apr 23

being jakob

I walked through the skyway today with Jakob Nielsen.

This week, I've been attending parts of CHI2002, the big annual geekfest for people interested in computer-human interaction -- MIT types who watch Battle Bots for fun. I would never make it a destination conference, but it happens to be in Minneapolis this year. Today, I saw David Birn, who proved himself as the most optimistic SF writer alive with his presentation about how security and freedom aren't to be judged on the same continuum. Just because Kevin Costner makes your book into a movie is no reason to be so damn sanguine.

But that's not the exciting part of my day. Because:

I walked. Through the skyway. With Jakob Nielsen.

For those who aren't geeks, Nielsen basically invented the profession of "Usability Expert." Among other things, he's the reason Google looks the way it does. Some people love him, some think he's an absolute ass, but I just think he walks funny. Because I've been writing a lot about cities, and because I was in the skyway (I still can't get over this), I chatted him up about what he thinks about Minneapolis. This was an excuse to try to steer him toward a conversation about city design -- to see if he had any interest in the topic.

He didn't understand the connection.

I persisted: You know, navigation, information highway. Virtual and real spaces.

I apparently wasn't speaking his language. He eventually got to the Hilton and fled.

More scintillating updates from CHI2002 here through the week, including my first experience of Stelarc, who performs Thursday.

 Women's golf suddenly got very phallic.

 The Voice's take and Slate's take on EMP's Pop Music Studies Conference, probably the conference I should be attending instead.

 How popular is your name? Check out the Name-O-Meter. Pleased to see that "Rex" has been on the decline through the decades.

 That's it, time to find a new hobby. Even Howard Kurtz is writing about the blog phenom now.

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