Tech talks in K-W

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On Sept. 22 and 23, the Tannery and the Conrad Centre for Performing Arts in Downtown Kitchener hosted Fluxible, a new “user experience” (UX) conference. Different professionals came from in and outside of Canada to give workshops, speeches and even a ‘beernote speaker’ who talked about the opening of his own brewery.

Robert Barlow-Busch, one of the two primary organizers for the event along with Mark Connelly, stated “it’s a UX party disguised as a conference.”

“UX is kind of an umbrella term that covers a whole bunch of specific disciplines for people who design products. These are folks who are really concerned about designing the function of a product,” he continued.

Speakers from “all over the world, as far as Sydney and Hong Kong,” were there to impart technical knowledge on those who attended.

The workshops and speeches at the conference covered a large range of topics. Some included thinking critically about one’s skills, how to maximize usability of graphics in one’s interfaces, designing for tablets, and many more. The closing keynote was given by Dan Gärdenfors, a RIM employee who spoke on “Investing the future of public computing surfaces.”

This conference had a number of sponsors and influences, including local businesses Quarry Integrated Communications and Harris Corporations, as well as Google, N-Form and Blackberry, among others.

The sponsors weren’t the only people involved however, as there was the team of volunteer planners of 20 people working on it over the course of many months.

It took, “The better part of a year to get this thing going,” said Barlow-Busch.

The work, according to Barlow-Bsuch, was well worth the effort. “People have been coming up to us, saying ‘thank you for arranging it,’ saying they had a great time and learned a lot, asking us to do it next year,” he said.

Reactions from the attendees both speakers and otherwise were just as, if not more, positive.

Karl Fast, a professor from Kent State, stated,“What I try to do at a talk like this is be more inspirational in many ways.”

“It’s a great opportunity. Honestly, I love conferences and there aren’t any in this area, and the company would not fund travel to go to a conference, so being right at our backdoor is perfect,” said attendee and RIM employee Margaret Kuo. She even said that she would show up again next year, hoping she “might help run it.”

It’s more than likely that attendees and sponsors will get their wish granted, as the conference is currently planned to be a yearly event, and is certainly going to be held in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“We went into this definitely knowing we would do it more than once,” said Barlow-Busch. “We’re kind of nominally planning on doing it annually at this point, and the informal feedback we’ve been getting these few days is that they definitely want it every year.”

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