— 13 June 2006 —

UPA 2006 — Seven Dollars for Coffee is Not Usable

I just paid 7 bucks for a quad americano. That’s how you know you are staying at a hotel. You aren’t living your normal life while at a hotel, so why should things cost the same as normal life? I could have walked a half mile to get regular priced coffee, but I am not feeling so well this morning, so staggering to the lobby was as good as I could do.

I am a little hung over, but I only had one beer last night (no I am not expensing that) and it was with dinner. Like many people I’ve run into so far, I seem to be suffering the effects of the high altitude and the dryness. Must remember to drink lots of water.

I spent most of yesterday either traveling or in my room working. The evening was for catching up with old friends and meeting a couple of new ones. One thing that always impresses me about UPA cons is the level of conversation. We all tend to talk the geek talk of design and usability, much different talks than you’d find at SXSW for example, and everyone listens well and provides excellent insights. People think while they talk. And like I said, they listen.

Listening is an important aspect of what we do as designers and usabilitiers. It isn’t in any of the job descriptions though. Obviously you interview the candidate and get a feeling for it, but one of the main things we can do that offers value to our many levels of customer is simply listening to what they have to say. Especially in the usability aspect of things. Whether you are doing a contextual inquiry (or enquiry) or running a lab test, you’ve got people in front of you that have problems and they want answers. In lieu of answers they just want someone to at least seem like they care. Software therapist? Workflow counselor? Okay, okay Mr. Hurst, maybe the Listening Lab might be a good idea… Maybe.

This is also the first conference I’ve been to in a while where I didn’t get the reaction of, “9rules! No way! That’s so cool!” It’s been only one day, but I’ve talked with about 20 people and with the exception of the people who know me well already, no one knows what 9rulesis. Very refreshing in a way and also an opportunity to spread the word. Yes, even though I am not an active player in 9r anymore, I will always take the opportunity to pimp the community. I will do what I can to make sure 9rules (and BusinessLogs), and by extension all its members, succeeds. I guess that makes me on sabbatical.

Today I am attending the Experienced Practitioners Track. It filled up quick and I was lucky to get in. Well, hopefully lucky. I have said for a few years now that UPA tends to cater to the “So you just heard about usability” crowd. That crowd is a welcome addition to the community, but I don’t feel they should be catered to. I think that’s why the Experienced track was offered. I am hoping that my head spins a little today. Not that I need more head spinning after the last few days, but learning something new is always a good thing.

Learning opportunity: Did you know that but for the flip of a coin we could have had the Kentucky Bunbury? Now that you’ve learned something new you can go back to bed. If you are at work, just tell them I said it was okay to take the day off. You’ve earned it.

I am just finishing my breakfast, provided by the conference. Another thing that I love about UPA is they make sure you are well fed. Also there are a lot of cute girls. And famous people. Well, famous in this community. Ginny Redish just sat down a couple of tables away. Don’t know who she is? Get her book User and Task Analysis and get some knowledge.

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