UA Europe 2010: whistle-stop account

Last week (16th -17th Sept) saw the UA Europe conference in Stockholm (a lovely city, by the way). I was speaking, but since this is one of my few blog posts that isn’t self-aggrandizing codswallop, I’ll gloss over that. It was well-enough received, despite some localization issues around a largely European audience, and my rather stagily idiomatic style. Cool, neat – lessons for next time.

Here are a couple of the highlights:

  • Anne Gentle’s two presentations
    The keynote Social Web Strategies for Documentation, and the second day presentation Climbing the Levels of Collaboration were fantastically delivered, lively, and enjoyable. There were some great practical tips for going social;  for working out what kind of communities your company can use or may wish to create; for incentivising community participation; and a timely reminder that you don’t have to do it, and it’s ok to fail.

    Anne is the perfect antidote to the cliché spectre of the social media shyster – you know the kind, the kid with the popped collar and the Mac Book Air who charges you a grand for setting up a Twitter account.

  • The Design of User Assistance on Mobile Enterprise Applications
    Confession: I missed this one. I was in my hotel room (and a panic), re-writing my presentation. But from talking to colleagues and looking over the slides, the Oracle guys gave a great account of usability-centred user assistance design. Mobile technology seemed to be the unofficial, emergent, theme of the conference. That’s cool – everyone’s line manager bought an iPad on launch day, and Angry Birds is kinda fun, so sure, it’s the future, why not. But I’m told this presentation gave a great account of user research for help design in general, just as much as mobile.

    (Disclaimer: Yes, I’m being flippant. I couldn’t live without a smartphone, and I’ll be buying a tablet as soon as somebody who doesn’t think iTunes is an acceptable file management interface makes one…)

    Oracle have a site where they talk about this stuff

  • What Kind of Assistance Do Users Really Need?
    I’ve seen Matthew do a presentation like this one before, and this time round was no less engaging. There was a brief survey of the current state of user assistance, and then an overview of a study conducted at the university of Portsmouth (full results to be published in The Communicator) on users’ assistance-seeking behaviour. The simplified takeaway from this is that around half of user questions are seeking confirmation (Am I doing it right?), then task framing with around a quarter (How do I do it?), then a befuddling 15% with “where do I find…” I’ll be keen to read the full study.

There was also a rather nifty panel discussion session, lead by representative of various tools vendors. I sighed a little when it was announced, expecting a series of trite sales pitches, but it was, in fact, rather insightful.

Next up, Technical Communication UK