In September I had the opportunity to travel to New York City and take the stage with U.N. Global Pulse to talk about our work on HunchWorks. Together with Chris van der Walt and Sara Farmer we spoke at the O'Reilly Strata Conference, an event dedicated to the emerging field of data science and the brilliant developers, analysts and researchers who find themselves working with petabytes of unstructured data on a daily basis.
The video is just over 40 minutes long. I start talking about our UX work at the 14:30 mark, and go for about 11 minutes. You can also download our slides as a PDF.
The aim of HunchWorks is to leverage these enormous sets of data to create an early detection system for emerging global crises, so we can take action to mitigate them before they happen. Adaptive Path has been focusing on the user experience aspects of working with the HunchWorks system, most notably the messy, squishy issues of trust and community. Even the most powerful “big data” system will fail if it isn't powered by a dedicated community of users, and these were the gnarly bits we aimed to unsnarl in our work.
Along with Ljuba and his experience speaking at the Oregon Transit Conference, I believe it is extremely important that experience designers get outside of their usual bubble and speak at events where UX isn't the primary theme. Strata being a data conference and all, I was prepared to encounter a group of reductive neckbeards who believed that because so many of our everyday behaviors were being captured and recorded by digital systems, we could now quantify and measure the rich whole of human experience simply by crunching the numbers.
Instead, I was delighted to encounter a thoughtful, passionate community who knew that these enormous sets of data provided an incredible opportunity to improve the human condition, whether by designing memorials, empowering people to take control of their health, crowdsourcing New York City, hacking poverty, or aiding in the discovery of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. I thought John Rauser's talk did a beautiful job describing the very soul of this nascent field of inquiry.
One of the great benefits I found in attending Strata Conference was discovering just how much compassion the “big data” community has for humanity. In many ways, they reminded me of the UX community. Data is not the goal, but the tool by which they come to understand and make change in the world. I had some wonderful conversations with people after our talk, and everyone was extremely happy to see someone speaking about user experience at a data conference. I understand their enthusiasm, because while they go about it using different techniques, the core ethos of data science is very much in line with that of user experience.
Many, many thanks to the dedicated members of the HunchWorks team, and everyone from the design community who has joined our workshops and open design sessions. In addition to Chris and Sara at Global Pulse, P.J. Onori, Todd Elliot, Trina Hancock, Chris Risdon, Jeff Wain and Shad Gross have all played pivotal roles in unpacking the promise of HunchWorks, and bringing it closer to reality.