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  Friday, August 15, 2003

What being user-centered means for UX professional groups.... Tog's initial branding argument for Interaction Architects has touched off a lot of discussion (even a mailing list dedicated to defining the damn thing). So far, it's generated a lot of heat and little light. However, three more formal responses have been interesting:

  • Lou Rosenfeld discusses how defining the damn thing is a waste of time. (Not) Defining the damn thing - Discussions of how we should label ourselves and define our work are like flu epidemics. They break out from time to time, follow a fairly predictable course, and often make us want to barf. [Boxes and Arrows] Update: Lou dropped a note to let us know that he wrote this article before Tog's article was posted. Still very applicable.
  • Mark Hurst thinks that usability professionals should disappear...that a good UX professional is invisible like a good interface - we just facilitate things. While the point that the whole defining the damn thing discussion is narcissistic and not user centered at all, the notion of a disappearing act seems naive - unseen functions become re-engineered functions.
  • Finally, and most interesting, is Beth Mazur's notion that the key need is not a new dedicated specialist organization (as Tog is proposing), but an umbrella organization to evangelize user experience with executives, analysts, government, and media. Her nominee: spin off AIGA-ED from AIGA. I completely agree - the Interaction Architecture Association is all well and good, as is a new Information Design professional group, if some people have their way. But they don't address the real reasons the UX disciplines are seen as tactical. It's not a branding problem. It's an understanding problem...and largely for UX professionals not understanding business, and not speaking to business on its own terms. An umbrella organization can address executives and other decision makers and influencers with language and messages tailored to those audiences, and educate practitioners about how to do the same. That's being user-centered, instead of navel-gazing terminology debates. That's something to get excited about. I hope it happens soon.

[ia/ - information architecture news]

Hooray for Beth, not only for being sensible and cogent, but for being noticed! I'd even vote to include technical communicators, at least those who have moved beyond font-fondling and commodity status, in such an umbrella organization. Not that I'd abandon STC, but rather acknowledge that we have intersecting and overlapping interests, and throwing further ill-defined labels on us can't help. What we need is a vehicle for telling our story to the executives who are deciding to send our jobs overseas. Let's talk their language, and stop arguing about what to call ourselves, before they call us "dispensable."

5:11:14 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Public Wi-Fi in a death spiral. SBC communications, a major U.S. carrier and majority owner of Cingular Wireless, is jumping into the Wi-Fi "we will have 20,000 hot spots" game, along with Cometa Networks, which also promises 20,000 hot spots. SBC calls it FreedomLink. [InfoWorld: Wireless]

He's right, I won't eat at McDonalds just to use their WiFi, or seek out B&N. But if I need to get online and there's nowhere else, I will seek out a business that can provide the service, and I'll patronize them while doing so. As I did in South Lake Tahoe. There were actually three bars/restaurants serving up Surf and Sip service--I merely chose the closest one, and let them know I was patronizing them (chicken strips, fries, and Cokes) precisely because they had the service. What I don't get is why they don't advertise it, unless it's provided specifically for the guests of the associated motel. Whatever.

4:56:35 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

OK, so two years ago California goes through weeks of brownouts and blackouts, caused, it turns out, by collusion and greed from the likes of Enron, and the rest of the country goes, "Oh, gosh, those wacky Californians brought it on themselves. Tough!" Now New York and the Northeast are hit by power failure, and the President hisself comes out saying, "Oh, gosh, we have to upgrade the power grid, we can't have this happening, it's so awful!!"

Go figure.

4:32:00 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

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