Sunday, March 20, 2005

Perturbing the ecosystem via intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration

Last month, a group of 40 people comprised largely of "usability practitioners" and open source developers assembled in San Francisco for a "Usability Sprint." For 3 intense days, participants worked in small teams to improve the usability of 6 software development projects. But the larger goal of the sprint, and the reason it was a sprint, was to "perturb the ecosystem" -- to "make the community smarter, not just the individuals" -- to dramatically change open source developers' understanding of usability and the common belief that open source and usability don't mix well, and to create a hunger and an opportunity for more to happen along the same and similar lines in the future. And according to the participants who described the 3-day sprint on the March 8 BayCHI program, all of these goals were met.

In my work at Yahoo! and at Viant, having business, engineering, and user experience (UX) personnel collaborate in rapid ethnographic research and its analysis/synthesis resulted in UX personnel becoming partners in the development of business and product strategy, which was a major change to the ecosystem. This created a hunger and opportunity for more to happen along the same and similar lines elsewhere in both companies.

Also in my work at Yahoo!, having designers, design researchers, users, and sometimes other members of the product team collaborate via intensive, rapid, iterative design and evaluation not only improved design but also improved the relationship between designers and design researchers, and between these UX personnel and product management. This, too, created a hunger and opportunity for more to happen along the same and similar lines elsewhere in the company.

Intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration is common in companies known for their ability to innovate effectively, and is somewhat akin to a process used in companies like Landmark Education, which claims to transform people's lives.

In a couple of weeks, I'll be leading a two-day consortium for leaders of multiple UX professional communities focused on meeting the needs of UX professionals and the organizations that serve them. The intent of this somewhat intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration is to perturb the ecosystem, resulting in significantly increased and ongoing collaboration among UX-related professional organizations, and ultimately among the professionals they serve.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Jef, you will be greatly missed

Jef Raskin -- creator of the Macintosh project at Apple, a much-published writer (e.g., The Humane Interface, Addison-Wesley 2000), consultant, and so much more -- died this past weekend.

Jef was always willing to speak at a BayCHI meeting whenever I asked him to do so, which I did multiple times when I was BayCHI's Program Chair. On one of these occassions, I was given the privilege of interviewing Jef on stage on the topic of "crimes against the human interface." And Jef appeared on the final program of my 12-year, Program Chair stint. During all of his appearances, Jef talked at least abit about his experiences with companies that did not understand the important role of the "human interface" to their business.

Jef was passionate about his work, and was passionate about so much else as well (e.g., building and playing organs, building and flying kites), as was evident when I visited Jef in his home.

I did not know Jef well, but he was a friend and a big supporter of mine. I will miss him.

He will be greatly missed by many.