Last night I attended the May 2010 New York Tech Meetup. For those readers that don’t know what that is, it is hands down one of the largest if not the largest tech event in New York City. It is held every month and brings startups and small businesses together to receive announcements about what’s going on in the tech community, and view demos of what other web startups are building and trying to get funding for. This is a huge deal, last night even the FCC was there with announcements and I have seen the mayor’s office there in the past.
During last night’s event, I couldn’t help but note several different ideas for blogs posts, and was planning on combining all of them into one redux post. I think, however, that that would dilute each topic’s importance, so multiple posts it is. Today, I wanted to talk about the lack of UX representation at these events, and how truly sad that is. I may have written about this before, but the thought and emotion behind it struck me again last night, so I felt the need to expound upon it.
As a user experience designer, I personally love attending NYTM as often as I can for several reasons. Most important is that going enables me to communicate and meet others who work in digital but aren’t in the user experience space. Just me being there and talking with others enables the tech community to be more aware of what UX is and how it can be helpful to startups and small businesses. Our UX community is a small world, and frankly I think that we look internally for ideas and even new jobs way too much. It seems that we are Obsessed with the Reputation of being known in the UX community or working at one of the big wig companies, more so than actually solving problems outside of our community. When I walk into these demos at the NYTM there are gazillion UX problems that I see (not that these people aren’t trying their hardest and don’t have great ideas and products because they are truly coming up with some amazing things). I can’t help but ask myself why we, as user experience designers, aren’t jumping at the chance to be part of this community. Think about it. If you live in NYC, why weren’t you there last night? Would you be so careless to miss an opportunity to talk with Jared Spool or another well known UXer? I know that Jared and other well known UXers have a GREAT deal of experience, and have taught me a great deal of what I know, BUT have they given me the opportunity to USE what I know. That opportunity lies within your local tech community, whether you want to face it or not.
Last night a number of new website products demoed. I would say about 80 – 90% of them were hiring, and none of them were hiring UX designers. Does that mean they already have someone on staff? No actually it means they either don’t know what we do or don’t care. Why? Because we aren’t making ourselves known… we aren’t even showing up and trying to be a part of the tech community! These start ups are the future Twittters, Foursquares, Facebooks, Google, etc. These are the ideas at the start of the success, and we are not included and it is not because they don’t “like” us. It’s because we choose not to be included. We are excluding ourselves from the technology world, then wondering why nobody cares about UX.
My message is simple. It’s time to stop whining that no one gets what we do and it’s time to stop being frustrated about it. It’s time to show up to the court, ask who needs an extra player and show off the madd skills we have and how we improve products and businesses. It’s our time… you got game?