I just spent a wonderful week attending the IA Summit. I met old friends and new, laughed and argued, learned and taught. It was truly exhilarating and exhausting. Now I am flying home, excited to see my family and get back to work solving interesting problems with my fabulous colleagues. But I am also reflecting on how that conference is so reliably freaking awesome.
This was my second year attending the IA Summit, but I have felt at home there from day 1, and I am not alone in that feeling. If you attend the conference you will witness Five Minute Madness where anyone is invited to come to the stage and share anything. Ninety percent of the sharing is people expressing their delight and appreciation for the warmth of this community. Listening to, and agreeing with, these remarks I was left wondering what is was that made the conference so special. I may have been tempted to leave it at—IA Summit is just special—but then someone shared a story with me. They had attended a local World IA Day event, coordinated by a local volunteer who had never been to IA Summit—and at that event he felt the same warmth and delight as at IA Summit.
So what is the commonality? I think that Jason Hobbs provided the answer to what makes the conference so special. In his talk, The Design Behind the Design Behind the Design, He said that when we learn our brains gain a new lens through which to see the world. If we learn geography a mountain never looks the same again. Well, at both IA Summit and World IA Day we have the pleasure of being surrounded by those looking through the same lens. So whether we are talking about feminism or dog breeds or user interface design, we are discussing it with those people—information architects and others— who understand our brains. There is a relief that rushes over you when you feel like you belong. You can easily introduce yourself to strangers, give honest compliments about crazy details, make nerdier jokes, and simply be yourself.