Organising a user experience conference is a tough prospect. Conferences are very hard to organise in and of themselves but the UX theme definitely adds a layer of complexity and pressure. If the user experience of a user experience conference isn’t good then you’ve got problems. And when you’re trying to mix inspiration with learning, with listening, with teamwork, with doing, with sufficient breaks I’ve discovered that it’s never going to feel like enough time. As organisers we have come to accept the inevitability that delegates will leave tired, but at least we know that they will have engaged in a manner we just don’t see at other conferences. Thankfully everything that we had planned for over the past 9 months played out more or less as we had expected and hoped, making all that gargantuan effort worthwhile. I might have temporarily forgotten that we had a second keynote (!) but lets gloss over that.
Thank you to everyone who made UXLibsIII a success, especially fellow committee members Matt Borg, Ned Potter and Donna Lanclos, our fantastic keynotes, Matthew Reidsma and Meredith Evans. Workshop leaders: Anneli Friberg, Anna Kagedal, Vernon Fowler. Queen of Housekeeping Ange Fitzpatrick. Our registration team: Bethany Sherwood, Andrew Alexander, Katie Hughes. Bag-packing and other admin courtesy of the lovely Rachel Hearnden. And of course Marisa who managed all the delegate admin, venue bookings and finance so supremely.
I’ve stuck with my own photos for this post with a few exceptions. I’m saving all of David Scott’s wonderful photography to illustrate our forthcoming yearbook. I trust you are all beavering away on your contributions. For myself I’m busy writing an editorial, a list of tips and tricks when using Post-its and Sharpies, and have started compiling a crossword…
1. Glasgow from the air, just prior to landing. It was my 7th flight in 9 days due to a crazy schedule. My heart was still over Europe somewhere. Were those rainclouds? In Glasgow? In June?! Surely not. 2. How cute are my fellow conference organisers in this shot? They are also two of the nicest considerate people in the world. The three of us spent 4 hours sorting the venue ahead of the conference and there was never a cross word from any of us. Apart from just before we got there when Matt and I were shitting ourselves because we thought the van containing everything for the conference had been nicked. It hadn’t.
3. Good times at the social evening. Pictured here a reunion with Donna, Ange, Katie and Andrew, and the very lovely Lorna McNally. McNally as I call her arrived with the gift of a porridge spurtle in order to formally recognise and accept my Scottish ancestry. It should also be known that our ceilidh band (Ceilidh Minogue – perhaps the best named ceilidh band in the world) and our photographer were sourced via McNally. Thank you lady! 4. I escaped from The Howlin’ Wolf (the overflow social evening venue not an actual howling wolf) after 4 failed attempts due to ridiculously rainy conditions, by hailing a cab back to my hotel with Therese, Anders and Carl. We all got back relatively dry. The same could not be said of poor Anna and Anneli. One of my favourite photo tweets of all time this. There is a school of thought that believes they look better wetter. I couldn’t possibly say. I understand that Anna miraculously managed to keep her injured finger dry. Thanks for permission to use your photo guys. 5. OK there was something else I forgot at UXLibs3 and that was to say a public thank you to Bethany, Andrew (both pictured) and Katie for staffing our registration desk with such aplomb. Never in the field of human registration have people been registered and reunited with their badges so expertly or enthusiastically. 6. Therese adds a pin to our European pinboard to show she traveled to UXLibs3 from Sweden. We also had a world map. Delegates from 19 countries in all! I’m so proud that UXLibs is a truly international experience, and in its third year more than ever. Our furthest flung delegates hailed from the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – thank you Paula for travelling the furthest to be with us! 7. Only fair I feel to present a photo of a dry Anneli and Anna to balance things up. 8. Matt Borg kicking things off with his usual mix of charm and humour. Its perhaps worth noting that just before he opened the conference we cooked up the playing of Mans Zelmerlow’s Eurovision winner to please the large number of Swedes in the audience. 9. For me the now legendary ‘Housekeeping with Ange’ lacks one element. No not height, although yes, obviously. I’m thinking more about the possibility of me pushing her over once she’s done. This used to go down a storm with MBAs when we used to co-teach in Cambridge together. Next year perhaps. 10. I wrote most of my opening address while flying over the Indian Ocean back in early May hence the idea for the theme ‘are we nearly there yet?’ One of my aims in that address was to share my Cambridge experience without sounding too bitter. I firmly believe that I should share my experience of being at the receiving end of fundamental opposition to UX work given I am free to do so. Another aim was to explore and detail UX maturity and adoption and a new model I’d devised. I’m thrilled the model had become a talking point especially as it might turn my rather dark experiences into a quest for richer and superior services and dedicated user research. 11. Here’s Matthew Reidsma during his keynote on ethical UX research. I could listen to Matthew all day. He has the rare ability to transport you. And he always offers fascinating new insights and perspectives on UX work and the world in general: design reflects the values of its creator; your values will be encoded into your work whether you want them to be or not; tools in libraries reflect the biases in our society; with personas we only seem to be designing for happy smiling people!’ I know we can’t have him keynote every year, but every other year is OK right? 12. Here’s Simon Barron putting his commemorative UXLibs3 tea-towel to good use as we experienced the second UXLibs fire alarm in 2 years. Let’s not make this a tradition. 13. Matthew points out that the audio recording for his keynote was still running during the fire alarm and muses about the mysterious audio spike after we had all left the building. 14. Shelley Gullikson and Kristin Meyer gave an uplifting presentation about the value of collaborating with each other on a piece for Weave (the open access user experience journal) and their very different experiences of UX work at their respective institutions. The slides were fully and beautifully illustrated by their children. 15. Simon Barron and Karine Larose delivering an important paper on diversity and inclusion. This years focus on ethics was not planned but we ended up there all the same and I’m very pleased we did. 16. Nathalie Clot explaining an app being tested during ‘UXLabs’. UXLabs was a new element of the conference during which delegates could share work in progress and seek ideas and dialogue about next steps. The idea seemed to work and was far more interactive than the more passive conference poster approach. 17. More UXLabs action. Here’s Imperial’s Simon Barron showcasing their Location, Location, Emotion UX study. 18. In which we try to capture all 180 delegates in one photo with mixed results. I still love the shot though. Apologies if you are only a hand. Some of you are of course deliberately hiding. 19. I like this shot of Matt amidst the melee. It was one of those moments where you internally go ‘we made this happen’ and you are briefly overwhelmed. Well for me anyway. 20. Maynooth’s Lorna Dodd sporting the flat shoes that she’d purchased especially for UXLibs having been caught out the previous year. 21. Our keynotes Matthew Reidsma and Meredith Evans and two hangers on. No idea who they are. 22. Eva Jirjahlke inspiring us to believe that we can do UX work in a room suitably named ‘Hope’. The full quote: ‘Yes we can and so can you. Don’t be intimidated by people with UX in their job title. Trust your own abilities.’ 23. The genial and passionate Rafal Rukat detailing ethnographic experiences in Polish public libraries. Note the wonderful Bronislaw Malinowksi t-shirt! 24. Ned rightly proud of the way in which the UXLibs tea-towel breaks the boundaries of his slide as he introduces this year’s team challenge: ‘Next Steps at the University of Lanarkshire.’ 25. Team Raxacoricofallapatorius, Raxa for short, starts to wrestle with the team challenge. 26. Stefan, Jenny and Lorna from Team Logopolis as they questioned whether the University of Lanarkshire was a real place. Lorna specifically wanted to speak to the Lanarkshire delegates attending UXLibs3 Philippa and Oliver. I advised her that she was welcome to speak to them if she could find them… 27. Team Sontar, including ‘the award-winning Emma Wisher’ (winner of the best presentation award), debate how to tackle the challenge. 28. John Jung is less than impressed with Matt’s advice during the team challenge. We enjoyed going around the teams listening in and generally being mischievous. Our favourite moment was when one of the delegates couldn’t find Gallifrey. Trust me if you are Doctor Who fan you’d find this funny. 29. Thanks to Anneli for this shot of me be-kilted just ahead of the gala dinner at the Hilton. Nope I didn’t abide by Scottish tradition! 30. Matt also sporting a kilt. I have no information on how authentic his attire was. 31. Our fantastic piper who heralded the start of the Gala Dinner. Reader I paid him from my sporran. 32. Gala Dinner in full swing. Yes of course there was haggis. We are not monsters. 33. Ange showing Anna what’s in her sporran. Ange gave the traditional Selkirk Grace by Robbie Burns ahead of dinner – ‘Some folk hae meat that canna eat, And some can eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, So let the Lord be Thanket!’ 34. I was in two minds about the post-dinner ceilidh, but the moment that over 100 delegates got up for the first dance allayed all my fears. I can make out Anneli, Andrew, Bethany, Rafal, Deirdre, Jenny, Hazel, Linda in this shot. As Ned said when he sidled up to me during the ceilidh: ‘this is pure joy’. 35. Anja and Nathalie take centre stage as they travel up and down the set. 36. Anneli, Eva and Anna look-on as the ceilidh heads for midnight. 37. My welcome on Day 2 and a chance to get my fury at the Tories and their election campaign off my chest – I very much enjoyed referring to Theresa May as ‘Thatcher 2.0’. Last year I commiserated with delegates about the nonsense that is and was Brexit. This year I warned that the simple and repeatable message of ‘strong and stable’ government would en enough to convince the British electorate that the Tories should stay in power. And that we too should be using simple and repeatable messages in order to get the people we work with and for to understand the value of UX work. In the event the election result was much closer than anyone thought it would be (surveys and polls are still inaccurate and useless – who knew?!) but as I write they’re still clinging on to power in order to pursue their own self-serving interests. The big question is of course which major political event will interfere with UXLibs IV? 38. Meredith Evans engaging everyone emotionally and intellectually with her stunning keynote about documenting Ferguson and, wider than that, the fact that history has to be broader than white men, that archiving decisions must protect people, and that you must embrace the community not just live within it. For many Meredith’s keynote was the undoubted highlight of this year’s conference Specifically I loved her assessment of Trump as ‘an interesting President’ and her honesty about being known for ‘going rogue real quick’. I identified with that fully! Many more keynotes will beckon for Meredith I’m sure. She absolutely stormed UXLibs3. 39. Here’s Team Karn finishing off their presentation ahead of the heats on Day 2. 40. I love how this photo shows off how much fun Meredith is. We had some great larks between sessions and I really enjoyed hanging out wth her. Another UXLibs keynote who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. 41. Gillian Siddall and Hazel Lee leading Team Exxilon to surefire victory. With a Roxette backing track and the theme of “Listen to your Heart’ how could they fail? All of this year’s presentations were stunningly good given the little time they had to prepare and the amount of data they had to wrangle. 42. Darcey Duke leading heat winners Mondas during their presentation. 43. Team Trenzalore taking a collective approach as they repeat their heat-winning performance. 44. All of Team Exxilon take to the stage in their University of Lanarkshire victory beanies (surely collectors items in the years to come). They are also holding copies of the UX in Libraries book. A week later I signed Gillian’s hard won copy at Northampton instantly reducing its market value by half. 45. Jade and Ivan messing about after the voting. I would have voted for them to have individual prizes had I the opportunity (for being lovely human beings). 46. An experience map for which the very lovely Lorna Dodd (my partner for this workshop) did ALL the heavy lifting. Lorna decided to map her experience of the first day of UXLibs3 and outrageously mapped right before me how her experience dipped into the pain zone on several occasions. How rude! 47. Anna and Anneli dabbing, something they do after every workshop. See how street they are?! What I really enjoyed about their experience mapping workshop was that it offered time to practice and engage with several techniques in a format that was easy to follow, and also the fact that they led it so effortlessly. They are two of the coolest Swedes around. What you might not know is that I am an honorary member of their ‘barnligan’ posse. The entry criteria is that you have to look younger than you actually are. I think they took pity on me frankly. 48. One of my few regrets at this years conference was that I didn’t get to attend my friend Vernon Fowler’s workshop on co-designing your website. I was not at all surprised to hear that it was very good indeed. Vernon is a fantastic guy and a great exponent of UX. If anyone can grow UX in libraries in the Southern Hemisphere then it’s Fowler. 49. I love how this photo captures the energy of the incredibly loud Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament devised and led by Matthew Reidsma in his second workshop as he sought to re-energise a group of very tired delegates. Just before the shouting started Reidsma and I tried to demonstrate rock-paper-scissors in case any delegates weren’t aware of the game. What we hadn’t reckoned on was that we might make the same choices 6 times in a row. Freaky! 50. I made it. It’s entirely fitting and luvverly to finish this post with one of the last photos I took at this years’s conference. Here I am with the wonderful Bryony Ramsden who introduced me to ethnography and UX in the first place. We had great fun as partners in Matthew Reidsma’s workshop, although like Lorna before her she did much more work than I did! To be fair I was distracted by trying to tweet from the official UXLibs account and the thought of all the venue tidying up ahead of us. I shouldn’t have worried, I had forgotten how amazing Reidsma was in such situations. He even volunteered to take the last trolley back up to the Studio after we had finished packing up the van. A little thing one might think but I could have cried I was that grateful (and tired)! The cheer waiting for me as I arrived at the post-conf pub meet was everything I needed at that moment and made it ALL worthwhile (even the tidying up). Thank you Vernon, Kate, Ivan, Nathalie, Elodie, Jade, Paula, Nathan (and anyone else who was there – apols if I missed you) for your company on that last evening in Glasgow.