May 4, 2003
We Were GELin’
I never expect to learn anything new at conferences. Not that I know everything. But going in, I’ve learned to keep my expectations near rock bottom. It seems the problems I’m trying to solve are the problems everyone is grappling with. And no one seems to have The Answer. If nothing else, whenever I attend gatherings of this order I leave feeling like I’m not alone.
So it was with this expectation that I signed up for the GEL conference this past Friday in NYC. Organized by Mark Hurst from Creative Good, GEL (Good Experience Live) was billed as a way to “explore what it means to create a good, meaningful, or authentic experience.” For the most part this means good user experiences. I’ll comment on that in a moment.
I was attracted to this conference for a couple of reasons. One: the speakers and attendees were coming from eclectic backgrounds: authors on social conditions, user interface designers, a minister, bloggers, and creative interactive designers, to name just a few. I learn the most from people outside my sometimes-myopic field of view. I like meeting new people. More importantly, I like meeting people who are passionate about what they do and what they believe in. I met many here. It gives me ideas, things I can fold into my own work and worldview.
Two: it was a one day conference held in a beautiful and culturally rich place, the New York Historical Society. I have a difficult time at three or four-day conferences held in sterile, dark, and cold hotel ballrooms. It makes it hard to concentrate. This was a focused gathering and everything was prepared for us, from meals to “in-the-middle-of-the-day performance by the Trachtenberg Slideshow Players, a family who scours estate and garage sales for personal slide collections, then connects the dots of these people’s lives by putting it all to music. Eclectics and iconoclasts rule! The power of possibilities becomes energizing.
For the most part this conference focused on good user experiences. Next year, I’d like to suggest the conference also include dialogue on good maker experiences. If we are to learn how to create better user experiences, then our development processes need to be fine tuned and efficient. More and more we are collaborating with others who bring specific expertise to our projects. Learning to work well together is a key to creating better and more adventurous user experiences. Since branding was discussed a few times on Friday, I’ll dub these important maker experiences as ME. An appropriate acronym, don’t you think?
At the end of the day I left feeling I had met some new and dynamic free thinkers. Most of us work inside the box but try to keep our minds outside as often as we can. Kindred spirits who are always trying to enlarge, enliven, and twist the worlds we inhabit. I’ll work hard to keep in contact with many I met on Friday. And I hope they will allow me to visit their worlds often. This was a very good experience indeed.