Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Newbie's Introduction to UX Speakeasy

Someone reminded me this evening that we created UX Speakeasy almost 3 years ago. I didn't realize so much time had gone by. We started with a dozen people and suddenly we have more people than we can fit in a good sized auditorium. Not that we ever meet in auditoriums. This month we met at Societe Brewing Company, hidden back off a busy street. Very pleasant atmosphere, lots of wood, and a very nice bartender.

As luck would have it, my friend Reynaldo was hanging out with me this week and expressed curiosity about UX Speakeasy. I asked him if he'd like to come along and give his perspective on things. He was all for it so I snuck him in. Board membership has its privileges. Reynaldo is on the small side and was feeling a bit shy
so he clung pretty close to my shoulder all evening. I didn't mind, because as long as he stuck with me it was easier to show him around and explain this eclectic group of people. Even better, I was able to hear what his experience was like as it happened.

Prior to the official Meetup we held a short Board meeting. Reynaldo was impressed by the fact that this group of people, meeting in a local brewery, were actually incorporated as a non-profit and concerned about making sure there was a structure, designated roles, goals and Vision. He was curious about what UX meant, and I whispered to him that this was sometimes a contentious question. I told him he'd be ok this evening as long as he didn't randomly swap out "UX" for "UI", or worse yet, "web design" in casual conversation . He understood, pointing out that sometimes people confused him with an ocean crab. (This would make sense if you met Reynaldo in person)

Out in the parking lot we had custom oven fired pizza by Red Oven Artisanal Pizza. One of the reasons Reynaldo and I hit it off when we first met is that I'm a vegetarian. So there was no chance I was going to get
us a seafood pizza. We both agreed the pizza was outstanding; it was custom made and fired in the stove as we watched. Somehow they managed to bring in an entire pizza making operation and kiln-like stove just for the evening. Reynaldo tried to pinch more pizza than he was entitled to.

Once the Meetup officially began I walked around saying hi to people and introducing Reynaldo. The guy's a bit of an introvert and didn't say much. But he wore a silly grin and enjoyed watching the 70+ happy attendees playing the card game UX Against Humanity.*

UX vocabulary can be confusing if you are new to the scene. So are the rules to this card game. I was having trouble trying to explain, mostly because I was taking the detailed instruction sheet too literally. It was Reynaldo who pointed out that the small groups of people hunched laughing around the barrel tables were ignoring most of the rules. At that point I decided he was doing just fine, so I begged off to wander around and take photographs.

When I got back from my photo shoot, Reynaldo explained his new understanding of the game. I share his
explanation with you in case you weren't there:

It's reminiscent of Mad Libs, if you are old enough to remember that game. There is a sentence with blanks you have to fill in and the funniest one wins each round. But in this case, the sentences were UX based and the fill in answers had to be chosen from phrases on cards in your hand - UX based as well. So you might end up with totally meaningless sentences like this:

"The future of UX depends upon a hipster's beard dandruff" 


"I'm no designer but have you thought about adding a double rainbow?"

Reynaldo thought this one was particularly funny:

"The worst UX superpower is sniffing your research participants" 

I should explain that Reynaldo comes from a sheltered background and tends to retreat into his shell when things get dicey.** So he felt a bit crabby with some phrases people created that used four letter words and anatomical references. Out of respect for his sensitivities I won't repeat them here.

More to his liking were these phrases:

"The future of UX hinges on one thing: a hair on the rim of your Starbucks cup"

"When I am wire framing I first like to sketch out relieving the cognitive load"

"When I am wire framing I first like to sketch out James Tiberius Kirk" 

"When I am wire framing I first like to sketch out cat memes"

It was a long evening; things got quite silly. Reynaldo and I had a good time, as did a lot of other attendees, judging by all the laughter and enthusiastic game play. He asked me how the group is going to top this event next month but I had to demur.

Instead, I left him to ponder:

"Life imitates: ________________"

Hint: Starbucks is not part of the answer.

*I have Reynaldo's approval to write about him. He read my post, and had the opportunity to edit it.

**His Latin-sounding name not withstanding, Reynaldo spent his formative years in China. 

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