'm convinced there will be a sequel, and this will be a huge success (at least one that will help spread the word of Customer Experience). (I better be excited – I'm paying this one myself: ticket, flight, hotel.)

The actual conference only goes to Friday evening, and I'll fly out of Copenhagen late Friday. On Sunday I'll move on to Gelsenkirchen, deep in West Germany's Ruhr area where this year's Mensch und Computer conference will take place. (The Mensch und Computer, Man and Computer, conference is the most important HCI conference for German-speaking HCI practitioners – see my reports for the 2005 M&C and some thoughts inspired by the 2004 M&C. I've attended this conference since 1999.) As during the last years, I'm especially looking forward to the UPA track, which will feature e.g. some topics for in-house usability practitioners. And, of course, it's THE place to come together, update one another and do some important networking.

Looks like it's gonna be a fun week 🙂

Mark Hurst on euroGel: (quasi-)live in Hamburg

This Monday's Hamburg User Experience Roundtable featured a special guest: Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good (NYC-based[GP:CreativeGood]) and initiator of the Good Experience train of thought, visited us through iChat AV and gave a great and inspiring talk on good experiences, the focus of usability work, and the upcoming euroGel 06 conference (Copenhagen, Denmark[GP:Copenhagen], 1 Sept 06). It was great to finally meet him (if virtually) and to hear his enthusiasm and conviction resounding through the conversation. Even if the group here in Hamburg[GP:Tribal] seemed a bit reluctant to show a great amount of ardor (which might have to do with the North-Germany mentality :-)), he really got people hooked on the Good Experience thing. We went for a beer afterwards and people were really excited and started thinking how to make it possible to attend euroGel. I guess out of the group some three or four participants will come to Copenhagen (me, for example – I just bought a ticket ;-)).

Hamburg User Experience Roundtable â?? at least part of the group
Part of the Hamburg User Experience Roundtable

GEL (Good Experience Live) is a conference that's a bit different from other usability conferences. It's not about teaching people usability methods or exchanging the latest research results. Its approach is: make people have a good, rich, inspiring experience, make them enjoy themselves and get them thinking about what it is that is different from other, less inspiring situation, and let them carry over this feeling of richness, of enjoyment, of the good experience into their daily work. GEL has taken place annually in New York since 2003, and euroGel is the first of its kind on European soil. Mark talked a bit about why he didn't have the same "gurus" on the speaker list who appear at about every conference (Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman, Jared Spool): He said he felt it's disrespectful to bring a group of Americans to Europe to have them show the Europeans how to do good design. Furthermore, he went on saying that usability isn't an end in itself – usability is about creating a good experience which means good business. Funny how much in parallel this is to an impression some of us younger usability professionals here in Germany seem to share – that there is one group of die-hard usability people who don't design stuff but only evaluate it, and there is a second group of UX-inspired ones who see usability is just a factor facilitating a and contributing to a plesurable user experience. Personally, I guess (and hope) that in a couple of years time, the profession of "usabilty engineer" will be extinct and be replaced by a "customer experience" pro with a holistic point of view and powerful standing within the companies. But maybe that's just wishful thinking …

Mark Hurst on the video screen - bigger than live. Doesn't that look oddly familiar?
Mark on the big video screen – doesn't this look oddly familiar? 🙂

Mark's closing appeal to all of us was: collect good experiences, let them enthuse and inspire ourselves, spread the word … and make sure our usability work isn't too narrowed down to optimizing task performance 🙂

2006 Euro IA Summit: Call for Papers

Jim Kalbach of LexisNexis asked me to post a call for papers for this year’s Euro IA Summit, taking place Sept 30 to Oct 1 in Berlin, Germany. From the EuroIA webpage:

Europe’s Second Information Architecture Summit
The 2006 Euro IA Summit will take place in Berlin during the last weekend of September (30 September – 1 October).
This year?s theme is ?Building Our Practice?

The following submissions are encouraged:

  • Case Studies – specific examples showing the use of IA in completed projects
  • Presentations – talks that discuss principles and ideas, or provide insightful analogies and though-provoking explorations to open the minds of information architects
  • Panels – differing opinions and discussion on the topics of the day lead by a moderator
  • Posters – illustrating a concept from research or practice

CU in Berlin?

Mensch und Computer 2005 – September 4-7, Linz, Austria

The annual conference “Mensch und Computer” (Man and Computer) is the most important conference for HCI topics in the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). This year’s Mensch und Computer used the tagline “Art and Science – crossing the borders in an interactive way” (“Kunst und Wissenschaft – Grenz?berschreitung der interaktiven ART”). It took place in Linz[GP:Linz] in Upper Austria from 4 to 7 September – quite agreeably in parallel to the Ars Electronica, the most renown festival for contemporary electronic art.

Like its predecessors, the M&C featured a Usability Professionals Association (UPA) track running in parallel to the “scientific” program of the conference. For most participants, this track prove the actual conference program. As for me, I took part exclusively in offerings from the UPA track (except for the invited lectures). Due to my professional move this year, totally new and different subjects were of interest to me: I’ve moved away from the technology-driven SAP[GP:SAP] with its Enterprise Software and its rather special structures to AOL[GP:AOLDE] with its more marketing-driven processes and the consumer software. Subjects such as Knowledge Management or End-User Development lost importance while reports of how to implement user-centered design processes in companies became more important, the question of how to separate work between market research and usability and similar issues. I personally found it interesting to see how much more I took part in discussions this time (compared to the last conferences). Looks like the strengthened illusion of self-efficacy plays a certain role here – the new job seems to have brough this about. The impact of the two strong brands, SAP and AOL, was interesting to see as well: Fascinating how this can influence comments and their reception.

I enjoyed talking with colleagues outside the sessions a lot. I was very happy to meet my SAP ex-colleagues again (Bettina Laugwitz, Udo Arend & Co.), but of course Svenja No? as well. As always, a very fruitful exchange took place between the two of us. And of course there was the usual crowd you meet at the conference every year: Matthias M?ller-Prove, Ralph Hinderberger, Marc Hassenzahl, Matthias Peissner, Franz Koller etc. And there are new people who should be mentioned as well: Henning Brau’s girlfriend Christine Ullmann and Svenja No?’s friend Michele Gauler.

The Ars with its extraordinary exhibits was a sight to see and discover as well. Of course not all of it is accessible to me, and lots I found rather strange, but the atmosphere, the participants’ enthusiasm was fascinating. Truly remarkable works of arts could be seen, e.g. Toshio Iwai’s Tenori-On, a new class of musical instrument belonging to a family of similarly alternative devices. Just as much I was happy to see great numbers of devices with images of a certain fruit on their clamshells. 🙂