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).
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.