What Makes a Good Design Conference (was: DUX 2007?)

17 Sep 2007 - 10:09am
6 years ago
14 replies
802 reads
Dan Saffer
2003

To raise this discussion up a notch, what makes a good design
conference? For me, it is three things:

1. The quality of the content being presented.
2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
3. The format of the conference.

My theories:

1. Having an academic peer review process does not yield the most
interesting speakers or content.
2. An academic submissions process deters practitioners from
submitting, especially some of the busiest, most interesting
practitioners.
3. A 5 minute presentation time doesn't give enough time to present
anything but the most superficial of findings. (I hope DUX isn't
replicating this format again.) 15 minutes (the length of TED talks)
is probably about the minimum you'd ever want.
4. The best content is a mix of the practical and inspirational.
5. Most good conferences take at least six months to plan and
prepare. Nine months is better.
6. Social interaction between participants is almost as important as
the presented content.
7. A mix of invited speakers and open submissions yields a great set
of topics and speakers.

When we set up the IxDA's conference, these were some of the design
principles we used (and continue to use as we finish the details of
the conference.)

Dan

Comments

17 Sep 2007 - 10:17am
Susie Robson
2004

The Boston UPA tries to always include a session of 5 10-minute talks
once a year for one of our monthly meetings but also as one session of
our annual miniconference. It's actually amazing how much information
someone can pack into 10 minutes. We do have rules (thanks to Chauncey
Wilson) where they aren't allowed to go on about their company, who they
are, etc., just get to the topic. These have gone over really well. Of
course, we don't have all presentations do this, just one.

Regarding the social interaction--I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, that
was the biggest issue we heard about in our satisfaction surveys so we
now allow 15 minutes between each session which people seem to be really
happy about.

Conferences take a lot of work to put together but it's my feeling that
the presenters set the tone for how good the conference will be.
Luckily, in Boston, we have a lot of great people who are usually
interested in presenting. We also try to get the Bentley Human Factors
students to present and they have done a great job every year. This past
year, they outdid themselves and I believe they even put their talk on
YouTube. If anyone is interested, I could try to find out what the link
is for that talk.

Susie

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Dan
Saffer
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 11:09 AM
To: IxDA Discuss
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] What Makes a Good Design Conference (was: DUX
2007?)

To raise this discussion up a notch, what makes a good design
conference? For me, it is three things:

1. The quality of the content being presented.
2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
3. The format of the conference.

My theories:

1. Having an academic peer review process does not yield the most
interesting speakers or content.
2. An academic submissions process deters practitioners from
submitting, especially some of the busiest, most interesting
practitioners.
3. A 5 minute presentation time doesn't give enough time to present
anything but the most superficial of findings. (I hope DUX isn't
replicating this format again.) 15 minutes (the length of TED talks)
is probably about the minimum you'd ever want.
4. The best content is a mix of the practical and inspirational.
5. Most good conferences take at least six months to plan and
prepare. Nine months is better.
6. Social interaction between participants is almost as important as
the presented content.
7. A mix of invited speakers and open submissions yields a great set
of topics and speakers.

When we set up the IxDA's conference, these were some of the design
principles we used (and continue to use as we finish the details of
the conference.)

Dan

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17 Sep 2007 - 10:51am
Todd Warfel
2003

Dan, I couldn't agree more. The one caveat I'd include, or perhaps an
addition to your list, is that the speakers need to be made aware of
the the types of attendees who will be there.

On Sep 17, 2007, at 11:09 AM, Dan Saffer wrote:

> 1. The quality of the content being presented.
> 2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
> 3. The format of the conference.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

17 Sep 2007 - 12:46pm
SemanticWill
2007

Dan

To this I would only add:
> 1. The quality of the content being presented.
> 2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
> 3. The format of the conference.

4. The quality of the attendees - more specifically the level of expertise
and expectations relative to the mission of the conference. If it's a design
managers conference, and markets itself to IxD or IAs who want practical
tactics, methods and case studies with lessons learned - they will walk away
frustrated.

On 9/17/07, Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com> wrote:
>
> Dan, I couldn't agree more. The one caveat I'd include, or perhaps an
> addition to your list, is that the speakers need to be made aware of
> the the types of attendees who will be there.
>
> On Sep 17, 2007, at 11:09 AM, Dan Saffer wrote:
>
> > 1. The quality of the content being presented.
> > 2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
> > 3. The format of the conference.
>
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

17 Sep 2007 - 3:39pm
Simon King
2004

This isn't related to content but the best conferences are those that you can actually attend, so time, cost, and location are important factors. I plan to attend DUX this year but it was a difficult decision because it's held Monday through Wednesday; I'm glad to see the IxDA conference is on a weekend. Location can also make attendance impractical for busy or budget minded practitioners -- an example from next year is DIS2008 being hosted in Cape Town.

17 Sep 2007 - 3:19pm
Richard I. Anderson
2005

I think it wrong to dismiss short presentation times as viable
options for a great program. Indeed, the first DUX conference, about
which so many speak so fondly, also featured such short presentation
times, and other very good conferences have as well.

What was different about the sessions of the first DUX conference was
that they were designed as a whole. Presentations were not fully
independent of each other. Each emphasized carefully selected
aspects of their work (i.e.. only a subset of what was described in
each paper), which, combined with excellent session moderation and
design, enabled attendees to focus on the important issues (and
similarities and differences and...).

Note also that an "academic peer review process" was employed for
that first conference, but the two program chairs used the peer
reviews as input to their decision making process regarding what
should be accepted to be a part of the program. In other words, the
reviews themselves did not dictate what was accepted and what was
rejected.

I'm very proud of the first DUX conference program, having been one
of those two program chairs who saw to it that the conference as a
whole and each session was well-designed, and who played the role of
interviewer for both the opening and closing plenaries to help two
special twosomes (Bill Buxton & Mitch Kapor; Sara Little Turnbull &
Stephanie Yost Cameron) tell and compare their stories and
perspectives. The standing ovation at the end of the conference was
the only I've experienced at any conference. Indeed, this conference
was both "practical and inspirational."

Having also played a role -- a different role -- in the second DUX
conference, I wrote about all this in my blog (see
http://riander.blogspot.com/2005/12/importance-of-designing-conference.html),
and I made sure the DUX 2007 Conference Chairs read and heard my
views on all this early on. I see all sorts of evidence to suggest
they have taken lots of steps to ensure the conference as a whole and
each session is very well designed. Indeed, I'll be attending, and I
hope to see a lot of you there as well.

Richard Anderson
http://www.riander.com/
http://riander.blogspot.com/

P.S. I should note that there were a lot of folks who attended DUX
2005 who were very happy with the conference (see, for example,
http://blog.acm.org/archives/dux2005/2006/01/conference_scor.html and
http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000032.php).

At 8:09 AM -0700 9/17/07, Dan Saffer wrote:
>To raise this discussion up a notch, what makes a good design
>conference? For me, it is three things:
>
>1. The quality of the content being presented.
>2. The quality of the speakers presenting the content.
>3. The format of the conference.
>
>My theories:
>
>1. Having an academic peer review process does not yield the most
>interesting speakers or content.
>2. An academic submissions process deters practitioners from
>submitting, especially some of the busiest, most interesting
>practitioners.
>3. A 5 minute presentation time doesn't give enough time to present
>anything but the most superficial of findings. (I hope DUX isn't
>replicating this format again.) 15 minutes (the length of TED talks)
>is probably about the minimum you'd ever want.
>4. The best content is a mix of the practical and inspirational.
>5. Most good conferences take at least six months to plan and
>prepare. Nine months is better.
>6. Social interaction between participants is almost as important as
>the presented content.
>7. A mix of invited speakers and open submissions yields a great set
>of topics and speakers.
>
>When we set up the IxDA's conference, these were some of the design
>principles we used (and continue to use as we finish the details of
>the conference.)
>
>Dan

17 Sep 2007 - 3:34pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Aren't these for the DUX 2005 conference? The date is Jan 9, 2006.

To be fair and accurate, only 40% of people filled out conference
review forms. Where does that leave the inputs of the other 60%? The
review on UXMatters was from someone who did not attend the first
DUX. While that review might be representative of her experience, she
didn't have the previous one to compare to.

While I didn't speak to all of the attendees, I did personally speak
to a few dozen - all of whom were extremely unsatisfied and
disappointed with the conference. And these are people who are
stables in the Design community, who are regular conference
attendees, who attend a variety of different conferences.
Additionally, I spoke with a number of people who had spoken to
dozens of other individuals who attended - those people shared the
same sentiment - unfavorable.

The only people who I can recall who did comment favorable about the
conference were those who were from the CHI audience - primarily CHI
goes, those whose conference experiences were limited to CHI. Not
that CHI is bad, but we don't need another CHI - we already have one
of those. Just like we don't need another IA Summit - we already have
one of those.

DUX should be more well rounded, it is Designing for User Experience
after all. And an experience is broader.

On Sep 17, 2007, at 4:19 PM, Richard I. Anderson wrote:

> P.S. I should note that there were a lot of folks who attended DUX
> 2005 who were very happy with the conference (see, for example,
> http://blog.acm.org/archives/dux2005/2006/01/conference_scor.html and
> http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000032.php).

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

17 Sep 2007 - 3:48pm
Richard I. Anderson
2005

You appear to have missed the point of my post.

OK -- we all know you were dissatisfied with DUX 2005. So was I, as
were others. But so what?

As Dan proposed, let's "raise this discussion up a notch."

Richard

At 4:34 PM -0400 9/17/07, Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:
>Aren't these for the DUX 2005 conference? The date is Jan 9, 2006.
>
>To be fair and accurate, only 40% of people filled out conference
>review forms. Where does that leave the inputs of the other 60%? The
>review on UXMatters was from someone who did not attend the first
>DUX. While that review might be representative of her experience,
>she didn't have the previous one to compare to.
>
>While I didn't speak to all of the attendees, I did personally speak
>to a few dozen - all of whom were extremely unsatisfied and
>disappointed with the conference. And these are people who are
>stables in the Design community, who are regular conference
>attendees, who attend a variety of different conferences.
>Additionally, I spoke with a number of people who had spoken to
>dozens of other individuals who attended - those people shared the
>same sentiment - unfavorable.
>
>The only people who I can recall who did comment favorable about the
>conference were those who were from the CHI audience - primarily CHI
>goes, those whose conference experiences were limited to CHI. Not
>that CHI is bad, but we don't need another CHI - we already have one
>of those. Just like we don't need another IA Summit - we already
>have one of those.
>
>DUX should be more well rounded, it is Designing for User Experience
>after all. And an experience is broader.
>
>
>On Sep 17, 2007, at 4:19 PM, Richard I. Anderson wrote:
>
>>P.S. I should note that there were a lot of folks who attended DUX
>>
>>2005 who were very happy with the conference (see, for example,
>>
>><http://blog.acm.org/archives/dux2005/2006/01/conference_scor.html>http://blog.acm.org/archives/dux2005/2006/01/conference_scor.html
>>and
>>
>><http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000032.php>http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000032.php).
>>
>
>
>Cheers!
>
>Todd Zaki Warfel
>President, Design Researcher
>Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
>----------------------------------
>Contact Info
>Voice: (215) 825-7423
>Email: <mailto:todd at messagefirst.com>todd at messagefirst.com
>AIM: <mailto:twarfel at mac.com>twarfel at mac.com
>Blog: <http://toddwarfel>http://toddwarfel.com
>----------------------------------
>In theory, theory and practice are the same.
>In practice, they are not.

--
-----
Richard I. Anderson
http://www.riander.com/
http://riander.blogspot.com/

17 Sep 2007 - 4:05pm
Todd Warfel
2003

So what? Well, there are two important questions to ask -
1. What makes a good design conference?
2. What doesn't make a good design conference?

As I responded earlier, to Dan's post, one additional thing that does
make it good is to have the speakers more informed about their audience.

And as to the answer of my second questions, What doesn't make a good
(design) conference? Well don't try and be a conference that already
exists. Don't try and be CHI, the Summit, or About With For (now the
Design Research conference).

On Sep 17, 2007, at 4:48 PM, Richard I. Anderson wrote:

> You appear to have missed the point of my post.
>
> OK -- we all know you were dissatisfied with DUX 2005. So was I,
> as were others. But so what?
>
> As Dan proposed, let's "raise this discussion up a notch."
>
> Richard

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

17 Sep 2007 - 10:21pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I'll take a crack at this.

1. You are never going to satisfy EVERYONE.
2. A great conference ANY conference (design or otherwise) properly
communicates who it wants there and what those people will get out of
it.

As an example, DUX had on its CFP all this stuff about social media
as the next thing. I was immediately turned off by that. But now that
I look at the site now, it is communicating slightly differently, but
even then I had to dig in deep to be even further impress with the
breadth. I mean we are designers, so shouldn't communicating our
value proposition be one of the most important things we do.

BTW, as I'm writing this, I feeling a similar critique about IxDA.
The only difference i feel in this case is that it is clear that this
is an organizational conference which is meant to serve the 5000
subscribers of an existing community. But I can understand why some
things are not as clearly communicated as we would like.

3. Don't be something you're not. I think all CHI events suffer
from this. Don't try to be a "design" or practitioner conference.
You can't do it. you just can't. your parent just gets in the way.
Yes, all practitioners and designers can learn a lot from academia
and every so often everyone should make the rounds to CHI to see what
those academics are up to. But that doesn't mean that you need to
lore designers and practitioners into a submission process which just
doesn't fit their culture.

It reminds me of a recent experience with the HTC Touch (a smart
phone). They built this fancy finger-touch friendly UI that is only
skin deep, so when you click into anything that great UI disappears
and you are left with that same old Windows Mobile UI you've learned
to hate. Basically, you have designed on purpose a false promise and
that is what CHI is to me-a false promise.

4. I have to disagree w/ Dan about the TED comparison. 15min. works
at TED b/c well it is TED. These are paid speakers who rehearse their
presentations and refine them a really long time before performing
them. They are given tremendous support before and during their
presentations. I don't think standard professional org conferences
can really do this.

5. speaking of which, your speakers are golden. Any conference that
can't pay for their speaker's attendance is doing a disservice.
Having been a speaker for Jared Spool's UI conf series now twice, I
can tell you there is nothing like it under the son. Wow!!! it's
like the first class of UX speaking engagements. Pampered, guided,
befriended, and paid WELL! UIE's conferences are the best I have
ever attended as they are the right mix of inspiration, practicality,
socializing, and well just plain good times.

I agree w/ a lot of what others have already said otherwise.

- -dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20532

17 Sep 2007 - 10:28pm
SemanticWill
2007

Agreed -

and about UIE's UI12 - that's why I am so psyched about this year - and was
more than willing to fork over the cash to pay for it - I think it's worth
it - and willing to pay for a great experience.

On Mon, 17 Sep 2007 20:21:55, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
> I'll take a crack at this.
>
> 1. You are never going to satisfy EVERYONE.
> 2. A great conference ANY conference (design or otherwise) properly
> communicates who it wants there and what those people will get out of
> it.
>
> As an example, DUX had on its CFP all this stuff about social media
> as the next thing. I was immediately turned off by that. But now that
> I look at the site now, it is communicating slightly differently, but
> even then I had to dig in deep to be even further impress with the
> breadth. I mean we are designers, so shouldn't communicating our
> value proposition be one of the most important things we do.
>
> BTW, as I'm writing this, I feeling a similar critique about IxDA.
> The only difference i feel in this case is that it is clear that this
> is an organizational conference which is meant to serve the 5000
> subscribers of an existing community. But I can understand why some
> things are not as clearly communicated as we would like.
>
>
> 3. Don't be something you're not. I think all CHI events suffer
> from this. Don't try to be a "design" or practitioner conference.
> You can't do it. you just can't. your parent just gets in the way.
> Yes, all practitioners and designers can learn a lot from academia
> and every so often everyone should make the rounds to CHI to see what
> those academics are up to. But that doesn't mean that you need to
> lore designers and practitioners into a submission process which just
> doesn't fit their culture.
>
> It reminds me of a recent experience with the HTC Touch (a smart
> phone). They built this fancy finger-touch friendly UI that is only
> skin deep, so when you click into anything that great UI disappears
> and you are left with that same old Windows Mobile UI you've learned
> to hate. Basically, you have designed on purpose a false promise and
> that is what CHI is to me-a false promise.
>
> 4. I have to disagree w/ Dan about the TED comparison. 15min. works
> at TED b/c well it is TED. These are paid speakers who rehearse their
> presentations and refine them a really long time before performing
> them. They are given tremendous support before and during their
> presentations. I don't think standard professional org conferences
> can really do this.
>
> 5. speaking of which, your speakers are golden. Any conference that
> can't pay for their speaker's attendance is doing a disservice.
> Having been a speaker for Jared Spool's UI conf series now twice, I
> can tell you there is nothing like it under the son. Wow!!! it's
> like the first class of UX speaking engagements. Pampered, guided,
> befriended, and paid WELL! UIE's conferences are the best I have
> ever attended as they are the right mix of inspiration, practicality,
> socializing, and well just plain good times.
>
> I agree w/ a lot of what others have already said otherwise.
>
> - -dave
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the improved ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20532
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

18 Sep 2007 - 12:30pm
Rob Tannen
2006

One of my pet peeves about conferences is that speaker's frequently
do not focus on the topic that's communicated by their presentation
title and description. Some speakers use their presentation time to
talk about anecdotes or re-use old presentation material and then
just "wrap it up" in whatever the topical theme is for the
conference. This is exacerbated by conferences with speaking themes,
where the speakers are compelled to relate their content to something
that is often a stretch from what they are actually going to speak
about.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20532

19 Sep 2007 - 3:54am
pabini
2004

I hope to attend UI12. I attended the UIE Web App Summit, and it was
the best conference I've ever attended. Here's a link to my review
on UXmatters:

http://www.uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000176.php

I've reviewed many conferences on UXmatters and published other
people's reviews. Anybody who's organizing a conference would do
well to read those reviews and learn about what has and hasn't
worked in the past.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20532

19 Sep 2007 - 5:37am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 18 Sep 2007, at 18:30, Rob Tannen wrote:

> One of my pet peeves about conferences is that speaker's frequently
> do not focus on the topic that's communicated by their presentation
> title and description. Some speakers use their presentation time to
> talk about anecdotes or re-use old presentation material and then
> just "wrap it up" in whatever the topical theme is for the
> conference. This is exacerbated by conferences with speaking themes,
> where the speakers are compelled to relate their content to something
> that is often a stretch from what they are actually going to speak
> about.

While we're on the topic of pet peeves :-)

1) Conferences whose, for whatever bizarre reason, don't have start/
end times in different conference tracks aligned so you cannot jump
between tracks

2) Conferences that use up every available minute free minute of tim
- I personally find the "free" time as useful as the booked time.
Actually getting to talk to folk is a good think. Set aside lots of
time for it.

Adrian

24 Sep 2007 - 9:16pm
Eric Scheid
2006

On 19/9/07 8:37 PM, "Adrian Howard" <adrianh at quietstars.com> wrote:

> 2) Conferences that use up every available minute free minute of tim
> - I personally find the "free" time as useful as the booked time.
> Actually getting to talk to folk is a good think. Set aside lots of
> time for it.

At Oz-IA/2007, I set 15 minute breaks between every session. Reading through
the feedback forms and talking to others after the event I see that that
time was greatly appreciated. This year we had 45 minute sessions, but many
thought that didn't give enough time for the speaker to go in depth, and
since some sessions were thought to be stretching to fill 45 minutes I'm
considering providing two session formats next year: 30 minute sessions for
overviews/introductory things, and 60 minutes for in depth presentations. No
middle ground allowed, and the presenters will be made well aware of that.

e.

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