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Why are so many tech events boring?

“We use agile teams to create seamless UX design and help drive higher SEO rankings that are second to none”- I hear faintly in the distance as my eyes begin to glaze over at the back of the room, whilst wondering how I have ended up in this situation once more. What sounded like an interesting tech event has again turned into a thinly veiled, and poorly constructed, sales pitch. Alas, the in-depth psychology of UX design continues to escape me and I have learned nothing more than distaste for working with a company that delivers such sessions along with a Skinner-like association of tech festivals with event-horizons, leaving me feeling much like a singularity – infinitely dense.

This is a problem all too common and one which I feel is symptomatic of a fundamental misunderstanding of how events should be run (and education more generally). They forget the reason why.

Tech is boring.

I say that with great unease as tech is, without doubt, the most interesting, exciting and even expansive sector on the planet today. But unless you already self-identify as a techie, or at least somebody who is already in tech, you couldn’t give a monkey’s. Nobody has ever really taken the time to explain to people why they should care, or even how they may already be in tech without realising. This creates a problem whereby fewer people than the natural, or acceptable, level wish to get involved or learn the skills necessary as they feel either inadequate – not being a spotty 15 year old Star Wars nerd – or apathetic. Enter buzzword: Digital skills gap.

Many try to solve this by telling people what they or their company do – often descending into a sales plea. Nobody cares about what you are doin; they care about why you are doing it. In the same vein, it is naive to think you can make anybody want to be involved with tech through some kind of revelation; there is little point trying to make people passionate about tech – any more than making me passionate about the life of Kim Kardashian, or you the contents of my demijohns (not an euphemism, I swear). We need to make people realise not why they should be passionate about tech but how tech relates to their passions, if we want them to engage.

Why should a lawyer bother learning about blockchain? A geologist about big data? A sociologist about UI or UX?

Their skills are all in dire need across those areas. Equally, those areas are likely to impact massively upon their future careers, whether they like it or not. What they can control is how ready they are to make the most of the impact opportunity. However, in order to do so we need to present those impacts in ways interesting to those people.

So let’s throw open the doors and have debates on the efficacy of net neutrality or blockchain smart contracts. Let’s plot fault lines using unfathomable amounts of data, compiled by machine learning algorithms. Let’s finally learn the psychological understanding underpinning quality UX design. Let’s be reminded why we teach, or learn, these things in the first place.


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