Autumn has come, it’s time for another conference. It’s Budapest again, this time it’s Amuse and Crunch. Amuse is about User Experience (UX) and Crunch is about Big Data (BD). The two are being held together as probably neither would attract a big enough audience and equally importantly the organisers are the same. So far so good, I’m interested in both.
I’m, as a solution architect, generally not involved deeply in either, but since I’m interested in product management, too, I would like to have a high-level overview of both. Which puts me in an interesting position: while my colleagues are complaining that some presentations are not deep enough, I generally benefit from most of them as they widen my spectrum well. For example, when telling my colleagues who happen to have BD expertise that I’m attending a presentation on how to build up a UX team from scratch, they laughed out loudly that I’m going to a CSS pres. Ridiculous folks, I know. 🙂 Still, at the same time when we met after the presentation, I was happy that I attended and they weren’t satisfied with theirs. Whiners.
Actually, I often take an unconventional approach when attending conferences: instead of “playing in the safe zone”, I go and listen to such presentations that are out of my comfort zone. And even if I grasp only the highest level and distill everything to a single sentence, I believe it was worth it.
It’s not the first conference from these organisers that I’m attending now. And one of the things that I like pretty much and the use of sli.do. I really like the way they make presentations interactive via technology: you just post any questions during the presentation and if it gets enough votes it’ll be answered by the presenters during the Q&A part. Very nice. Still, I’ve learned two lessons today:
- I attended a presentation on data visualisation, which was very interesting. The presenter was a technology evangelist from Tableau and, unsurprisingly, demonstrated the capabilities of the tool very effectively. I quickly checked the price rate of the tool and found that it was very high: between $1.000-2.000 for average people, like me. I asked the question via sli.do if they were planning to open for the masses via lower rates and to my biggest surprise I got moderated. My question initially showed up in the list of questions for a short period, it had even received couple of up-votes, but when it came to answering the questions, all of a sudden it just disappeared. I think my question was a valid one, it was even asked in a polite way, but it seems it wasn’t politically correct. Oh, my.
- The next story is about the mechanism of up- and down-voting. The presentation was about UX @ LEGO and I liked it pretty much. It was about how to build up a UX discipline & team at a company, like LEGO. I asked the following question: “How do you time-box creative people?”. I deeply believe it’s a valid question. It got ranked as the 2nd most popular question among all. And then I saw it declining: it was liked by 5 voters over time and after a few minutes only by 2. That was the time, when I realised that down-votes work against up-votes. I became the 3rd most popular question and chances were that my question wouldn’t be asked during Q&A. I quickly down-voted the second most popular question (shame on me), after which my question became the 2nd most popular again, but it was too late: the moderator eventually asked the other question and there was no time for a third one. Can you guess what was the 2nd most popular question? “Do you use LEGO at work?”. Grrr ….
But before the first day of the conference, I had attended a workshop yesterday, which was about Lean Analytics. It was AWESOME. Was held by Ben Yoskovitz, who’s the author of the book with the same title and the workshop was full of hands-on insights as well as theory. I couldn’t have imagined a more effective way of learning about product management and analytics. In one sense, it could have been counter-productive as I thought it wouldn’t be worth buying the book after this presentation, but on a second thought I think I really will buy it: I just can’t miss this knowledge from my book shelf. Such a great day!
Then, key take-aways from me from today. Warning: absolutely subjective, but hopefully still informative:
- The presentation from Andy Cotgreave @ Tableau was very inspiring in the sense that we must really go beyond showing raw numbers and “first-instinct diagrams” if we want the audience to quickly grasp and remember of what we really want to say. His example of Iraq’s bloody toll was really interesting and shocking at the same time: the creator of the chart played with colour, direction of chart bars and title. Also, Tableau seems to be a very powerful tool to achieve this purpose, although the price is fairly high if you just want to get familiar with it.
- Dan McKinley from Etsy revealed some insights from data analytics and how it drove business when he was working for Etsy. He shared how easy it was at the early days to think that cool ideas will surely generate more business, but only when they started to measure they realised how far that was from truth. It’s useful to know how much contextual knowledge counts when optimising for conversion as you won’t follow the same strategy for low-cost gadgets versus relatively high-cost furnitures. The most memorable sentence for me was still this one: “You must never assume Product Managers will fully know what they’re asking.” Nicely put.
- Laurissa Wolfram-Hvass was talking about researches done @ MailChimp. It’s the little(?) things that grabbed my attention the best:
- Usability lunches – free food attracts everyone and it’s a great opportunity to unleash creativity.
- Visit & film customer offices and use this in the material to present them how much you understood them and their business.
- Customer panel is a great tool to get your most influental customers at the same table and hear how they’re using your product and what they suffer from the most.
- Encourage everyone at your own company to do research for the company’s overall benefit.
- Marton Trencseni from Facebook was talking about data science. They do gather metrics mostly about growth and engagements, of course at an unthinkable scale. They do gather metrics at a very granular level and cut data per access interface: all – mobile – iOS – Facebook for iPad is just a single path among all. What I liked the most, though, was the “counter metrics matrix”: they set a target metric (e.g. increase Daily Active People) which they compare with an another metric, which is not necessarily correlated (e.g. # of support tickets). They do different actions depending on how these metrics change:
- If DAP goes up and the # of support tickets remain, then they keep the new feature.
- If DAP goes down and the # of support tickets goes up, they decide on a case-by-case basis.
- If DAP remains and the # of support tickets goes down, they keep the new feature.
- Janne Jul Jensen from LEGO was talking about setting up a UX team from scratch. The biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily the team, but the fact that the discipline was brand new in the company. I truly understand this as I’ve seen it a number of times at my company. It takes a great effort to find your own identity, i.e what UX is at LEGO, and communicate that consistently and repetitively. Also, you must educate people to get rid off misconceptions of a new discipline. Hats off, this must have been a great effort, and I can tell it’s by far not over.
- Mike Olson is an industrial veteran, who co-founded Cloudera. He shared a lot of insights not only from the past, but also put vision on the future of Big Data. All of his examples revealed deep insights and forecast a more advanced future relying on technology and BD processing in particular, still the most moving part was when he was talking about technology serving people in healthcare: either as employees or patients. The two examples of analysing the activities of newborns real-time and doing predictive analytics for regular patients to prevent from sickness and staying in hospital are very useful applications of technology serving humans.
Finally, I liked the after-party in a way that the food, the drinks and the music were all just right. But it’s not the first time that I found that I cannot effectively do networking. And it’s probably not just me: IT guys like me will just simply not go to the other to ask “hey, Dude, who are you and what are you up to?”. Maybe it’s not about my profession, nor my personality. It was the same at QCon in London this Spring: people mostly talked to their colleagues or some folks they had previously met. The next big challenge for the organisers of any conference: how to get complete strangers together to meet, discuss and enjoy conversations with others?
Hope you enjoyed reading this wrap! Any thoughts from your side?