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Shooting at DUX

While not the worst conference I've ever been to, DUX 2005 was a disappointment. I think three things worked seriously against this conference: the location, the format, and the chosen content. Which is to say, almost everything.

Social networking is as (if not more) important than the program itself, and every effort should be made to foster those connections. And I'm not just talking about formal receptions. Fort Mason is a great location, but not for this sort of event, especially considering there was only one track at the conference. If you didn't like the topic, there was no place close by (in the same physical space) to hang out in, and nothing really outside of the conference within walking distance. Everything in San Francisco was either a long walk or a car/taxi ride away. Not ideal for interactions around the conference.

One track programs are an interesting idea, but don't work with a large group with no common theme. If you don't like the session topic, you are stuck either doing nothing or sitting through something bored. A little variety is great and makes the conference seemed crammed full of good stuff. It also makes for more varied conversations ("What was that session about? Oh interesting...").

I heard many people complaining about the five minutes of time each speaker got. Me, I frequently found that to be a mercy. It's only when someone is a good presenter with interesting content that you want to give them more time. And I'm sad to say that I found that happening with only a handful of the chosen presenters, like Maren Costa of Amazon, Jane Murison of the BBC, and Jan Chipchase of Nokia. Granted, I missed a few sessions, so unfortunately I didn't see everyone.

For a conference about design, there was very little talk about design. The five-minute format lends itself to much more of a show-and-tell format than to in-depth case studies. And that's too bad, because DUX is supposed to be the practitioners' conference (although there were certainly a handful of pure academic projects that were better suited for CHI or something).

Now, lest you think I'm just a hater, I have great sympathy for those responsible for DUX. It can't be easy trapped between all those organizations, not to mention that the "peer-reviewed papers" format puts you at the mercy of both the submitters and reviewers for your content. Perhaps for a non-academic conference, you could dismiss with those for choosing sessions? A better solution is one where the conference has a curated theme and hand-selected presenters, like (allegedly: I've never been invited to either) TED or Design Engaged.

We need to use some of our tools on ourselves and our products (like this and other conferences) occasionally. Aside from the spotty wireless, the DUX conference format could have been from 20 years ago. We should figure out what attendees want (their goals) and then figure out the best ways of achieving those--the best form for this sort of conference. My guess is it won't be seven people on a stage talking about seven different projects, switching every seven minutes.

Originally posted at Monday, November 7, 2005 | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)

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