Thirteen Variations on the Theme of Open and Other Insights from BayCHI

127248243_5d7023d316_m.jpgIf you're a worker on the web who lives in the Bay Area, you owe it to yourself to check out BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of ACM SigCHI (a Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction). BayCHI "brings together scholars, practitioners, and users to exchange ideas about computer-human interaction and about the design and evaluation of human interfaces." You don't have to be a web designer or developer to benefit from BayCHI's offering, whether you're looking for community, fresh perspectives, stimulating talks and meetups, networking opportunities, or interesting projects in need of volunteers.

BayCHI's monthly program meetings are hosted at PARC (formerly Xerox PARC) in Palo Alto on the second Tuesday evening of every month -- they are free and open to the public. Over the years, I've attended presentations from a firmament of web stars -- including Google's Larry Page, Digg's Kevin Rose, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, and Slideshare co-founder (and former BayCHI program chair) Rashmi Sinha. This past Tuesday night at BayCHI, I found myself among friends and neighbors. YDN Pattern Evangelist and Yahoo! Press author Christian Crumlish introduced the two speakers.

Micah Laaker, who heads up the User Experience and Design team for Yahoo!'s Open Strategy went first. Micah's talk was titled "Designing Your Product as a Platform," and he presented compelling arguments (and associated caveats) for creating software products that allow third-parties to build on and extend features and functionality. Micah also proposed a new Open taxonomy, a lexicon-in-progress to help define, discuss, and differentiate all the things we mean when we talk about Open on the web. Here's the quick list with some examples of each, but to get the real, nuanced deal, you'll want to click through Micah's presentation embedded below:

1. Open Source (PHP, Hadoop)
2. Open Infrastructure (Amazon EC2 & S3)
3. Open Architecture (Firefox, YQL Open Tables)
4. Open Standards (XML, JSON)
5. Open Ontology (Microformats, RDFa)
6. Open Access (Twitter, Yahoo! BOSS)
7. Open Canvas (Facebook, Yahoo! Application Platform)
8. Open Content (Google Reader, My Yahoo!)
9. Open Mic (WordPress, YouTube)
10. Open Forum (Digg, Yahoo! Buzz)
11. Open Door (Get Satisfaction)
12. Open Borders (OPML)
13. Open Identity (OpenID, AttributeExchange)

Dan Brodnitz, author and poet, closed the program with an energizing talk about creativity. His eponymous About Creativity website is subtitled "working artists share what works," and his presentation was a quick tour of 20 conversations with artists, writers, musicians, performers, game designers, and an eclectic bunch of folks who earn their livelihood as practitioners of creativity. Dan shared "Getting Things Done"-like tactics for the inner artist in us all, and a smorgasbord of tips and techniques for dealing with deadlines, blocks, rejection, procrastination, and other obstacles. His insights and approaches confirm my hunch that creativity is as varied and idiosyncratic as every other aspect of human beHavi Hoffmanor; vigorous as a weed, you can find it springing up in boardrooms, barrooms, backrooms, and even in the drab cubicles of Silicon Valley.

PARC photo credit: Rahul Nair

Havi Hoffman
Yahoo Developer Network