Speaker interview – Amy Hoy

In the second of our speaker interviews, we caught up with Amy Hoy, globetrotting in Vienna!

Webstock: Ok, so describe a typical day at work for Amy Hoy?

Amy Hoy: That’s a tough one. My days are really varied!

A typical day “at work” in the past few months would almost indubitably find me somewhere other than home, quite likely in Europe. My partner John and I have been travelin’ fools lately. Inconstancy of location has been the most constant thing for me in the past few months. (Case in point: I’m in Vienna right now.)

While trying to resist the delights of whatever foreign place I find myself in, I’ll be fielding calls and emails with clients, working on sketches and diagrams, trying to get inside the heads of the audience for the product I’m working on (and sometimes trying to help the client determine what the heck the product is to start with). Preferably not in that order, since there’s something about contact with other humans that I find irresistibly distracting.

Some days I don’t even need to touch a computer other than to do research on a topic (for example, the relative success of various file representation metaphors), working almost exclusively on paper. Other days, things are less conceptual and I spend all day in Photoshop and OmniGraffle, only coming out of my designer-coma to wipe the drool from my mouth and fetch another [insert local caffeinated beverage of choice].

Our conceptual work often involves a mix of early stage product design, marketing and positioning, and selecting feature sets in addition to the actual nuts and bolts of interface and interaction design and, finally, visual design (and sometimes implementation)… so there’s always enough to keep me occupied.

I haven’t written much code in the past few months but I’m getting back into the swing of it for an upcoming project. I’m excited.

Webstock: The cowboy hat. Will it be travelling to New Zealand with you?

Amy Hoy: It probably won’t! Sadly. It’s a $3 K-Mart special and I doubt it could make the journey alive.

The now-famous “Amy Hoy” cowboy hat was originally worn (and spraypainted red) by one of the organizers of FOSCON (Free Open Source Convention) in 2006, when the theme was Ruby Rodeo. Their “street team” wore those hats around non-free OSCON in the evening so we could know where to hitch a ride to FOSCON (because, let’s face it, geeks in red cowboy hats stand out in a crowd). One of the guys jokingly plopped it on my head and, in my obnoxiousness, I asked if I could keep it. I think he was a bit surprised by my gall and therefore shocked into saying “Yes.”

Otherwise, I’m not much of a hat person.

I will be bringing my blue-and-green hair, though. It’s easier to transport.

Webstock: I’ve got a Blackberry. It’s new, I’m still getting to know it, but I do like it. Should I be worried that you’re coming to New Zealand?

Amy Hoy: Yes. I may appear to be completely in love with my iPhone, but a girl can’t help her wandering eye. I’m a famous device lothario.

So… what’s your Blackberry’s sign?

Webstock: Who’s had the most influence on you as a designer, and why?

Amy Hoy: That’s also really tough question… or possibly I’m just a wuss about interviews.

I’ve mimicked all sorts of other peoples’ styles over the years, and I’ve certainly learned new techniques that way, but I’d have to say that the people who most influence me in design aren’t actually designers, but more along the lines of worldly philosophers. People who have taught me how to really see, think and question, rather than any particular visual or usability tactic. And especially people who have taught me how to understand people.

Once I pop I can’t stop… I can’t pick just one. I’m totally schizophrenic with what I like and I can never name a single favorite book or movie, either—and people are so much more complicated than that!

I’d have to include such people as Thomas Frank, Daniel Pinker, Pema Chodron, Daniel Goleman, Desmond Morris, Franz de Waal, Seth Godin, Daniel Gilbert, Kathy Sierra, Robert Wright, Neil Gaiman, Roger von Oech, Brenda Laurel, Douglas Hofstadter, Henry Petroski, Wil Wright, and Don Norman (ok, he’s a designery person).

These people have all had a huge impact on me through their writing and speaking, although the list could go on much longer than that, even.

Webstock: Aside from Webstock, is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to while visiting New Zealand?

Amy Hoy: The scenery, the people, the beef — it all sounds great. I won’t mind missing the ickiest month of the year back in Maryland, either. And I think we’re going to pop over to Australia a little bit, too, although that might be wishful thinking based on the schedule.

Webstock: Which other Webstock speaker are you most looking forward to seeing, and why?

Amy Hoy: You just like putting me on the spot, don’t you? And I’ve been told that New Zealanders are such nice people!

If you pressed me, I would have to say Scott Berkun. His books and blog have been a big inspiration for me—which I can also say for at least half the other speakers!—and he’s also situated next to me on the speaker list page, so he’s obviously the clear winner.

Speaker interview – Michael Lopp

In the first of our speaker interviews, Webstock talked with Michael Lopp.

Webstock: Can you tell us a little about what you do at Apple?

Michael Lopp: Apple is famous for it’s secrecy, so I’m going to answer this question via a haiku:

When changing the world
Yes, sleeping is optional
A long time coming

Webstock: Is Fake Steve Jobs on your blogroll?

Michael Lopp: He is, but he’s less entertaining than the real thing.

Webstock: A developer tells you it’s going to take 4 hours to complete a task. How long will it really take?

Michael Lopp: A developer who provides a 4 hour estimate is working for a micromanager who is driving his employees crazy by trying to control the minutiae of software development. For this scenario, I would triple the estimate and then round up to the nearest day. If there was a weekend nearby I’d another day for good measure. I’d also schedule a walk-around-the-building meeting with the manager who is asking for sub-day estimates where I’d tell him to chill out.

Webstock: The Rands Vegas system – wisdom hard-earned?

Michael Lopp: By my estimate, the Rands Vegas System has cost me $21,782 over twenty years. It’s important to note that this does not include intangible costs of both the brain and liver damage which I’ve incurred as well as the decreased lung capacity due to chain smoking while in Vegas. It’s also important to note that I consider those costs to relatively cheap when compared to wisdom I’ve gained from the fantastically bizarre people I’ve met at 5am at the poker table at Bally’s casino after two days of no sleep.

Webstock: Aside from Webstock, what else are you looking forward to in New Zealand?

Michael Lopp: Two of my passions, surfing and wine, have an odd common trait: goofy names. Surfers are renown for giving bizarre names to surf spots. Wine makers do the same with their wines. It is my mission while in New Zealand to ascertain via a statistically valid sample of both surf spots and wine makers to determine whether this trait applies to all hemispheres equally.

Webstock: Which other Webstock speaker are you most looking forward to seeing, and why?

Michael Lopp: After staring at the speaker list two nights, I’m finding myself mentally thrashing on picking a single speaker. There are too many amazing speakers. Therefore, I will tell you that I’m curious about a conference which has both morning and afternoon tea as part of the official schedule. Are tea cups going to be provided? Is there pinky etiquette that I need to follow? Also, I see on the program there are two secret sessions. This clever marketing ploy has also piqued my interest.

Twinset & WIUO: music to soothe the savage geek

For your aural pleasure, we’re dang excited to add two top class, stunningly dressed and uber talented musical acts to the star studded Webstock ’08 line up: Twinset, and Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (WIUO).

Be soothed and boogalooed by Twinset’s sexy summery soul jazz at Thursday evening’s Cocktail Funk-tion, and thrilled and fulfilled as WIUO strum sing-a-long favourites and blazing solos at Friday’s Post Match Shindig.

To get you in the mood, dear reader, here’s Hey Ya performed by the Orchestra at Cabaret on YouTube:

Webstock: quite possibly the coolest web conference like, ever.

FogBugz – New York’s 4th most popular project management software

Inspired by his visit to Webstock last year and all things New Zild, our favourite writer on software, Joel Spolsky, has adopted the kiwi as the iconic representation of his acclaimed project management software.

We at Webstock are delighted that the kiwi is once again flying high and would further encourage Joel to embrace his kiwiness (he did, after all, attend Johnsonville Main primary school – also attended, in a remarkable twist of fate, by Webstock’s Mike Brown) and tap into the “Flight of the Conchords’” kiwi understatement.

FogBugz – New York’s 4th most popular project management software.

Joel, it’s business time!

The 8 x 5 returns

Eight people speaking. Five minutes each. The 8×5 session at last year’s Webstock was a great success and we’re delighted to say it’ll be returning for Webstock 08. There’s a huge amount of knowledge and passion among those attending Webstock, and we want you to share that with everyone there. The 8×5 offers a chance to do that.

The concept is simple. We’ll select 8 people who’ll be given 5 minutes each to wow the conference audience. You can talk on pretty much anything you like, but make it brief, add some humour, and above all, make it appeal to those who’ll be listening. Products and pitches may be acceptable, but not especially encouraged – this will be a tough audience to sell to.

So you’d like to take part? Great! Send us an email outlining what you’d like to talk about and a brief introduction to you. You will need to be attending the main conference to be eligible to take part. Applications close Friday 30 November.

Applications will be entirely decided upon by the Webstock organisers. Our decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. We’ll let you know if you succeed or fail in your application.