InfoCamp Seattle 2015

Up till now I’ve only used this website as a landing page and to show my portfolio, but I recently read some advice for freelancers to blog about professional events that they go to. That seemed like a reasonable way to get started, so here we go.

I went to InfoCamp Seattle last weekend. It’s the “unconference” for people who work with information. Since I do, and I’m also taking classes in storytelling and content strategy and UX, it seemed like a good event for my interests. I’d never been before, although I went to ProductCamp last year. Like ProductCamp, InfoCamp is an “unconference”, meaning session content is not planned ahead of time. At ProductCamp, people pitched ideas for sessions they wanted to lead, and then everyone voted to decide which sessions would be presented. At InfoCamp, there was a smaller group of attendees, so everyone who made a pitch was able to lead a session. It was nice that we had the luxury of hearing everyone. The attendees were a mix of library people, including students from the iSchool (formerly the School of Library and Information Science at UW), and UX people, both researchers and designers. (And to be clear, there are a lot of iSchool students and grads who work in UX, so there’s crossover.) There were also a few developers present; it’s nice to see silos breaking down.

In the morning, I attended two sessions on user research. The first was about audience research, and was run as a discussion forum; I didn’t catch the session leader’s name. A lot of what was said matched my limited experiences with recruiting for qualitative market research studies, such as using a screener document and including an open-ended question. The second was about a usability note-taking technique used at BlinkUX and was presented by Roxane Neal (@Roxane_Neal) and Brian Essex (@BrianEssex). The first half of the session was a presentation and the second half was Q&A. Their Excel spreadsheet, which time-stamps the comments for easy cross-referencing with video, seems like a valuable tool, especially for those who have to produce fast-turnaround usability research. (Which is everyone these days, according to an event I attended back in July, but that’s another story.)

In the afternoon, I attended part two of a session led by Gregory Frick (@GregFrick) about remote workers. Having worked remotely myself and also worked with coworkers in international offices, I thought it would be interesting, and it was. I was struck by the level of anguish in the room about issues like not being included, not being able to reach coworkers on the phone, and how to convey that there is a problem (without making yourself seem like the problem). Although it’s daunting to see that these problems still exist despite all the communication technology we have at work, it was also nice to hear that I’m not the only one who has struggled.

The next session was the most fun. Josh Walker (@Kojojash) presented his view of trends in UX, based on his work in creating responsive websites, mostly for consumer brands. Some key takeaways are that mobile doesn’t convert but that’s ok; people use mobile for the “consideration phase”, meaning that they’ll start reading about a product on their phone and then switch to a larger screen to examine it more closely before buying. He sees accessibility concerns hitting the industry hard, due to lawsuits against major retailers. There were several other trends he called out but those seemed like the two biggest to me. He was a very funny and engaging speaker, making fun of quickview on retail sites and pop-ups for email signup.

For the last session of the day, it was kind of old home week for me, as I attended a discussion on how to get people to use documentation, led by Mark Root-Wiley (@MRWweb). A lot of good points came out of that; Mark posted a writeup of the ideas on his website.

Besides the experience, I got another nice takeaway from InfoCamp; one of the sponsors, O’Reilly Media, offered a free ebook to all attendees. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of Information Architecture, Fourth Edition. For more on InfoCamp, the tagboard has a lot of pictures and Tweets, as well as a link to a storify by Jenn Parent (@jlparent) that covers the sessions she attended. In all, I found it to be an interesting and engaging experience, and a great value for only $35 a ticket. I’m definitely planning to go again.

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