The Festival of UX and UXTV pioneer talks media, UX festivals and Anarchy in the UK.
Bobby: For this interview because you are getting something started and also you’re a UX professional we can talk about what you want. The two things I’d like to talk about are the Festival of UX and UXTV. I wanted to know if you were moving into training?
Michael: Training? No that is something we could do down the line. What I’ve trying to cover just now are topics that are most interesting to the UX community and one big thing is always recruitment. I want to get a panel discussion about that. … A lot of the stuff on LinkedIn is almost like the UX of LinkedIn or the UX of social. I think we need to understand these platforms really well. So we need to engage with them, we need to be using them, we need to be practitioners of them, if its going to contribute to an overall UX strategy. Yeah so the training element I think that is something we should be considering. I definitely want to have a panel discussion around that.
I’m CPUX certified, I did that with User Vision and Chris Rourke who you probably know. I found that to be a brilliant course. I did the crash course as I kinda already knew that kind of stuff but I still had to cram all that studying in. I basically did it and passed it and found it to be a good lexicon and a good process. I’m also going to be looking at the Design Institute UX Design course. I’m thinking of getting certified in that so as to have that as well. But I definitely think in the conversations I’ve had with the recruiter, I think this is a big topic for people. A lot of people aren’t certified at all which is fine up to a degree but I think if we’re going to be taken seriously in due course we’re going to have to look at that.
Bobby: So what’s your main concern at the moment, is it UXTV?
Michael: Well UXTV is really a community platform or a community channel its not really intended to make money as such. Obviously it helps to promote me which is a nice by product. One was I wanted to experiment on social and two I think there is a need for building that community. Initially it will be Edinburgh, Scotland, Glasgow based, but I think that’s a brand that has a lot of legs - how it’s going to evolve I’m not really sure. I’ve had a start-up in the past, but right now I don’t want the hassle of trying to form a start up or try to make a business out of something. I just want to do stuff I enjoy doing and do the things that I want to do. So it’s a bit of an indulgence for me personally and it will help the community and that will be good.
Ultimately I’m in the market to be a UX consultant and whether that comes as freelance work or through an agency, I’m kinda open to that. Right now because of COVID-19, all bets are off. Anything that I was planning to do interns of finding a job. I had a couple of clients lined up but that just didn’t happen then so it just gave me a lot more time. I just need to busy. Having UXTV to focus and put all my energy into in good. The other thing, you might be aware of, I did post it on LinkedIn as my other job or a job that’s on hold, is FUX… (Pause) Festival of UX !
Bobby: Thank God for that!
Michael: So what I was thinking was, that was meant to be in July this year, it was meant to happen in July. I was supposed to be getting it all lined up. There’s been a load of working going on with that for the last year in the background. July meant we might get some sunshine, at least we could get a dry day in Edinburgh and I’d already lined up to work with Herriot Watt University, I’d spoken to them before Christmas. So a bit like NUX but a bit more commercial as I was going to have to fund and build it myself. Maybe that’ll change and I’m open to people getting involved if they want and we can put something together, to manage and lead that.
What I wanted was a unique user experience, that’s what I like to talk about, unique user experiences. To take the conference or event (FUX) like that and make it a really good user experience. When we went to NUX it was supposed to be about community but really never got to know about other people there. Even though it was single track, I didn’t find, I think single track is the way to go so everyone comes out with this similar experience not the same experience. That gives you something to talk about with each other.
Bobby: Give us a pitch for the festival in 2 mins. If you were going to sum it up, what was going to happen in those couple of days? Why should we go?
Michael: FUX 2020 - Designing for happiness. - That’s the tagline. It was going to be about people doing things because they are passionate about them not because they were getting paid. To emphasis that, we were talking to someone from Bhutan where they measure their country by gross national happiness not gross national profit. I think this is the concept that a lot of countries are going to adopt. If we all think of our personal KPIs as measuring our success by our own contentment rather than our own bank balance that would be a good thing. So that was what the festival was going to promote.
Bobby: What about the format, were you thinking about speakers?
Michael: Single-track, speakers from the UX community so they are known, but to blur the lines slightly into a little bit of social, because I think social is really important, I think communication is really important to any UX strategy. So if you’re going to achieve anything, how you’re going to do that. So I was going to blur the lines a little bit there but also to comedians and musicians so it was more of a festival. So UX professionals who want to hang out together, a little be more laid back and relaxed but something that when everyone would leave would go “ah that was a great day out!”. The kinda feeling you get when you leave a good music festival. It was about making something memorable that people wanted to go to but a reasonable price so wasn’t out of peoples budgets.
Bobby: Magic! I wish you well if you do it again next year.
Alma: So can I ask Michael, is your emphasis more on the experience for the person attending the festival or is more about bringing UXers together?
Michael: I think both. One of the things we wanted to run a thread through was that we would want to get to know other people there. We wanted to really work on that community aspect of it. So whether you were doing a workshop or answering questions or having a 2 hours lunch where you would meet up together, that was part of it. Also in the evening, where the festival would have ended at 5 or 6 pm I was planning on having a digital map, so for example say Bobby, I would have approached you of course to be one of the speakers, so I would say to you, “what type of food do you like”, and you’d say “I love Chinese food and I like rock music”. I’d say “OK Bobby, here you go, here’s your chaperone, they’re going to look after you. Who do you want to take with you - you’re taking Alma - don’t worry, all the costs are covered. You’re going to go to one of the best independent Chinese restaurants in Edinburgh and you’re going to go to a rock concert later on. If anyone else wanted to pop along, don’t worry you won’t get pestered! We’ll have a chaperone there. You can go along and take selfies etc.”
I think that was going to be how it worked. It’s one thing having a festival but it was going to be what was going to happen afterwards. I was going to do something different around getting better access to the speakers. Because the speakers are the leaders of our community and giving people a bit more access but also making it a bit more rewarding for them [speakers]. That was going to be a big part of the day.
Bobby: That’s really interesting, it’s a structured night out.
Michael: Yes exactly. Remember there’s different speakers so eventually we all end up in Stramash as that could hold everyone. I’d already discussed this with some restaurants and that’s still on the cards if it happens. In the restaurant you’d have a table where you wouldn’t be bothered and there would be 50/60 people there because they wanted a quick chat, have a selfie, whatever.
Bobby: Yeah, that could be fun.
Alma: Yeah, quite rockstar like, rockstar Bobby!
Bobby: Flattering, yes VIP area and all that!
Michael: That’s what it’s all about. Mike Jefferson is a big influence to me. What he created in Edinburgh. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t all about talks and presentations. He was building community by saying “just come along, have a chat, just hang out.” If you’re not hanging out with people, you’re not really building that community.
Bobby: Yeah, I suppose it’s not just the way to find work or whatever it’s a bit of chat because you’re meeting interesting people. I’m always amazed at some people’s hobbies and things they do for a laugh. People are quite inspiring.
Michael: Exactly, and as a community and if we want, for me UX is where I’m laying my hat. I’ve been a Product Owner, Project Manager and SCRUM Master and Agile Coach and all those things but I think for me, UX - there was a great presentation at NUX and she was one of the speakers I was hoping to get to speak with. She finished her presentation in saying “If we don’t look to do good in what we are doing and work for good companies, who else is going to?
Bobby: It’s true. Something altruistic about it.
Michael: We are the empathy masters, people are out there trying to understand, what does good look like? And by the way, who are we working for and is what they’re doing good - and do we want to be part of that? In a world where we’re changing and COVID-19 is making people more community-based and changing how people even perceive, I’ve figured the capitalist system is very badly broken. As Greta Thurnberg said, “this ridiculous fantasy of continuous economic growth”. There’s never been a truer thing said.
Bobby: Yes it’s time to take stock I think. I’ve been reading something along those lines as well. I’ve got Noam Chomsky's book on Anarchism. He described it in very reasonable terms. ‘Libertarian Socialism’ he said, not the Sex Pistols.
Michael: Chomsky’s a bit hardcore for me. I like his basis principles but he likes to deconstruct everything. "Don’t go to football matches, don’t support sport event!”
Bobby: That’s right because that’s indoctrination! So maybe that’s it, if we’re sitting around bored enough for long enough, maybe all the designers will get pitchforks together and start a revolution.
Michael: That's a good idea, that’s that FUX is!! Ha Ha
Alma : Rather than a pitchfork, maybe just a sharpie or two!
Bobby: Yeah, grabbing some post-its!
Michael: Yeah exactly, although it Miro now no post-its.
Bobby: Yeah, Miro’s magic. So can we talk about UXTV, I’ve see the podcast one.
Michael: Thanks Bobby, I’d love to have you on as a speaker sometime Bobby. I’m glad you listened to that. Everything I do is a bit of an experiment. I like experimentation. I think as UXers that really should be core to what we’re doing. So in the podcast, even some of the guests I had on, some people might not see how they’re connected to UX. I need to redo the intros and the extros and edit them but it’s getting the time to do it. I actually have three podcasts which I haven’t released yet. Again that was partly because I said, that was good, I’ve done that, but now I have to promote that, how am I going to promote it? You’ve got to Facebook, you’ve got to do LinkedIn.
Bobby: Alma and I have been finding that as well, we’ve got backlogs. There's an interview I did last Monday which I still haven’t put online. Alma’s been doing lots of work transcribing because the initial format we chose was a set of LinkedIn articles because we haven’t got round to finding permanent home for them. But you have to think - what’s the best medium? What’s the path of least resistance.
Michael: Just so you know, I use StreamYard that enables me to go live on Facebook. For me, what I’m always conscious of is creating content I don’t need to edit afterwards if at all possible. Because it’s the post production stuff that takes up a lot of time. So I try to avoid that. That’s why with Jack (Jack is a recruiter who was a guest on UXTV), some people for whatever reason are busy, don’t have time, and you’re like ok that’s fine but then when you get someone like Jack, he’s was super eager which was great and the learnings I got from that were fantastic. But I have Dave West from Scrum.org and to do a panel discussion around the project management of UX and AI I think that’s going to have great appeal. For me I don’t mind if there are only 2 people viewing on line, the fact that’s then available to watch. Actually today I was thinking the next level is documentaries to the level of Abstract. Because when I watched Abstract, the first series, I was thinking - why is there no digital design in here?
Bobby: Is that that design documentary on Netflix?
Michael: The first season was brilliant, this season they now have an episode on digital design.
Alma: I saw that, someone mentioned it on LInkedIn this morning.
Michael: That programme really drove me back to going "who am I and what am I doing?” and really made me go back to thinking - be a designer, do that and promote design as as important as graphic design or architecture or all of these other topics that they mention.
Michael: I think it’s someone involved in Instagram.
Bobby: Ok, that’s kinda a whistle stop tour of what you’ve been up to. You’re definitely someone we should stay in touch with. Alma did you have any other questions?
Alma : I think Michael has kind of covered it as in who your audience are, that was what I was curious to know and who you are aiming this at. I think what you have describe is that, with your audience, you’re hoping to get the UX message out there, and your audience is a whole mix of people.
Michael I think I want to champion UXers like Bobby and Mike, champion UX leadership. I think that’s going to make a difference when we go forward to say to people you need UX leaders in your organisation and you need them helping you strategise for the future I think that’s good. I work with Mike Winnot who is a LinkedIn influencer, essentially, and that got reposted today so the impact of people see this and starting to understand UX from that video has been fantastic. If I can help the UX community in the sense, if I can put us at the table with an equal seat as the other specialities I think we can all contribute to that. I think it’s going to happen anyway.
Bobby: I think at the moment the UX meet-u s are going online, I’m not sure what Mike’s doing.
Michael: Yeah he had one last week.
Bobby: Suddenly there are a load of advantages to it which weren’t there before. It’s difficult to get a venue month to month, you’ve got to find someone to pay for it. Zoom is basically free. Someone can pay for the pro version. Someone can do breakouts. You can do three speakers per night all presenting something - work in progress, it’s magic. There’s loads of potential.
Michael: Its actually really good for UX generally. A lot of UX research, engaging with users would actually be better done like this rather than people trying to come to a venue.
Bobby: Suddenly it’s of equal value. We were talking to someone recently who said that. Before this, it was the poor cousin compared to face-to-face. But now, maybe this will change everything.
Alma : I think our UX meet up last time was there were so many people there. They were coming from all parts whereas before it was in Glasgow, it would be Glasgow based people attending. This time it was good to see all these other faces, maybe people that you recognised from LinkedIn or that you followed and to have them. I think we had over 40 people? That is fantastic, you would never get that amount of people able to turn up. So that was great.
Michael: I think people are limited in time and to travel to the venue and come home late, whereas if they can just tune in from the comfort of their living room it’s quite appealing.
Bobby: Yes and if you’ve got kids as well, you’ve only got so much time spare every week so you can put it on in the background when you’re feeding them and your level of participation is negotiable. Great new world.
Alma: Yes a good positive.
Bobby: So that’s us at the end of twenty minutes, so let’s stay in touch. It’s really exciting how you’re pushing those things on both fronts. First on alternative UX Festival I say alternative as the big one is UX Scotland.
Michael: UX Scotland is for people who know nothing about UX, big firms that can afford the price tag to pop up and go along, it’s an education for them. Whereas this is more for the UX professionals a bit smaller.
Bobby: Maybe by the community, for the community. If you want to look for inspiration the A11y Conference. It was sold out last year.
Michael: What’s that one?
Bobby: It’s spelled Ally - A, double one, Y. It’s the accessibility conference. It’s really good. It’s a one-dayer and a lot cheaper. I met lots of interesting people heard great speakers. It more boutique, you know it not hundreds of people.
Michael: The other things that’s missing is that I feel we’re not leading or not given the opportunity to lead. Accessibility is never up the agenda.
Bobby: That’s true, isn’t it?
Michael: It needs to be.
Bobby: We consciously need to push. With the best of intentions with the projects we do it tends to get pushed down the priority list.
Michael: Ok cool guys.
Bobby: Great talking to you Michael and thanks again Alma for joining me.
Alma: Thanks Michael.