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May 19, 2010: Who are the most well-read UXers?

Yesterday I performed an extremely unscientific study to determine which UX people are best-read in the field. (Methodology: tweet it from @louisrosenfeld and ask a few colleagues via email.) Here's the list:

  • Robert Barlow-Busch
  • Steve Baty
  • Scott Berkun
  • Sarah Bloomer
  • Peter Bogaards
  • Cennydd Bowles
  • Carl Collins
  • Christian Crumlish
  • Rob Enslin
  • Will Evans
  • Karl Fast
  • Ian Fenn
  • Nick Finck
  • Gerry Gaffney
  • Whitney Hess
  • Peter Jones
  • Jan Jursa
  • Lyle Kantrovich
  • Katie Koch
  • Jon Kolko
  • Dave Malouf
  • Jess McMullin
  • Rachel Peters
  • Andy Polaine
  • Alice Preston
  • Whitney Quesenbery
  • Ginny Redish
  • Andreas Resmini
  • Lou Rosenfeld
  • Dan Saffer
  • Will Sansbury
  • Dennis Schleicher
  • David Sherwin
  • Carolyn Snyder
  • Eric St. Onge
  • Mark Vander Beeken
  • Thomas Vander Wal
  • Chauncey Wilson
  • Christina Wodtke
  • Luke Wroblewski

Some listed disagreed with their inclusion (myself included; hard for me to read much more than the books Rosenfeld Media publishes!).

But there you have it: these are, apparently, the most well-read UXers out there. Feel free to suggest additions, of course. Better yet, suggest a better methodology for answering the question.

Speaking of which, why did I ask this question? More on that later; I'm not completely sure I know the answer yet, but it'll likely have something to do with UX publishing.

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Comment: Will Evans (May 19, 2010)

Lou,

This is a good list, or, at least a good start. To clean the list as well as to add more names, or add more dimensions to the way this might be determined, I would start with a few simple questions that most people on this list should be able to answer.

1. What are the 10 most interesting, informative, mind-blowing, gestalt-inducing, and personally influential books that can be considered important to an UX practitioner or theorist that you have read in the last year?
2. For no more than three fields or disciplines within UX, which books would you consider being the best or most influential and why.
3. What 2 or 3 publications do you find most useful at a theoretical, strategic, or tactical level to your daily role as an UX professional. (Ex: Design Management Review, Interactions, Harvard Business Review, Vogue). Include some recent articles that you found particularly compelling.
4. Imagine every well-read UX professional on this list as a social object. Let's brainstorm some attribute/value pairs that might serve as metadata for better understanding of expertise and authority across various disciplines within UX.

Just some thoughts - at this point - the list is really based on people's biased perceptions informed by our projections of self in networked publics ("He/She *must* be well-read because he uses big words or she gives insightful presentations at conferences"). There must be a better way - not just a better way of understanding expertise or authority in the ux community, but putting it to some good use. Looking across this list, I can start to identify people that are my go-to experts for certain things that may only be tangentially related to UX, but extremely valuable for one reason or another.

Anyway - just some random thoughts. Take them for the 30 seconds it took to write them.

Comment: anthony (May 19, 2010)

In no particular order?

Comment: Cliff Tyllick (May 19, 2010)

Louis, I suspect the person who is truly the most well-read on UX is someone we have never heard of, because they must be so busy reading that they never have a chance to get out and practice what they've read.

Amazon and UPS could give us a clue as to who these people might be, but even then we would only know what they have *ordered*, not necessarily what they have *read.*

Comment: Livia Labate (May 19, 2010)

I am curious about your motives now. I know 27 people on your list and 13 I don't know. I can think of a few different parameters to focus your question but not knowing what it's for it doesn't much matter. As it is, this seems quite random (since frequency is not even a factor).

Comment: Livia Labate (May 19, 2010)

PS: I love that even in a random sample of our community one still manages to find diversity.

Comment: Steve Portigal (May 19, 2010)

Do we have a shared understanding of what you mean by "well-read"?

Comment: Bala Chennupati (May 19, 2010)

A somewhat scientific approach could be to look at the variety of references in their writings (assuming they all write).

For that, I've always admired Liz Danzico's blog, she references articles from a great variety of disciplines. http://bobulate.com/

Comment: Lou the Mysterious (May 19, 2010)

People, people; it's as unscientific as advertised! :-) Steve, too soon for shared anythings!

But yes, there are better ways. Cliff, I think there may be some interesting metrics to use here, but they couldn't be final by any means. And most (e.g., # of items in one's Library Thing or Goodreads collections) pertains only to books; I'm actually far more interested in articles.

Bala, I'm also a big Liz Danzico fan. As well as a big citation analysis fan. That said, I think it's tough to assume correlation between volume (and quality) of one's written output with one's reading (input).

Anthony: it's ordered in this weird arcane method we librarians use called alphabetical (by last name). ;-)

Livia, it is pretty cool that you don't know a third of these names. And I agree, a count would be nice, but it's too much work (at this point) for me to do that level of tallying. I think maybe one name came up three times; a few twice; the rest once. Just slightly Zipfian, but far too little data to go on in any case.

Will, I like the way you think. I'd like to point your brain back at this list once I can say more about what I'm hoping to do. Hope to do so soon. In the meantime, telekinetically transmit waves of productivity @yoni's way.

Comment: xian (May 20, 2010)

so I gather "best-read in the field" means have read the most writings in the UX field? (I wasn't sure if "in the field" modifies what has been read or the people themselves).

quasi-flattered to be included in the list, but not sure exactly what it means or if it's true. I do have a large design bookshelf that I cart from job to job but I assume anybody who's been trying to figure out their profession for a decade or more would have the same or similar?

Comment: Vicky (May 20, 2010)

There's an interesting element to this. Just think, would you ask this in a pure HCI context? Or psychology? The point I'm getting at is that UX is still very much a practitioner field (can you get a PhD in UX? Are there many people with PhDs who are working in UX)? The aspect of education and UX is one that's slowly emerging .....

Comment: Rachel (May 20, 2010)

Thanks for including me in the list, though I'm not sure how well read I actually am. I just like to read in general, so I try to keep a UX or design book around. Keeps me thinking outside the box.

I'd add Steve Kersten. I worked with him for about 4 months, and he gave me 6 books. He must read a book a week!

Comment: Whitney Hess (Jun 2, 2010)

I certainly don't deserve to be on this list. There is infinitely more that I plan to read than I have read; when I tip the scales the other way, I'll let you know.

Perhaps the perception of my being well-read is a result of my being *well-aware* of writing in the UX space. I'm a good recommender, even if I haven't read the work.

Comment: Bob Hope (Jun 7, 2010)

Include links to the people on the list! Jebus man, you're a UX publisher!

Comment: David Sherwin (Jun 18, 2010)

I'm surprised that I'm on this list as well, as I don't consider myself well read in the UX space comparative to, say, a master's HCI candidate... just like Whitney says, I'm just trying to keep up with what's going on. Though I did go to grad school for English and read what seems like a gabazillion fiction and nonfiction books. Maybe those count for something.

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