Jan 06 2010
A perennial question in supporting a community is how to focus conversations. How to dig deeper into a topic, explore new perspectives, or move a conversation forward over time. Those are questions that a community insider may be able to answer but may not be answerable by people who are not members, not involved in the conversation, not “initiated,” not “hip.” The bottom line, of course, is whether people participate and learn from the conversations in the community. And of course you never really know in advance.
But I think that “uniqueness” is a good proxy for working purposes. In other words: could (or should) a conversation we’re proposing for your community be happening elsewhere? Why here? Why now?
I’ve admired CHI-FOO because its programs have been thought through a year at a time. That takes a lot of work and a lot of focus. That kind of planning is likely to force a community to ask those questions about uniqueness. But have a look at this bit of the 2010 program description:
The 2010 CHIFOO program series will arm you with fundamental design leadership skills and inspire you to flirt with the edges of possibility. In monthly presentations throughout the year, experienced practitioners and speakers will explore how you can:
- Navigate through power structures and create momentum for interaction design initiatives
- Ensure that your message reaches a broad audience and produces a sense of urgency
- Take calculated risks that will further the discipline of human-computer interaction
- Stir positive change in the world through design thinking
Couldn’t you insert accountants, administrators or anthropologists into that statement without changing it much?
Some other warning flags:
- I know it’s a much honored practice, but when community announcements state “at the end of this talk you will know” x, or “you will be able to y,” I get skeptical.
- When a topic is someone’s book, like tonight at CHIFOO, take a careful look at whether the presentation is more serving the community or the speaker’s needs. The fact that I could catch that speaker at Powell’s tomorrow night or watch him on TV (or on a video of his TV appearance) does not suggest that I’ll learn much about human computer interaction at tonight’s session on “Confessions of a public speaker.”
Maybe I should flirt with Toastmasters instead?
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