Monday, May 15, 2006

The DCamp experience

So DCamp was definately worth attending, (check out the photos - Dcamp put a smile on my face!) and I'm certainly going to be looking out for other unconferences in the future. The event was well attended, had a great level of participation, well supported in the offices of Socialtext, and well sponsored (BayCHI, Socialtext, O'Reilly, Intuit, eBay, Yahoo, Google, IFTF, AOL, Enthiosys, Embyra & Uzanto). Rashmi and Stacie did a great job of pulling the whole thing together. There are a number of things that of course need to be organized before an unconference - such as location, food, and sponsorship ...and t-shirts (as modeled here by Rashmi). The t-shirts were just great - cool design and all that, yeah yeah... but the best part was that women were identified as a target market (!!! shock and awe !!!) and I was able to pick up a T that I wasn't for once, going to pass on to my husband. This one is mine!!

On to the sessions: I was able to be at DCamp Friday evening and Saturday from midday, and attended the following sessions (links go to the 'official wiki notes'):

* Open Source and Usability
* Remote Methods
* Agile Design, Development and Usability

Some of the interesting take-aways from the sessions:

  • Open Source and Usability
Kguzik has created a great set of notes out of the discussion in this session, that mainly are suggestions, tips for how usability can be promoted in the world of open source. (see Kguzik's notes at the bottom of the 'official' notes for this session).

  • Remote Methods
    • Provided an overview of Ethnio and The Mind Canvas
    • Ethnio:
      • Ethnio is cool because you can do "live recruiting" on a website and aside from that extra is seems to have all the benefits of the other remote usability technologies.
      • Live recruiting works through intercepting people after they have just performed or tried to perform an action. It's very targetted recruiting.
      • The participant only needs to install a small plug-in, and they haven't had any trouble with participants doing that. It uninstalls afterwards.
      • The audio and video is merged into a FLASH file for later use (smaller size than avi). The resulting recording is whatever the full screen resolution of your participants screen is.
      • Currently runs with IE and Firefox (but is currently not Mac compatible.
      • All connections are encrypted under SSL.
      • Currently not a lot of opportunity to do collaborative notes - but they're working on that.
      • Ethnio records all the click-stream data and notes can be tied to this data.
      • Custom tags can be created in the fly.
    • The Mind Canvas:
      • One intention is to make user research activities more fun!
      • Provides tools for prioritization tasks - the task has the user divide up a pile of money instead of traditional prioritization tasks.
      • Card sorting tasks have been implemented.
      • The Mind Canvas also includes vizulation tools for the data collected.
  • Agile Design
This session generated far more questions than answers. One of the interesting issues that arose (but that was not resolved) was around timing and the integration of user research. User Research takes time - to what extent can we and should we adapt user research methods to meet the needs of Agile development processes? How can User Research be more active in driving the design process? The issue can be summarized as: Are administrating quick methods - that may be bad - worse than collecting no data?

For those who went to this event and are interested in carrying the conversation on, there are two ways: (i) reunion dinners that are being organized, and (ii) a mailing list.

See you at the next unconference...

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