The Future of the IA Summit: ASIS&T and The Name edition.

Updated for tone April 8th, thanks to Cindy Pae-Moebius for the feedback!

There are a lot of questions about the IA Summit and how we can improve it. Those questions have covered a lot of ground, but this post tackles just a couple questions straight from the source (well, as straight as we're going to get today—I ran a draft of this past Dick Hill, ASIS&T's executive director).

What is the role of ASIS&T?

Speculation has come up over the relationship of ASIS&T and the Summit. As much fun as the hottest UX rumors can be (and who doesn't enjoy some blue sky speculation when it's about our very own favorite event), we thought we owed some explanations so folks can move on the the next tidbit of juicy UX gossip (we hear that Jakob Nielsen is going to literally parachute from a plane to keynote CHI, and the entire audience will be outfitted with eyetracking goggles to analyze his descent from above. Guru heatmaps FTW ;-)

To be clear, ASIS&T will continue to oversee and support the Summit for the foreseeable future. They are the ones who take on the risk, and we don't see a viable alternative on the horizon (not everyone is happy to take on six-figure commitments). They are not looking to pass the Summit on to another party (not even the annual 2:00 a.m. party in Eric Reiss's hotel suite).

Some people have speculated that someone else would "take over" the Summit—the IA Institute or UIE are two candidates for that speculation. Neither is true, even though we love IAI and UIE (and rely on both heavily as part of our larger conference team).

ASIS&T and IAI are in discussions on how to involve the IAI more formally in partnership in creating the Summit. Nothing has been decided for sure, since it's very early days, and this is a conversation about IAI contribution, not about transferring the event. Since most of the committee members are also members of IAI this is a natural conversation, and we're looking forward to formalizing how IAI can contribute on an ongoing basis.

Jared Spool has been very generous in offering his expertise as a member of the Summit committee, and UIE has sponsored the podcasts for the 2011 Summit. UIE handles on-site logistics for a number of events such as Confab and HealthUX, and could be considered a candidate along with other firms if ASIS&T chooses to outsource the onground support efforts to an event management company. However, that option is not being discussed at the moment. If it ever is, UIE will be right there at the top of the list for consideration.

What about the name of the IA Summit?

There's also that pesky issue of what to call the IA Summit, since the content covers a lot more than IA, and many of the people who attend don't think of themselves as IAs (including me...ssshhhh!).

We discussed this at the IA Summit 2012 and Beyond session hosted by co-chairs Samantha Starmer and myself onsite at the Summit. Since I had registered during the 2009 closing keynote, I thought I knew which one I wanted. In fact, when I started down the whole co-chairing road, I was thinking I'd rather chair the UX Summit.

Now, it's not just me: many people feel that the UX Summit or simply The Summit would be a better choice. But as has proven to be the case more often than not, I missed some important parts of the big picture and realized the error of my ways through conversation with a smart, passionate group of people in Denver. As a group, we went back and forth over the pros and cons of the naming and decided to stay with IA Summit for three important reasons that convinced me, despite all my personal bias, that we should stay the course:

  1. First and most importantly is that UX is saturated for events. UX Week, UX London, UX Lisbon, MidwestUX, HealthUX, UX for Good, UXCamp, UX UX all begins to blur. We become another me-too event. The Summit suffers from an even more generic, hard-to-google challenge.
  2. Secondly, IA is a differentiator. We should encourage the Summit to be the best place to talk about how navigation, search, metadata and information across channels contribute to better user experiences. This is not to say we don't discuss user experience—we do, as our programs show. And that brings us to the final point:
  3. People come for the content. We should devote our energy to creating a great program, recruiting great speakers including new voices, and working with all speakers so that they are at the top of their game when presenting. Debating the name takes away from energy better spent elsewhere.

So, in short: ASIS&T is a welcome steward of the Summit and will remain so while exploring options for partnering with others like IAI. And the IA Summit will remain the IA Summit against a veritable tide of "UX" events.

Finally, a request to help focus our energy and our conversations. We love talking with you. We love the drive and energy and passion. We want to focus that where it will go the furthest. We know everyone can't keep up with all the behind-the-scenes work that ASIS&T and the organizing committee does (well, unless you're spying on us). So if you're interested or have a comment, please talk directly with Dick Hill, myself, or Samantha as your first stop for Summit discussions so you can get things from the source and we can generate a real conversation instead of scattershot commentary. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Something along the lines of "I have a suggestion about how we should work with UXCamps, you guys working on anything there yet?" would be much appreciated—thanks in advance! (and yes, UXCamps are part of our master plan, we'd love to hear your ideas since it's together that we will make the Summit even better!)

Comments (1)

  1. Chris

    Great post Jess.

    For the record, I was a founding member of the “change the name” crowd and actually incited people to sign a petition the night after the Memphis Summit ended.

    However, I’ve been convinced by the arguments above that UX is no longer a differentiator (as it would have been two years ago), and feel ok with the “kickin’ it old school” nostalgia that being “IA” inspires in me.

    I have nothing but mad respect for the work of both the IAI and ASIS&T — especially for doing jobs that would be good examples of the word “thankless” in the dictionary.

    Thank you for all that you’ve done and all that you continue to do.