Where to find Mike, March-ish edition

Did you catch my CHIFOO talk last week? Packed house, enrapt audience, 100 full-colour, annotated comics pages to enlighten and entertain. I’m told I was on fire, and I’m thinking hard on whether and where to re deliver this gem (I’ve already accepted one invitation). Let me know if you’d be interested.

Great Storytelling UX in Modern Comics
Slightly altered photo  of me at the event

Th. March 13th: PDX Web & Design “Unconference” – I’m gonna see if they take the bait on my three-minute “tell me my tool chain sucks and how yours is better” interactive discussion. Best way to goad them into teaching me something. [Update: it worked like a charm. I learned a ton in five minutes and loved the generosity of the audience.]

Tu. March 25th: IxDA PDX “Interaction Design Conference Redux” – will I feel as awkward at this group as ever? Only time will tell.

Th. March 27th: PDMA “UX – What’s the Big Deal?” (Don’t ask me where to find this event – apparently I’ve fallen into a secret society, what with both their chapter page and the LinkedIn group locked behind members-only walls. I’ll gladly teach you the friggin handshake for a beer.)

Sa. Mar 29th: BarCamp Portland – maybe I’ll be there and maybe you will too, if they pull off the radically hacked plan and haven’t all committed suicide.

Batman says

Brain-wringing meetups and my upcoming CHIFOO talk on UX of Comics

I’m getting rather excited about my upcoming talk at CHIFOO on Great Storytelling UX in Modern Comic Books.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be finalizing the content and doing a few dry runs to smooth out the kinks and ensure I’m connecting with the audience at each page that I show during the presentation.  If you have the time and interest in seeing where this is headed, or helping out a guy make sure he’s making best use of the audience’s time, gimme a jangle.


I’ve been out to a few meetups already this year (JavaScript Admirers, CHIFOO, STC) and helped out my poor dog who had a severe glaucoma attack and had to have an eye removed.  She’s bounced back amazingly and doesn’t seem to know that she’s not supposed to be missing an eye, which is a helluva lesson in staying present and adapting to change in this world. (Who knew my dog was a Buddhist?)


Where will you find me in the next couple of weeks?

Further out I’m planning on BarCamp Portland 8 and ProductCamp Portland 2014.  Should be a brain-wringer.

TED Talks: performance art, not mere compressed learning

A perfect example of what I mean – Shane Koyczan: "To This Day" … for the bullied and beautiful:

And another that still resonates with me, long after the fact – Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight:

I’ve recently encountered the predictable yet still surprising backlash against TED Talks – backlash in the form of long rants by people I respect, but whose resistance and cynicism I can’t fully understand. Since I’m usually at the forefront of cynical distancing from something so popular, this exacerbated my naive shock and dismay.

I’m a convert to the TED phenomenon, and wonder every day when I still haven’t gotten around to watching more of them – because every time I do sit down for one, it makes me feel more a part of a global, expansive human experience, and gives a booster shot to my hope that there’s far more to life than drudgery, suffering and isolation.

[In response to complaints that TED Talks are simplistic, reductionist, and a one-way "conversation" to an incredibly privileged audience] I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many talks, and genuinely affected by a few. Privilege and reductionism aside, they’re still 20 minutes more I spend learning about a subject or having my perspective widened than I’d otherwise spend.

Further, I find a deep pool of irony in complaining about about TED’s short attention on Facebook.

[In response to concerns that a one-way compressed monologue doesn’t suit some people’s learning styles, and that the one-way nature and a subtle "attitude" embedded in it creeps some people out] I can easily accept that it isn’t suitable to how your brain learns – I know how much of a learning failure I am through books, and how well I assimilate and integrate new ideas through the Meetup approach. Which tells me that for me, Meetups or other forums where we get to have lectures where questions are welcome, plus loosely related discussions around it, are my ideal learning model.

Close second is the unconference like Agile Open Northwest – where we get to hear lots of 0-day thoughts shared by people who want a very barrier-free, interactive discussion on subjects that are just-proposed-today and are low risk (since they’re selected through vote-with-your-feet) so high-value subjects abound for nearly everyone. No "selection" (aka pre-screening) committees so no groupthink filters.

But still none of this invalidates the 20-minute, polished-and-scrubbed summary of decades worth of work or life. If you can’t convey one good idea in 20 minutes, I sure ain’t giving you an hour or a book’s worth of attention. Must be why reading long-form books or journal articles seems so excruciating to me now – instead of one thesis, it seems to grant license to jam in several loosely related thoughts.

Maybe it’s the talks I’ve seen and remember – speakers from whom I detect a subtle nervousness, a little extra humanity – not the supra-polished talks that look like they’ve been given a million times and couldn’t provide less of a connection to their audience if they were delivered from within a gameshow soundproof booth.

a little humanity from the king

Delight 2012 conference

“Technology is nothing without humanity.” Not only are Mount Hood using technology to make the rental process less painful and gruelling for customers.

But they’re also using RFID as a means of not only getting traffic patterns and telemetry on missing skiers, but enable every customer to visualise their usage across the entire season’s visits.

Not least, every time the speaker ran into PowerPoint trouble during the presentation, he’d repeat the mantra to great amusement.

There were a number of presentations by iSite Design’s favourite customers, some of which were informative and insightful (Ruby Receptionists, Nordstrom Labs), but not all. In a few cases I had the visceral reaction of wondering if the session was designed for my benefit or the speaker’s.

I think the greatest lesson I learned that day was hearing how many organisations in Portland are finding their best ways to make their customers’ experience with them as pleasant and friction-free as possible.

The most interesting takeaway? Nordstrom Labs has a metric they keep prominently displayed in their workspace: Number Of Days Since We Left The Lab. The day after every customer visit, the clock starts counting. I’d like to start tracking my own personal “number of days since I spoke to a customer” metric. As of today, that metric stands at five.