Each event couldn't have been more different and I was surprised by which one I derived the most personal value from. The winner? Barcamp Dallas.
Why? Because it got me out of TWO echo chambers that I've been stuck in. One involves Microsoft and our perspective, err positioning, on design and the other involves the echo chamber of the design community itself.
First, I think we missed out on an opportunity to communicate to the professional designer in as meaningful a way as I had hoped, and full disclosure here, I'm talking about my own bias as a designer towards thinking about things strategically and systematically versus just a craft guided by intuition. Many have commented to me publicly and privately that it feels like Microsoft is feeling our way around design and doesn't 'get' it. It was certainly easy to get that impression the way we superficially talked about design and paid credence to it in many of our presentations and demos. While it certainly wasn't universal across all of our content it took us awhile to find our groove. It was also probably thought figuring out who we were talking to, was it professional designers, developers, business decision makers, the press? The reality is we were talking to all of these folks and it was quite frankly a bit disjointed, how do you have that conversation in one forum? A focus on showcasing the tools and the value they could inject into the design process and the capabilities was our goal. I think we got part way there.
But in this case I think perception and reality regarding Microsoft are out of alignment. There are many people that DO get design at Microsoft and there are many people that DO understand the nuance and differences between one that designs' versus 'decoration' and how folks that are developer/designers can and are quite different from folks that might call themselves designer/developers (a subject I'll expand upon in a future post). Those that are mired in the challenge of constructing rich interfaces can also see the merits in what Microsoft is doing. But, the current nature and complexity of rich interface work necessities that some of these folks are going to get dirty with code and scripting in addition to design.
If I had it to do over again (and being Microsoft we do--in Chicago this Thursday) I think you'll see a much more accessible discussion (from a professional designer perspective) about why Microsoft's endeavors in this domain are genuine and important to anyone that works in the field of interaction design or Web application development. I also think those folks that look closely at the professional design tools we are developing will realize that not only are we sincere about providing tools for the standards-based Web and that enable designers a new and powerful entry into rich application development but that some of our technology actually raises the bar dramatically in terms of what it will be possible for interaction designers to accomplish versus current tools.
This is a great time to be a designer and I don't think any of the new opportunities available to designers and developers are a zero sum game. Microsoft getting design is important to the profession of design and anything the design community can do to help Microsoft get where they need to be will benefit our profession and the customers of technology.
These are the posts that I think best reflect the multitude of perspectives that were shared about the San Francisco event. It was great to meet folks like David from Adaptive Path, Antoine from Immedient, and Steve from Portigal Consulting. But, I was bummed that I missed meeting Lee and Ryan.
In my next post on Barcamp Dallas I'll talk about how I getting a group of robotics fanatics, Ruby programmers, Linux geeks and Java hounds reminded me how important personal passion is making a successful event. It was also a fascinating opportunity to step outside of both the traditional Microsoft topics du jour and design topics du jour to get down and dirty with developers.