Guest Post: MIX09 Inspirations: Back to the Drawing Board

From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year. By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics. He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies. His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

The original post by Rob can be found here.

In the hope they may also inspire you, here are four other sources of inspiration I found at MIX09,

Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place
1. Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place

1. Bill Buxton’s visit to “The Third Place.” He cites Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” as the next must-read book after his (preferably 1st Ed.). Render in the correct fidelity. Don’t rely on a “muse.” Consider minimally five alternatives. Persona and “Place-ona.” “Design is Choice.”

Johnny Lee at TED
2. Johnny Lee and HCI wonders

2. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk. @shanselman a fanboi too. Know Johnny? Watch his MIX talk. Don’t know him yet? Check his TED talk first, which was worthy of a standing ovation. Johnny on the future of HCI: Dive off today’s local maxima. Want more HCI? Follow UIST, SigGraph, SigCHI, UBICOMP.

Joe Fletcher MIX09 Surface Session - already online!
3. Joe Fletcher Surface Session - online!

3. Joseph Fletcher delivered a mightily polished Touch Computing presentation yesterday, and the session video is already online! Surface UX is “Hyper-real,” and Surface is Social, Seamless, Spatial.

4. MmmmmUrl

4. Purdy & Sells delivered an energetic talk on their RESTful DSL MUrl. Interested in languages, human and machine? “Oslo” and “M” are sexy. Probably this a good place to start. Their MIX09 Session is here.

Back to the Drawing Board - Literally

Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote
Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote

To sum it up, there are four things I carried away from MIX09:

  1. Bill Buxton urges us to focus on people, and craft our technology with informed design.
  2. Johnny Lee says we’ll need to get off our local maxima and be uncomfortable before we can progress.
  3. Joseph Fletcher and his team want to invent a totally new paradigm.
  4. Purdy and Sells were among speakers and teams too numerous to mention who introduced potentially game-changing technologies with which we can innovate.

This reaction in our community is consistent with the global sense of a need for something new.  Put simply, the status quo isn’t good enough any more.

This message was embodied by Deborah Adler.  There’s a reason why Microsoft so boldly chose to focus half a keynote on Ms. Adler’s contribution — it’s time for us to stop thinking like techies, and start thinking about the people using our creations, and the contexts in which they’ll be using them.

To get there, we were all encouraged to use unconventional tools, and reminded that big ideas can come from going back to basics: a sheet of paper and a decent pen.

I’m sure I’ll see more techies at the local cafe, rubbing elbows with thinkers who have always used these basic methods to achieve greatness.

Until Next Year…

As I type, the sessions are coming online at the VisitMIX site. Through a fog of tweets and jetlag this morning in Toronto, I was struck hard that MIX has made me want to return to doing the stuff that brought me here in the first place, whatever that means for me in 2009.

I want to extend my thanks to the organizers of MIX for so much inspiration, and to the Microsoft Canada team for letting me share MIX09 with you.

MIX09 boldly declared that “The Next Web” is a place where design matters.  We were taught to seek returns on user experiences, and think first about how our creations influence lives.  This is a future I want to help invent.

Looking forward to continuing the discussion. You can always find me at