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Information architecture believes in creating places for experiences to happen. It doesn’t believe in telling you what those experiences should be or what you should think about them. It believes in architecture. It believes in cathedrals and bazaars. Information architecture believes in people.

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A code of conduct has two problematic assumptions. First, the community that presumes to create the code presumes to predict that future versions of itself will have the same values, express them the same way, and expect to manage violations the way violations are managed now.

Even worse is the second assumption: creators of codes of conduct believe they have the right to obligate future generations to the code of conduct they would identify today.

Not to mention, codes of conduct are never embedded with mechanisms for evolution and adjustment. Codes of conduct are always edicts, set down now and forever, presuming the future and the creator's own wisdom and discounting everyone who will follow, as if now, at this moment in time, we would suddenly know more than all other moments in time.

Statements of values

Wisely, some, sensing the problems with a code of conduct, have tempered their critique with an alternative: a statement of values.

A code of conduct is built from negatives: these are the things we do not do. These are dangerous things. Even if the code is stated in the affirmative, it is constructed of negatives. A code of conduct is exclusive, meant to exclude those who violate the code.

In contrast, a community constructs a statement of values from affirmatives: these are the things we believe. A statement of values is inclusive. All those who will prescribe to these values will be included into the community. If you believe fire is a dangerous thing, then you are one of us.

With a code of conduct, a violation is a violation. There is no adjudication. A code adjudicates an action as a violation or not a violation. It is a dangerous thing, or it is not a dangerous thing. Judgement is prescribed only to the sentence.

In contrast, where a code of conduct requires correct actions, a statement of values requires correct beliefs. Where a code of conduct only requires judgement of the sentence, a statement of values also requires judgement of the action. Yes the violator's actions may have violated our values, but do they still agree with our values? Yes, they may have done a dangerous thing, but do they still believe fire is dangerous?

Future tense

Where a code of conduct presumes to divine the future, a statement of values presumes to step out of time, to describe a pure and true comprehension of a community's culture. As human experience is embedded in time, assuming one can step out of time is like a fish explaining to an earthworm what it's like to be roasted alive and eaten by ants on a sidewalk in the Summer sun. In all the oceans and all the seas, there is no fish so prescient, and any fish who realizes this truth dies from the epiphany.

So, we have three problems:

  • We cannot predict the future
  • We cannot obligate the future
  • We cannot avoid the future

What we have left is the past. We should not explain what we will do. Nor should we explain what we believe. Rather, we should describe what we have done. Our tribe need not mandate what actions make a tribe member. Nor should we mandate a creed. We need only tell our history.

Past perfect

How should we act? What do we believe? I don't know. But I do know our history. What I do know is that Saturday evening, I saw children playing games. I saw a child sing at karaoke. People brought their children to the conference. And, our metaphorical children, first-timers, are actively recruited to speak, trained in a speaker studio, set-up for dinner, applauded in public, and roundly welcomed.

Four years ago in Memphis, one of the memes was that "our women speak", and our history is filled with leaders like Christina Wodtke, Karen McGrane, Samantha Bailey, Sara Rice, Livia Labate, Mags Hanley, Erin Malone, Abby Covert, and Whitney Hess. Our women are not the exceptions that prove the rule. Our women are the rule.

So, Sunday morning, while you gather with good intentions (and I've snuck onto an airplane to go home and see my kids), I hope you don't try and tell future newcomers what they can and can't do at some unknown point in the future. And I hope you don't try and tell us what we believe.

Instead, I hope you tell our history. I hope you talk about your first Summit. How it was more like a confab than a conference. How we welcomed newcomers more than old-timers. How we talk more about ideas than about javascript. How we share stories and wisdoms more than we share rules and truths.

You need a code of conduct if women are dangerous things. If you never know how they'll react, if you must temper future behavior to avoid their danger. You need a statement of values if you believe women are like fire, able to warm you or burn you, and that they require a cosmology to understand the difference.

We need neither. Our women are neither fire, nor dangerous things. Our women are just a part of us. They're a part of our history. And our history is all we need.

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I’ll be at the 2013 I.A. Summit in Baltimore, April 3-7 where I will be speaking cross-channel user experience.

Date:Friday, April 5, 2013
Time:10:30AM
Location:Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore, MD

About the presentation

User Experience in a Cross-Channel World

One of the dirty secrets about cross-channel UX is we’ve always worked cross-channel. What’s changed is how much — and how well — we can impact the cross-channel experience.

In this presentation, I’ll share lessons learned since my first cross-channel project eight years ago. Those eight years have revealed three principles that should guide all of your cross-channel work.

With those three principles in mind, we’ll examine four tools you can use to help guide and improve the cross-channel user experience at your organization. We’ll include real-world examples, as well as templates you can use to integrate these tools into your process.

Once we’re done, new and intermediate-level designers will have added a set of tools and strategies to their toolbox they can use Monday morning. You’ll have learned how to mold better experiences across your entire organization.

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Please join me at PhillyCHI on February 7 as I make a brief stop in Philadelphia to talk about how agile, lean, and waterfall design teams can maximize design value in different situations.

Date:Thursday, February 7, 2013
Time:6:30PM – 8:30PM (Social time from 6:30-7:00PM)
Location:The William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone:(215) 732-2220
Driving directions & parking:http://waygay.org/utilities/directions.asp
RSVP:PhillyCHI@gmail.com

About the Presentation

The Design Age:
Or, A young designer’s primer on maximizing value for lean and agile teams.

Design is all about value. It helps transfer value from one person to another. Design insures you have an experience: that at the end, you’re different than when you started. Design makes this difference, and like Babbage’s Difference Engine of yore, specific knobs and levers control how much value you can create with design.

In this presentation, we’ll learn how five levers — models, fidelity, audience, annotation, and velocity — work together. We’ll see how agile, lean, and waterfall teams apply these levers differently at different times to create different value from design.

Friday at work, you won’t be able to stop yourself from asking five, simple questions. You’ll be maximizing design value for every project you encounter.

About PhillyCHI

PhillyCHI is the Philadelphia regionʼs chapter of the ACM SIGCHI, an interdisciplinary academic and professional group interested in Human-Computer Interaction, User Experience, Usability, and other related disciplines. PhillyCHI holds monthly meetings and socials to network and discuss current topics in HCI. Learn more at phillychi.org or follow along on Twitter at @PhillyCHI.

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In 2006, Adam Greenfield published a polite — and perhaps too timid — call to arms where he talked about his decision to “IA or Not IA”, he makes several important observations that are:

  • less about the community and more about what you are doing to the community;
  • less about the practice and more about what you are doing to the practice;
  • less about the discipline and more about what you are doing to the discipline.

It’d be nice if you stopped for ten minutes and answered his implied questions for yourself:

  • What are you doing to the community?
  • What are you doing to the practice?
  • What are you doing to the discipline?

There are no wrong answers. Manifestos are due Monday morning.

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