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Creative re-energizing...

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I'm so glad that I was able to attend the UX Immersion conference here in Portland, Or. So worth the price for two days of immersive workshops and a day of feature speakers. Today's the last day of the conference but I feel completely refreshed and re-energized - stretching out creative muscles that have grown too used to familiar patterns. Besides meeting some truly interesting and very smart peers I find the creative boost to be the best part of these gatherings. At the mixer last night a bunch of us were kind of laughing about how it would be so beneficial if company decision makers could attend these kinds of industry conferences. How we feel like we attend these things, tired and worn down from evangelizing the best practices as per industry standards. We laughed while analogizing: if we were boxers, the conference would be our corner and the speakers the trainers who refocus and reenergize us before pushing us back into the ring to once again fight the good fight. Hey man, sometimes we even win! All laughing aside, these kinds of conferences are invaluable.

I think one of the best takeaways from the conference so far was from the Rachel Hinman workshop on Prototyping the Mobile User Experience where she challenged us to cast off the shackles of designing for an experience we're already comfortable and familiar with (the desktop) and truly delve into the context of the mobile experience. Mobile is not a desktop computer, just as web is not print. It's very easy to get into the groove of the familiar design patterns we use day in and day out. What's not so easy is to realize they simply don't translate well to a different context. Plus, by trying to use the same design patterns in a different context you often times miss the opportunity to take full advantage of the native power of that context. Mobile is not desktop so don't design the gui on mobile, take full advantage of the nui affordances.

As well, the feature talks on fitting User Experience into an Agile development project struck some chords with me. Like many others in the audience, our development teams are transitioning from the traditional waterfall project management methodology to agile and like many others I feel we're struggling with folding User Experience into the development process. Hugh Beyer's talk was most informative to me - definitely yes, the UX person needs to be a full member of the development team so that their issues become part of the development issues. And adding a longer Sprint 0 for planning and research just makes sense. I'm glad the conference organizers were videotaping the feature talks as I'll definitely be referring back to share them at the office.  

Today, I'm looking forward to the workshop on Mobile Design for the Enterprise Intranet, a topic of close interest for me as a team member of exactly that kind of project back home. I'm sure I'll be getting a boatload of ideas to bring back.

Groupwise sync to iCal / iPod

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I had the strange urge to blog today about the trials and tribulations of trying to get Groupwise (our Enterprise calendaring software which we must use at work) to sync up with my iPod touch. It's more than just that really, I keep my personal appointments that don't affect my office availability separate on my iCal, because, well, my work mates don't really need to know my after work schedule do they?, and sync that to my iPod touch as well. At the end of the day, I just wanted to have the whole mess available on my iPod which goes with me everywhere. It's not quite a simple solution though, it happens that one needs to install a 3rd party piece of (Windows) software and have Google calendar act as an intermediary step.

So, here is how to accomplish the grand sync (in a really roundabout way!)
Step 1: Set up a Google Calendar (you don't have to share it with the world!)
Step 2: Download CompanionLink Software's CompanionLink for Google (not free though - you will need to register it for $29.95 US to keep using it past the trial period)
Step 3: In iCal, add a subscription to your Google calendar
Step 4: Configure CompanionLink for Google to sync your Google calendar with your Groupwise
Step 5: Sync up - once the sync is complete everything should now be on your iCal
Step 6: You can now sync your iPod touch which will sync your iCal data as well.

I had originally installed CompanionLink for Google on an XP Desktop but recently switched it to a Parallels Vista install on my MBP

Bonus: if you're on a MacBook / MacBook Pro, install Windows either via Bootcamp, Parellels or VMWare Fusion and install CompanionLink for Google there. I personally prefer the Windows client for Groupwise over the Mac client so I installed that on my Parallels Vista install as well.

What a lot of bother just to get everything onto my iCal so I can (a) have it all on one calendar and (b) sync it with my iPod.


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