Last Thursday, I flew to McLean, Virginia for Android Summit, a two day conference + hackathon sponsored by Capital One, benefitting Women Who Code.
I was invited to Android Summit to give a talk about mutative design. To coincide with the event I released a new post on Project Phoebe, answering more questions about how mutative design will work and announcing Helios, a new tool for researching mutative patterns.
Now that I’m back, I wanted to post a quick recap of what I did during my trip.
1. I gave a talk at Android Summit about mutative design and Project Phoebe
I’ve spoken about Project Phoebe so many times now. And I won’t stop talking until mutative design is a reality 😜
Something I love about speaking on Project Phoebe is the feedback and thoughts I get from different audiences. Developers, designers, users, everyone has a different perspective on the concept and on their own experiences with using digital interfaces. Everyone can relate to the “situational limitations” I discussed during the session, which I think makes the importance of no-compromise accessibility that much clearer.
I got some amazing questions and feedback during and after the session, and I can’t wait to share what’s next later this fall.
2. I had a great conversation with a stranger
When I went to Warsaw back in April, I saw a talk by Steve Selzer of Airbnb in which he explained the importance of friction in product design.
Friction, he said (in the talk, on Medium, and later on Design Notes), is an important part of product design. Certain types of friction can lead people to reflection, self-discovery, and transformative experiences.
At Airbnb, this is manifested when users meet and talk to their hosts and stay in an intimate space that’s part of the community. I would say this principle also applies to Uber, especially Uber Pool, even if it isn’t a deliberately planned part of the Uber experience.
But to get to the story… I took an Uber on Saturday from my hotel to the National Mall to do some wandering around and sight-seeing (more on that later). When I got in the car my driver asked if I minded him finishing up a game show he was listening to on the radio. Of course I said no, so he turned the radio on. The radio was on for about 60 seconds before it was turned off again because we were talking.
On the 20-30 minute drive to the mall, we covered a lot of topics strangers don’t normally cover. From Android/iOS brand loyalty to how people manifest status and manage their own images to people’s expectations of one another and what happens when we understand the reality of someone else’s life.
It was an uncommon conversation, but a good one. And besides all that, the driver had great advice on how to make my way through the mall most efficiently.
3. I visited the national mall (and decided to come back)
I spent about 5 hours walking around the National Mall and seeing sights. Overall I covered about 7 miles walking (I met my step goal a few times over), stopping in at the monuments, visiting the Sackler gallery and National Museum of African art, the national botanical garden, the “castle” visitor’s center, and everything else I could squeeze in. By the time I got to the library of congress it was after 4:30 so most things were closing.
The journey was long and hot but worth it. At the end I felt like I couldn’t have possibly taken in one more thing, so I called another Uber back to my hotel, deciding that I needed to come back some day with a few days to actually make it through everything I wanted to see.
Even so, the ground I was able to cover was awesome. At the Sackler I learned about the Peacock Room before experiencing a “remix,” where Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre reimagined the room as a decadent ruin of the original, “collapsing under its own creative excess.” I learned about “Chinamania,” and the global influence of Chinese porcelain. I learned how the National Museum of African Art built its collection. I experienced an amazing installation where a TV screen and four mirrors created the illusion of a complete globe, showing a fragmented, kaleidoscope version of human activity. I saw the amazing architecture of the Hirshhorn. I saw a squirrel frantically carrying a bag of trail mix.
4. I paid $5 for a bottle of lemon-flavored Dasani
… Which I promptly drank because the museums don’t allow food or drink and I had places to be. I did not regret this, because it was around 90 degrees, with a heat index reaching even higher. I actually didn’t know it was possible to sweat as much as I did, but my motivation to get to the end of the mall kept me going.
5. I left
At the conference I got to see friends from the Android community, meet new ones, see the sights on my own terms, and actually relax. Saturday I slept in, ate a big breakfast, and took my time getting ready and going out, and when I came back I took my time to decide whether to eat or sleep (the temptation was strong), finally going out to the Palm restaurant, about whose celebrity caricatures and crab bibs I could write an entirely separate post.
I didn’t expect it, but my trip to McLean ended up being not only tremendously positive, but relaxing too. I’ve come back with a clear mind, ready for what’s next.