OK, yes I know the title is a bit cheeky, but if they were to give out various awards for the Oz-IA 2010 conference presentations (Friday’s at least), these are the ones I reckon should be given.
“Really Socially Significant” Award for most inspiring
The most inspiring presentation was by Shoaib Burq: Community Data Models for Humanitarian & Development Work. What started as a fairly clinical demonstration of OpenStreetMap (OSM) turned into a thrilling helicopter ride through the relief efforts triggered in Port au Prince after the Haiti earthquake. I’d read about social mapping apps like Ushahidi and Sahana recently, but seeing the various knock-on effects and the growing adoption of OSM was a truly inspiring application of social information.
“Don’t Drool Over My Presentation” Award for best typeface used in a presentation
The best typeface (and just all round visual design, really) was for Matt Balara’s EBooks – More Than Print in Pixels (I think the titles were in Auto 3?). The effect was probably enhanced coming after straight after Shoaib’s presentation, which was largely maps and Arial. Matt pointed out various aspects of how EBook experience design hasn’t quite matured yet. He also had some ideas of how to incorporate social functionality into EBooks. These would really need to be done in the context of each particular book and book type. The thing is: reading a book is typically a singular activity; trying to incorporate real-time social activity would in some contexts be counter-productive to the act of reading. But incorporating social information relevant to that publication would work really well.
“We are SO With You” Award for best delivery
This award could easily go to Matt Hodgson – his dynamic delivery style and use of Prezi and embedded video in presentations is the best I’ve seen – but Samantha Starmer has to get the award for best delivery, with both her presentations: Ubiquitous IA and Information Architecture Analytics. She just had a familiar, energetic but humble approach to her material, and credited her team for much of what she was talking about. For me, it spoke to the spirit of the Oz-IA conferences; it’s very much a conference for the practitioners and professionals sharing experiences and nuggets of hard-won wisdom.
“Pearl In The Oyster” Award for best a-HA moment delivery
The feeling of “a-HA! Yes!” was palpable in the room when Justin Tauber and Judd Garratt presented What SEO means for User-Centred Design. They somehow pulled off selling SEO to a crowd who would normally be fairly prickly towards a snake-oil practice like SEO, while being humble. The best take-out for me was considering the cognitive connections going on between what people search for on Google and what they arrive at on the target website, and essentially viewing Google as your website’s home page, since this is the start of (most of) your customers’ experience.
“Here We Go Again” Award for most deliberately inflammatory statement
Right when I was thinking how negative David Sless’ presentation The politics of information design was, as he was extolling that people’s reactions are essentially based on feed and/or greed, he distracted me by flinging out the statement that personas are of little or no use (something like a group hug?). I’ve thought a lot about this recently, and I know that personas are an easy target, because they’re easy to do badly. And I’m all for a bit of cut and thrust in these presentations. But his reductionist approach to dealing with stakeholders and politics didn’t help. But it was certainly useful to look at the principles at play when information designers have to insert a new system and new way of thinking into an organisation; the integration of Machiavelli’s quote “It is far safer to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both” and Walter Benjamin’s quote “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” was really good.
“Make It Up Then Back It Up” Award for most entertaining presentation
Matt Hodgson gave us the whole package in The Social Psychology of IA: a dynamic delivery and dynamic visual, video snippets woven through the messages, even audience participation. But we’re not talking popcorn entertainment here; he was able to take what could be quite dry material and made it insightful and enthralling. The great thing was that it wasn’t just juicing up dry content with visuals and Big Bang Theory videobytes; he deftly connected workshop practices and behaviours with psychology principles such as Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming and norming’ (one significant takeout was that group activities inevitably only reflect the needs of the one).
He also dissected inherent behaviours going on in social information systems, such as social validation, group acceptance, expert power and referent power, which for me comes up all the time in the systems I’m desgning.
“Opportunity Goldmine” Award for best edge-of-the-seat experience
Oliver Weidlich and Rod Farmer gave themselves a tough act to follow from last year, but they chose a different tack – successfully so – for this year’s presentation Designing for mobile convergence. They showed how the convergent mobile experience (a focus on getting everything we can onto one device) has matured to continuous mobile experience (a focus on contextual opportunistic design), and reviewed various interaction design features that are currently in the market. This included being able to surface contextually significant content (e.g. Windows Phone 7) rather than a static information display (iPhone), multitasking, and canvas-style sliding areas of content.
I’m glad they called out a trap that I’ve observed in projects I’ve been involved with, where clients can say “I want to do on my mobile what I can do on the web”, which ignores the contexts and usage patterns unique to using handheld devices. Great stuff all round.
I wasn’t able to go to Oz-IA for the second day; if anyone has links to write-ups about Saturday’s presentations please let me know!
Links (that I know of) to what I missed: