Yesterday, I attended the second Kalamazoo X conference. This year's event featured a great list of speakers, presenting many thought-provoking topics. Ideas came at me so fast, it was tough to keep up. Here are some highlights of the presentations I saw.
"Treating the community like a pile of crap makes it stronger" by Brian Prince
The title of this talk comes from Brian's experience growing up in rural Maine and shoveling manure in the summer months. Manure works better as a fertilizer if you periodically mix it, moving the bottom to the top. The same can be said for user group leadership.
If you are a community leader, plan for a peaceful transition. Identify others who can take over and groom them to do so. Take some time off from the lead role in order to re-energize before coming back.
"Agile+UX: The Great Convergence of User Centered Design and Iterative Development" by John Hwang
John is a web designer and his company is applying agile methodologies to its project. He discussed the challenges of using Agile to manage User Centered Design (UCD) AND User Experience (UX). The big challenge is that Agile is geared toward making developers more efficient, yet designers are a key part of any web development project. John avoids responding to amy Request for Proposal (RFP) because an RFP forceS you to estimate many tasks that you don't yet know and that are almost certain to change. He emphasized that development and design should be done in parallel and that the feedback loops and iterations of agile should apply to both. Developers and designers should work cooperatively, rather than in conflict.
"How to Work Effectively with a Designer/ How to Work Effectively with a Developer" by Jeff McWherter and Amelia Marschall
Jeff is a developer and Amelia is a designer and the two recently went into business together. They have worked together in the past and they related some of the challenges and lessons learned from their previous collaborations.
"Communication is the key" was a message they reiterated several times during this talk: Ensure that your partner knows what you are doing; verify that it is consistent with what they are doing and that the technology supports it. Developers and designers should strive to learn about the tools and skills of the others. It will help them figure out what they can accomplish.
Mock-ups are a key means for designers to convey information. Jeff said that he often writes business rules in the margins of Amelia's mock-up drawings.
"Does Your Code Tell a Story?" by Alan Stevens
Alan told us we should not bury the lead, so I will tell you his main point now: Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity.
Alan took the advice of successful novelists and applied their principles to the art of writing code. "The code in our industry is crap", he asserted; then he explained how to make it better: Take chances; write shitty code in your first draft; refactor it several times; and make it clear, simple and obvious before releasing it.
"Unwritten Rules of Resumes" by Jeff Blankenburg
Jeff's major point was that your resume should stand out and distinguish you from other candidates. He advised ncluding a strong first paragraph in a personal letter, accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped return post card with your resume. This will help to establish you in the minds of the hiring personnel. Establish a strong professional network and avoid the temptation to burn bridges when you leave a company.
"Have you hugged your brand today?" by Clovis Bordeaux
Per Clovis, building a brand begins with a mission statement. A critical part of building your brand is getting every employee involved and on the same page, regarding the message you are sending about your company.