Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 5 - The Festival, the City, & the Way Home

Home. And exhausted. Exhilarated and changed for good. I'm determined to write the final three days of my journey before I collapse into bed for the next week ten hours to be up at 6 for the return to normal life.

Read about awesome ideas below, or, skip to the adventures, pics, and video.

A couple sessions stand out to me from Saturday at the IA summit. No actually, I guess one was on Saturday and one was on Sunday. They are starting to blend together in my mind. One was two Australian dudes who I'd been noticing the entire weekend because of their awesome hats. They were like Indiana Jones hats, fedoras with broad brims, and these two guys were the only people at the conference wearing hats. Until Crawford came, but that's a later story. Their names were Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning, and their workshop was called "Clutter is King." It was all about how people do not live in these pristine environments we tend to design for, nor do they particularly want the "paperless office" the so-called tech visionaries have been heralding for years. They researched hundreds of people about their office organization habits and came to some realizations. We like our clutter, our mess. It works for us. It reminds us of things we need to do and sparks innovation as "unrelated" things are juxtaposed in our field of vision. With few exceptions, those who take great pains to organize their working office documents into highly-structured systems are more stressed and less productive. Often we try to force ourselves to organize in a way that is unnatural to us and really all it does is create more work for ourselves.
Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, in his natural habitat - Diana Walker

They then applied these observations to how we design digital spaces.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 4 - New ideas, new friends, & Bourbon Street

I don't know where to begin. My mind has been blown so many times the pieces are still all just shifting around, trying to come back together to make a new sense of the world.
I'm just going to start with pictures and go from there.

Donna Spencer teaching "IA Theory and Practice"
 The Thursday workshop was a mixture of enjoyment, disappointment, and affirmation. It was my first opportunity to meet people and I very much enjoyed getting to know my table mates over the course of the day. The teacher was also very personable, knowledgeable and well-prepared. It's amazing that 8 hours flew by with no fatigue, concentration loss or antsiness - for me that is a huge accomplishment and it is to Donna's credit that she kept us all engaged by mixing theory, case studies and hands-on application. The disappointment was in not learning as many new things I expected to. But on the other hand it was very affirming in that I knew more about the field than I realized. A library education is a real asset in this industry because it gives a lot of theoretical basis that people picking it up on the go don't get.

"IA Theory and Practice" card-sorting exercise
 Card-sorting was probably the single biggest takeaway for me. Well, besides knowing more than I thought I did. This is a very flexible exercise to conduct with clients/stakeholders where you represent pieces of content with cards, then ask them to categorize the cards, and create labels to describe the groups. You learn more from the discussions about why things do or don't belong together than you do from the actual sorted stacks.
Then, with that knowledge and user research all sort of rattling around your brain informing you, you construct an information architecture to organize a website. This step is best done alone. Then the IA is extensively tested, discussed, and revised. And, when you're not a freelancer like Donna, but rather, stuck long-term with a site like me, periodically revisited.
Scott Root
 Scott was at the IA workshop with me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 3 - Rain on My Parade

This day did not turn out as I was expecting.
It started out promising. I got a good 8 hours of sleep and laid in bed for another hour and a half before doing anything. This is a rare luxury in the life of Lydia. I read a little and looked up song lyrics and versions for some songs Woody the busker and I were trying to remember yesterday.

As much as I admire Billie for being mother of the blues, it's swingstress Ella who continues to be my inspiration. Her range, her tone, her utter musicality, her sparkling stage personality...what's not to love? Listen for yourself.

After a brief incident involving a certain hotel door refusing to open, I got my continental breakfast and by 11am I was on my way into town. I've about given up on the bus. It confuses me even at home when I'm familiar with the area. And I always seem to get to the bus stop right after the bus leaves. So I took a cab. The cab driver alone was worth the money. She was real chatty and told me the best place to get a muffuletta ("muffle-AH-tuh") (They're better here on the West Bank, she said) and a po-boy (Mother's po-boys are apparently world famous.) She also told me where to go for music and took me through the Warehouse district. I'm going to have to check out the "Hollywoof" (Howlin' Wolf) - maybe next trip when I'm not on business. I think she may have taken me the scenic route to rack up a few extra bucks, but I'm not complaining. She cued me in to Mother's after all. Best meal I've had since I got to New Orleans.

So about the time I finished up my debris & gravy ferdi and turnip greens (rather, reached the three-quarter mark and decided to call it quits) it starts beating down rain. I mean, seriously storming. Thus began a serious of rather poor decisions. Armed with my new umbrella, I decided I was invincible so I sallied forth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 2 - French Quarter Buskers

Glorious afternoon! I am now in that happy, delirious sort of exhaustion.
Teens performing in Jackson Square
 These kids were cool. They came from Oklahoma and are spreading the gospel through dance. One of them also approached me and asked if they could pray over me. So we prayed for the Chic-fil-A Bible study. So unexpectedly uplifting.

Guitarist holding my Long Purple Bike card
 This guy's name is Woody. He was playing in front of the Cafe Du Monde and he's the first musician I found. He's from Vermont and came to New Orleans five weeks ago seeking fame and fortune through music, or something like that. He's got a great voice. He picked up trombone a few days ago. He invited me to play and sing with him. We had a blast.
  Woody told me there were more musicians on Royal Street. Sure enough, there were two fantastic fiddlers. But I had a problem. No more small bills to tip them! So I popped in the nearest door intending to ask for change for my ten. Boy was I surprised to see all of these exquisite paintings!

IA Summit New Orleans 1 - Getting There

Packing as Art. Next to my laptop are my spiffy new business
cards, a lint roller, & the Great Dalmuti for game night.
I am writing this on my phone on the Megabus on my way from Charlotte to Atlanta. This is the second leg of a 15 hour trip taking me from Spartanburg, SC to New Orleans, LA for IA Summit 2012. I'll be blogging my adventure all along the way. Read about how I found out about the IA Summit and what it is.

I've been prepping for months - talking to folks who'd been there & picking up tips, revamping my portfolio, getting spiffy networking cards, finding a roommate, booking hotels and planning bus routes.

...five hours later...
Lydia the Traveller in Atlanta
I am now in between Montgomery and Mobile, AL. I still can't pronounce Mobile right. Mo-BEEL. I've seen and met some interesting people. A lot of wierdos hang out at bus stations. People who rock, stare at you, and wear funny wigs. People who talk to themselves, and people who have cardboard signs about Google being "HOSTTOTHEDEAD" whatever that means. But the people who actually get on the bus seem sane, and relatively nice. I met some students on their way to or from Spring Break, and a Mobile native who was quick to give me safety tips. I forgot hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Oh well, my mom gave me a pretty new umbrella. I'll just pretend it's a parasol.
A 15-minute layover becomes 1 hour.
It's been a fairly pleasant bus trip. I have probably gotten more schoolwork done than I would have during the same amount of time at home. I've also gotten a lot of great ideas to take back to Converse already. I'm reading a fabulous SEO book and can't wait to apply some of this stuff to the Converse website. Next step: create a Mentions of Converse dashboard in iGoogle. Whenever people are talking about us, anywhere on the web, we'll be alerted. Eavesdropping made simple! An excellent way to stay in touch with perceptions of our brand.

Megabus > Greyhound. day...
I made it at last. The last bit of the bus trip yesterday was less than pleasant thanks to a migraine and a bout of bussickness. I never get sick in the car, plane, or boat. Wierd.
Oh, and the bus was an hour late. Between that, general disorientation, and the Google Online Marketing Challenge pre-campaign strategy being due last night, I did not have a very restful evening, though the Ashbury Hotel was surprisingly nice. And Matthew and I got to pray over Skype which was doubly nice.

Read about the creepy bus station mural, the Hyatt-Regency, and the local grocery after the jump.
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