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Jul 28, 2004: What If?

What if...

... you could find out about all the local events and meetings relevant to your work that will take place in your area over the coming weeks?

... your AIfIA membership got you a discount on a subscription to ACM's interactions magazine? Or your STC membership got you a discount to attend an AIGA event?

... there was an easier way to meet and network with colleagues in your community who cared about developing great user experiences?

... the annual UPA and AIGA-ED conferences took place in the same location in succession, instead of (frustratingly) in different cities at the exact same time?

... UX (User Experience) emerged as the thread that ties us together--whether we're software developers, interaction designers, content strategists, usability engineers, graphic designers, editors, information architects, or whomever--and allows us to better understand and work with each other?

That's just part of my wish list of big and small things that would be served by better coordination of UX-related associations, and by providing infrastructure to connect UX practitioners in their local communities. To that end, a bunch of us volunteer do-gooders recently soft-launched UXnet, the User Experience Network.

Before you get your hackles up, UXnet isn't intended to be a new professional association, and has no plans to attract members. We just want the natural evolution of UX to take place a little faster, and perhaps a little more consciously. We hope to help that evolution along with a few basic initiatives that would connect various UX-related dots.

One planned initiative is to get the usual suspect associations (think AIfIA, the AIGA Experience Design Community, ASIS&T, IxD, SIGCHI, STC, and UPA, for starters) to at least begin talking with each other on a regular basis and, ultimately, coordinating activities and services that would benefit all who care about UX. And let's face it: for many of us, the association we joined fresh out of college no longer serves all of our intellectual and professional needs. Many of us have already been drawn to other associations and communities; wouldn't it be best for traditional associations to acknowledge this trend and work with it, rather than ignore or resist it?

Another UXnet initiative would help develop infrastructure to support grass roots efforts among local UX organizers. In many locales, there simply isn't a critical mass of interaction designers, technical writers, or other specializations to stand alone as a community. So we often cast our nets widely when searching for colleagues and community. Witness frequent list announcements for "IA/UE/ID cocktail hours" and such; those slashes are significant. A shared directory of local groups and chapters, and a calendar of their events that can be filtered geographically could serve as excellent infrastructure for what's already happening organically on a local scale.

I'll reiterate that UXnet is not intended to serve as a new association, isn't planning on charging membership dues, doesn't have publications. In fact, we're still working out our governance model. But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.

As usual, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can learn more from the UXnet site.

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Comment: Liv (Jul 28, 2004)

Dear Abbey, I mean, Lou,

I am moving to a new country to start a new job and I am very hopeful that I'll be able to participate in different groups with like interests.

My first thought was "wouldn't it be great if I could find out what's going on in the UX community I'll be living in?" I've wondered if the people who participate in the different usability, design and IA groups vary a lot or are pretty much the same bunch.

How can UXnet help me Lou? How can UXnet help the little guy/gal trying to get involved in local communities for the first time?

Also, how can I volunteer? I've volunteered through AIfIA, but I would like to get something local going. Could UXnet help out?

-- Wishful-thinking IA from Sao Paulo

Comment: Matthew Oliphant (Jul 28, 2004)

*But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.*

You got it. I believe. I believe in you. I believe the children are the future. I believe there's never any Kleenex® around when you really need it.

Comment: ML (Jul 28, 2004)

I have to second Liv's comment. I'll be moving to Hong Kong in 7 weeks and I have no clue if there are any UX/IA folks out there and would love to see some "presence" of any of the above mentioned orgs. --an IA hoping to connect in Hong Kong

Comment: Rachel M. Murray (Jul 31, 2004)

Bravo! What a wonderful wish list. Linkages within and across communities are always good...and strength in numbers can only help us as a community. If our driving force is the user, we *should* be able to all live under one roof, right? ;)

Might I suggest someone throw a line to the Participatory Design community as well? At this year's conference which JUST finished in Toronto, the idea of linking with other communities was heavy in the air. Strike now, while the iron is hot - the PD community too seems interested in alliances with like-minded disciplines. This will also allow the UX network to connect with similar practictioners in places far and wide... like Scandinavia, for instance.

Comment: Chris McEvoy (Aug 3, 2004)

Lou, I have two very important questions that need to be answered.

I have also collated some comments about uxNet over at SWUG.

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