“Before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one.” — Howard Waldrop
A million or so Internet years ago, I scored an AT&T 3B1 in lieu of back pay and set up a UUCP node by the name of “flatline”. I handed out a few shell accounts to friends who not only owned a computer but a modem as well. In doing this, I had joined a tiny group of people who would soon write an “@” sign on their name tags when attending a convention and coordinated “@-parties” to get together and exchange email addresses and UUCP connection information.
We were not mainstream computer science types nor were we socially incompetent basement-bound computer geeks. We were people who believed that electronic communication was the future. We thought it was great that we could send email for free from the US to other countries and that we could have an international messaging system that transcended operating systems and (most) human languages. We didn’t just think it was a good idea, we went out there and made it happen.
I had found, in a way, my tribe. It was a great feeling to hook up with a crowd that was both diverse in source population but of a similar mind when it came to goals and activities. We were libertarians, democrats, dead-heads, skate punks and full-on computer nerds, we argued about damn near everything, except we all agreed that electronic communication was the future.
When I moved to the Bay Area to work at startups I had a similar feeling, but the crowd was too big and the connections too many to have that real feeling of “my tribe”. There were so many of us that we belonged to something larger than a tribe but smaller than a nation. It was good, but not as good as the small tribe.
“Now that I told you that story, I can tell you this one.”
For the second year in a row I’ve attended the IXDA “Interaction” conference. It’s a small, focused conference of people who are interested in interaction design in all its forms.
Last year I was still in design school and went completely fanboy after the event. Now I’m not ashamed of that because the thing I love about going fanboy (or seeing one of my friends go fanboy/fangirl) is the honesty of the emotion. The self defense drops away, the unfiltered gushing cranks up, and while everyone is a little embarrassed afterwards there’s no doubt that the emotions and feelings expressed were honest if not a bit poorly worded.
This year I still “feel the design love” as we say at Carnegie Mellon, but I feel something different as well. I feel like I’ve found a new tribe of people from diverse backgrounds but with similar goals. Whether or not I’ll end up being a member remains to be seen but I’m looking for ways to prove myself.
For three days we’ve talked about all sorts of little-d and big-d design over meals and at bars. We’ve sat in boring talks and talks we wish would have went on for hours. We’ve traded business cards, scribbled notes on napkins and yelled ourselves raw over DJs playing dance music. We’ve drank too much, ate too much, and probably pissed off all of our twitter followers with a seemingly endless stream of #ixd10 tagged messages.
And I’d do it all over in a minute.
Ok, maybe a week or two. I need some time to work off some of the shrimp-grits and pulled pork and sweet tea.
Here’s hoping we see one other before IXD11 in Boulder, CO.