Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kathy Sierra - Keynote

Kathy Sierra delivered her Keynote Address on Creating Passionate Users, coincidentally the title of the book on which she is working. She has an interesting background, having worked as a game developer, an interactive marketer, a trainer at Sun, and in academia. Her talk focused around how you deal with users' confusion via the interface, how a computer doesn't understand emotions or facial expressions. She recommended that something as simple as a WTF? button would be good, but it would have to have better responses than your typical FAQ or Help files. Those are written for people already comfortable with tech, but what about the rest? She said that the only way to create passion amongst users and to get them creating cool things is to give them confidence in what they are doing. Basically, if you feel you suck at something, you won't be passionate about it. I have to agree. As a college professor teaching Web design and other multimedia topics, the majority of my time with students deals with answering their questions and giving them the tools to answer their own. I have to be so careful with my approach, something I deal with constantly. I want this to be fun for students, but if they are confused or stumped, they don't view it as fun. I am lucky, because over the course of a semester, I get to see students go from a state of complete anxiety over computers to slowly feeling a level of confidence in their own abilities with technology. This is particularly important with female students. I have seen many students, both males and females, who started out unsure of their computer skills, move on to careers that seamlessly integrate their double threat, communication and technology. This, to me, is the best feeling and why I love teaching these topics.

It was interesting that Sierra pointed out that companies spend so much money on materials for people before they buy, like flashy brochures, but little to no money on them after they buy, boring, b&w user manuals. This was a great speaker to kick off this event. And Wired doesn't think there are women doing anything with technology (basically two women technologists on the cover in their entire history). Yes, I'm still on that kick.


Kathy Sierra said...

Thank you so much for your nice comments Cindy! And I'm always happy to hear there are teachers out there like you -- your students are lucky.

anna said...

I was just talking to my boyfriend earlier today about the lack of women in tech or science positions. It's exciting that creative subjects, like journalism and advertising, are blending with new technology to create brand new careers. I'm thrilled, at least. :)