Day 3 From Interaction, Dublin

By Victor Sirotek on 22 02 2012

[Editor's Note: Victor is drafting these daily recaps from the notes he took at the Interaction Design Conference in Dublin earlier this month. Soon, we'll be posting a deeper analysis of some of the more interesting insights he gained from the presentations.]

Morning Around Dublin

On Friday morning, we were running behind schedule and had no choice but to alter our plans and take in some of downtown Dublin before the next set of speakers. I had been interested in checking out the National Gallery of Ireland before we left for the trip and this was the day. It was really convenient since the gallery was across the street from our hotel. The gallery is under a lot of construction right now but the most important collections are available to be viewed by the public.

The work that stood out to me were a few pieces by an Irish illustrator, whose last name was Doyle, from the late 1800s. He was an illustrator of children's moral tales. What that translates to is stories that are really terrifying to make kids too scared to misbehave. Theses were really popular in the 1880s to the early 1900s and nearly every culture had them.

Abi Jones, "Your Users are Hobbits"

Once we arrived at the convention center and got going with our day, I jumped into a presentation. It was called "Your Users are Hobbits: How classic quests can inform your next design" and was presented by Abi Jones.

The basic idea behind the presentation is that if you think about your users and their motivations, they are really on a quest. This quest has a narrative that helps move them through the experience. You can carefully plan how you want them to interact and what outcomes you want them to achieve by presenting them with options and a little bit of good guidance.

She described it much more interestingly though. All stories start with a call to adventure. This involves crossing a threshold from the known world to the unknown world. At the start of the adventure, we don't have the tools we need yet. We must go through trials and ordeals to learn and grow. If you give people trials to practice and get better, the ordeals won't be such a big deal.

At some point in the story, a goddess shows up to show you the power inside yourself. But with this comes temptation. At some point you are given atonement, which leads to apotheosis. You finally acquire the skills and tools to be a whole person and complete your quest. You learn that you must accept help in order to learn unexpected things. Before you can complete the quest, there is generally a period of refusal and return. Where the main protagonist, you (or Frodo), don't believe you can complete the quest even with all you know. Then you are rescued from the outside. Someone other than yourself returns to let you know that you can do it (Gandalf, Obi Wan, your parents, your mentors).

The presentation ended with a quote — "If the path before you is clear you are probably on someone else's" - Joseph Campbell.

Andrew Hinton, "Users Don't Have Goals"

Next up, after some much needed coffee was "Users Don't Have Goals" by Andrew Hinton of Macquarium. Seriously, Macquarium. I tried for a while to figure out where that name came from and gave up.

Andrew believes that users don't always know why they are doing something. There isn't always a plan. "When you go into the kitchen late a night you don't have a plan.

There isn't a goal when you stand in front of the fridge and stare. Goal is a powerful word and possibly too loaded to talk about user goals.

Behavior is organic. If we want something, we do it. If we don't like something we change it. This doesn't happen because of a plan, we react to our world and the stimuli it provides. Rarely do we have defined goals. Goals shift and change as you work, move along and learn. This also dovetails wonderfully with what Adi was talking about in terms of quests. Andrew and her are talking about it from different angles, but the intersection points are very interesting and probably provide the most value.

He points out that he has seen situation origins ignored in agile stories. Often agile focuses very intently on user goals by nature of it's process. Users isn't a very nice term for the people that use our software anyway. We need to think of our users as people, then we need to start by assuming that they have no goals. We need to design for the fuzzier areas in order to create an experience that is more effective, enjoyable and human.

Sebastian Deterding, "Designing for Behavior Change"

"Designing for Behavior Change" was Sebastian Deterding's presentation. The title shown in his presentation was "The Mao Model Research for Behavior Change." What he was really getting at in a nutshell is persuasive design. Mao was really good at using marketing, the media and visual graphics to incite massive change. In 3 years China switched almost completely from corn to steel production jump started industrial age.

What drives or demotivates us? What energizes you to love the work? These are the things that you need to really pay attention to in order to engage people and make them love using your software or pay attention to your marketing. You need to make people aware and help them understand what you want and expect from them.

It is very important to acknowledge people's fears uncertainties and doubts. If there are parts of what you are expecting of a person using your software or site that may confuse or cause them to be concerned, talk to them about it. Let them know right up front what they can expect from you and what you plan to do for them. Our software Syncr could benefit from this hugely on it's homepage. We are trustworthy and have people's needs in mind. The problem is, they don't know that.

Amber Case, "From Solid to Liquid to Air"

The final presentation of the day was the closing keynote by Amber Case. Her presentation was to say the least, awesome. Amber's presentation was called "From Solid, to Liquid, to Air." It was about the evolution of the interface and her thoughts on where it is headed.

To be able to give it some room and expand on my thoughts around Amber's presentation and her work, I am going to post it as a separate article.


After the presentations, Samuel and I met up with Brandan Stephens, Eric Dahl and some others for dinner. We had a destination in mind but couldn't find it. We ended up at a place called Coppinger Row. It was a nice, modern and hip little bistro that had some really great food. I had the mushroom tart. Jared Spool was sitting in the window with some people when we were leaving. I always thought that all Jared did was talk at conferences, not attend them.

After we finished with dinner, we made our way to the IxDA 2012 awards show at the mayor's mansion. Or was it called "the round room" or something, I am unsure. It was glowing blue from the outside.

That is it for day 3. Our basic run-through of the IXD12 adventure concludes in day 4's blog post, but I'll be writing more deeply about Amber Case and some of the greater themes in more structured posts in the near future.