Talking social patterns with thriving UX communities in London and Berlin

· Design, Events, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience, Yahoo!

xian in londonA week or so ago I undertook a whirlwind visit to the UK and the Continent, giving two presentations about design patterns and social design, one in London on Tuesday, and another in Berlin on Thursday, each event sponsored by YDN (and the one in Germany co-sponsored by the local IxDA group).

The London event was in a wonderful gallery/cafe venue called Wallacespace filled with a standing-room only crowd. I was pleased to see a couple of friends from the international UX community there and the audience as a whole was wonderful, attentive, and ready with interesting, challenging questions for me when I was done.

Afterward we ate some snacks and drank some beers courtesy of YDN, before heading over to a nearby pub for more beers and conversation. This was my first time back in London in fourteen years and I was impressed by the vibrancy of the web-design community in what may be the “capital” of the Web in Europe.

The next day I headed to Berlin, where a pal picked me up at the airport and helped me get settled in my hotel in Alexanderplatz. It’s actually been 20 years since I was in Berlin! Back then, the Wall had only recently been dismantled and the east was frozen in a sort of time capsule due to economic stagnation. A lot has happened since Berlin reunited and resumed its role as the capital of Germany and arts mecca of Mitteleuropa. In fact, there was a fashion convention going on during my visit, so the airport and hotel were full of people who made me feel, in comparison, more like a geek than a designer.

East Berlin is now full of trendy gentrified neighborhoods. I had lunch at a burrito place (!) called Dolores that’s decorated with maps of the Mission in San Francisco. Clearly the internet-savvy crowd in Berlin feels a kinship with our own community in the Bay Area.

Berlin is also the home of a thriving local Interaction Design Association (IxDA) group, which helped secure the venue for my talk–(Newthinking Store) and helped promote and publicize my talk. I had a chance to meet some longtime virtual acquaintances from the IxD and IA communities in Berlin, such as Jan Jursa, of IATV and the Berlin IA Cocktail Hour.

The Berlin talk was also full, and again I was blessed with a generous and attentive crowd. More great questions. (We did the whole evening in English. Try as I might to speak slowly, I still probably spoke a bit too fast at times but just about all the German I know is noch ein Bier, bitte so it’s just as well.)

One interesting difference between the two groups is that the folks in Berlin asked me more process questions: How was the social design project organized? How did the wiki figure into the writing of the book? What’s an unbook? and so on. The questions in London tended to be more about the efficacy of design patterns in general and the application of social design patterns.

At both sessions, certain attendees had reached out to me in advance over Twitter and proposed questions that they had a chance to ask at the events. In London and again in Berlin I was asked the perennial question about whether the use of design patterns stifles innovation. My traditional answer, “No. Now shut up and do your wireframes!” got a laugh in both settings as well. (My real answer: “Not if they are applied as guidelines and with sensitivity to context.”)

One other curious difference between the two events was that the audience in London had nearly perfect gender balance, whereas the one in Berlin was, by my estimate, about 90% male. I’d like to learn more about what the differences are between the web design and development communities in the two cities that might account for that variance.

I’d like to thank YDN for sponsoring the trip, and O’Reilly Media for providing logistical support (and some copies of the book to give away as rewards for great questions). Interested folks can see my slides on Slideshare:

Several attendees in London took great notes of my talk and published them on their blogs or personal websites, including Jeff Van Campen, Suw Charman-Anderson, Michael Mahemoff, and O’Reilly’s Craig Smith.

Image credit: Jeff Van Campen

via First we take London: The Social Pattern Detective in Europe (Yahoo! Developer Network Blog).

Resisting the baroque temptation and design is harder than it looks, at BayCHI in February

· Design, Events, Games, Social Design, User Experience

This coming February 9 is approximately my one-year anniversary as co-chair of BayCHI’s monthly program and so far I’m enjoying the responsibility a great deal, even with the occasional panic that sets in when each new cycle rolls around.

The BayCHI Program for February features Elaine Wherry from Meebo and Jeff Green from EA. Elaine will discussĀ What Web Application Design Can Learn from the Harpsichord and Jeff will share some painful but revealing experiences crossing over from journalism to game design in Easier Said Than Done: One Critic’s Painful Transition to Interface Design.

As an aficionado of both music and games, I’m really looking forward to the analogies and lessons these two will share. Elaine is one of the founders of Meebo and she and I have had some really interesting conversations about the history and philosophy and pragmatics of digital product design.

Jeff is something of a famous wit, dating from his days writing the back-page humor column for Computer Gaming World (later Games for Windows Magazine), his various podcast escapades, his Greenspeak blog and of course on on the twitters. He has recently transitioned to a new role at EA, as editor-in-chief (and podcaster) for the EA.com website, and he may still be licking his wounds from his “if you’re so smart” encounter with the challenging realities and tradeoffs of interface design on a deadline.

Should be a great evening!

Your users are mental

· Design, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience, Yahoo!

[imageIn writing Designing Social, Erin and I wanted to include as many voices as possible and represent a wide variety of perspectives. We did this by stealing coopting curating many patterns and tropes already unearthed and documented by smart web people over the past decade and we also invited a large roster of brilliant web folk to contribute essays.

Bit by bit we are making sure all the essays are available online, either hosted on their authors’ blogs or personal websites or in some cases included in the project’s wiki.

Recently, my colleague Tom Hughes-Croucher reprinted his essay on your users’ mental models on his blog, and I think it’s worth reading even if you aren’t designing or developing (yet) in a social context. I love his first line: “One of the things I like about computers is their ability to create magic,” and – to me – the nut graf is here:

The Web is probably one of the least benign environments for a user on their computer and yet it is arguably the most successful computing platform. Using the Web there are numerous contextual or circumstantial errors than can occur, however the majority of users have no mental model with which to understand and recover from them.

…but “read the whole thing” as we used to say on the blogterwebs.

(image courtesy of Mary Harrsch)

New iPhone stencils for prototypers

· Design, long story short, Patterns, User Experience, Yahoo!

Interaction designer and prototyper Chris Stone recently volunteered to adapt the iPhone stencils in our OmniGraffle based stencil kit in the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and optimize them for use in Adobe InDesign.

Chris “created a customizable, vector-based iPhone stencil library for InDesign.

To make it he worked from the PDF version of the stencil kit originally made by Lucas Pettinati and built out the InDesign snippets with customizable gradients.

See Chris’s blog post Lightweight Prototyping with InDesign for more on how to use them.

(via YUI blog)

New Presence patterns in the Yahoo! Pattern Library

· Design, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience, Yahoo!

presence-patterns-1

We just published two new social patterns in a new category, called Presence (under People), in the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library. The two patterns are Availability and Updates.

The Design Pattern Library is a collection of guidelines for the design of online interactions that can aid decision-making and guide the work of web developers and designers.

I’ve been studying the concept of “Presence” (often meaning remote presence – telepresences – or digitally mediated partial presence) for about five years now, with an eye toward a possible unbook on the subject some day, and I was able to flesh out a handful of presence patterns for the social patterns project and Yahoo! Press book.

These two patterns emerged from that process and carry within them the work of many Yahoos. The Availability pattern is derived from the work of ex-Yahoo Matte Scheinker and the Messenger team, and the Updates pattern leans heavily on the work of Barry Crane and the Vitality platform team.

It’s not always easy pairing social pattern with useful code examples or resources but with Updates I’m excited that we’re able to offer crosslinks to three relevant Yahoo! APIs (Updates, Meme, and MyBlogLog) and an emerging open Atom extension (Activity Streams).

Likewise, for Availability we’ve got a code link to the Yahoo! Status API.

via Presence, the new social pattern category (Yahoo! Developer Network Blog).

Interview on the Well about Designing Social Interfaces

· Design, Information Architecture, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience

bluelogo144x60This week we’ve begun a two-week-long interview in the Well’s public Inkwell conference. The interview is being led by Jon Lebkowsky my friend and longtime co-host of the Well’s blog conference.

The cool thing about these interviews is that because they take two weeks and are published “live” they can cover a lot of interesting tangents, and so far Jon (along with Well denizens who’ve read the book, such as Brian Dear) has been asking me great, probing questions.

Gail Williams, an online community expert in her own right, has already quoted one of my throwaway lines:

“a filing cabinet has a user interface but a telephone is a social interface”

Even if you aren’t a member of the Well (and why aren’t you?), you can submit questions for the interview via [an email address that I’ll track down and post here pronto].