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A Rose By Any Other Name...

Erik rings Chiara by Peterme Two Saturdays ago, I got married to an amazing guy. It was a lovely time and I can't be happier.

One of the post-wedding tasks that I'm working on now is updating my online presence. You see, Fox isn't my maiden name. My name originally was Chiara Berlingo, but I changed my name when I got married the first time. I was just starting out in my career and I didn't really think about it. It just felt like the right thing to do.

When I got divorced, I thought about changing my name back to Berlingo. But I was already published as Fox, and everyone in the industry knows me as Fox. Most people assume that it is my maiden name. Plus, having jumped through all the hoops to change my name the first time around, I wasn't in a hurry to do it all again. (They charge you money to change your name back, BTW, as if the cost of a divorce wasn't enough.)

I've been a Fox for 10 years now. I don't overly mind the name itself... it's kinda fun to call myself a foxy lady. Though it is annoying when people think it's a porn-star name. I do miss the heritage of the ethnic (if you can still consider Italians ethnic) name Berlingo.

But now that E and I are married, I don't really want the reminder of my previous husband to always follow me around. E has always said that he doesn't care what name I go by, but he would prefer that I don't keep Fox. I agree. I thought long and hard about what I should do. After all, it's been 10 years. I could go back to being a Berlingo, but most people don't know me as a Berlingo. It would be a new name for them anyway.

So, I've decided to take on E's name and become an Ogan. It still sounds weird to say... "Chiara Ogan." Like a strange coat I don't quite know how to wear yet. But I will get used to it, I know. I've decided to slowly transition to Ogan, going by Fox Ogan til the end of the year. My first name is unique enough (I've only ever heard of one other Chiara in IA or UX) so I'm hoping that will help people realize that I've made the switch.

I know it's going to take me awhile to change all the instances of Fox on the internet. I'm pretty much spread all over it. I'm not sure what to do about logins, as many of those are not changable. I have a feeling I'll be having a duel identity for awhile.

--- Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ---

About a year ago, Jesse came to me and suggested I change my title from Information Architect to User Experience Designer. He gave a number of reasons, but none of them resonated with me. I clearly remember commiserating with some dear friends at the IA Summit 2008 about this proposed change in title.

I didn’t want to give up the title. I considered myself an information architect first and foremost. I’ve called myself an IA for nine years now. I was proud of the name. It was who I was. So I didn’t change it.

In Memphis this past weekend, at the IA Summit 2009, I spent a lot of time talking with first time attendees and those new to the field of information architecture. I hosted a round table at lunch for those new to IA. They were a great table, with tons of questions.

One of the things they really wanted to know was how to become a great IA. My answers surprised me. I didn’t tell them that they had to master multi-faceted classification or be able to generate thesauri and controlled vocabularies from scratch. I didn’t tell them about stencils and templates for making better wireframes.

I told them how important it was to listen to the customers of the organizations they would be working for and to deeply understand their behaviors and motivations. I told them to be champions for the user. I told them to listen to the pain of their clients, and think about how their designs could ease it. I told them not to go in shouting about CVs and classification and indexing and how their clients were doing it all wrong. Be subtle, I said. Listen for their needs. Present classifications and metadata and all that cool stuff as the way to get your designs implemented, not as an end in and of itself.

And I realized… I wasn’t telling them how to do good information architecture. I was telling them how to do good user experience design. I realized while I love IA, and it is my core competency, it is also only a small part of what I do.

For that reason, I am taking on the title of User Experience Designer.

Creative Failures

E and I just finished watching Elton John on Inside the Actor's Studio. (Why exactly he was on the Actor's Studio we still aren't sure, but regardless.) At the end of the show, when the audience is allowed to question the guest, one of the students asked about Elton John's song writing process. As way of illustration, Elton John asked the audience for a book, any book, and proceeded to sit at the piano. He smiling said "now I'm going to make an ass of myself," and put some random lines from a play to music, singing them as he made up the melody.

This reminded me of one of my favorite Actor's Studio episodes, the one with Robin Williams. At the end of the hilarious show, a student asked how Robin Williams could stand to risk so much. And he asked, "but what I have risked?" In awe she replied "everything," but Robin disagreed. They were just playing around, having fun with the craft, with humor.

And this got me thinking. Here are two brilliant professionals, at the top of their game. Their creativity and imagination seem endless to me. I love watching people like that. The athletes at the Olympics have the same effect. They make everything look so easy, so effortless. To watch them making their art, there is none of the blood, sweat and tears that I feel go into whatever I create. Yet I'm sure that Robin Williams would say that the jokes he made up that night were not his best. And that Elton John would think that little tune to the play was crap.

How much is that ease and lack of effort a result of not being afraid? They are so comfortable with their skills, with their tools and in their medium, that they are totally free to just... see what happens. They aren't worried about everything being a hit. They know some things will suck. But who cares? In going through the process of creating something less than par, they are finding something that they can take and turn into the next perfect piece.

I think it is their lack of self censorship and inhibitions that I find so inspiring. So often when I sit to make something, whether it's sketches for a design, a piece of knitting or a new recipe for dinner, I freeze up because I'm afraid it won't be any good. Rather than trying, and seeing what I come up with, I horde my ideas until I feel "ready" to bring them forth in all their brilliance. I have this innate tendency to only want to bring forth things that are polished and finished and brilliant. But that day hardly ever comes.

I know from my own past experiences, and from watching others like John and Williams and even others at Adaptive Path, that my work is better when I grow it, making it better over time. I start with something, and working it, shaping it, tweaking it until finally it is what I intended. Or even better, it has surpassed the initial idea and turned out more wonderful than I could have predicted.

I wish I could cast aside the drive for perfection out of the gate. To give myself the permission and the space to try, just try. Just put something out there. I think I would surprise myself with what I could accomplish.

A New Blog

I spent most of yesterday putting together a brand new blog. No, don't worry. Chiara Fox isn't going anywhere. But I decided that I have too much passion and excitement about all the crafty-goodness I've been up to lately. Rather than try to keep that all in, I decided to give it its own space where it can run free. It also means this site can stay focused on information architecture.

I introduce: Like I Need Another Project. It's a place for me to document projects that I'm working on. As well as ideas, patterns, books, tools and tips. Come on by and take a look!

Almost Time For BlogHer


Next week is the BlogHer conference, here in San Francisco. I attended the first BlogHer conference 3 years. This year Kate asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes. She and I had a blast at the Women in Tech unconference last year.

I'm getting a bit uneasy about BlogHer though, as I remember that it is coming up. The first time I went, I was alone. Sure I met folks, and there were a few people that I knew who were there, but they were wrapped up in their own thang and I felt like a hanger-on for most of it. I've been to conferences by myself before, so I'm not sure what it was that made BlogHer so different.

Maybe it's the fact that I don't really identify myself as being a blogger. I'm not a mommy-blogger (god what a horrible term). I tried focusing this blog on information architecture and it didn't really take. I ending up blogging about things interested in, which is a fractured collection of lots of stuff. And my blog reflects that. It's not anything to be ashamed about, and yet in a way that's what I feel. I'm not making money off my blogs. I haven't started an OmniMedia company around it. I'm happy when my logs hit 20 views in a day.

I look at the women who are into the whole BlogHer thing and I feel like a big fat nothing next to them. Which is crazy because my life is full in a million other ways. I don't know... I guess I'm just starting to worry that it will be a depressing two days for me. I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking to get out of the conference. I guess to get inspired. Maybe meet folks. Perhaps I need to figure out that first, and then put the energy into making those things happen.

Remembering Dr. Phillips

I received my alma mater's English Department newsletter today. On the cover was a photograph of Dr. Raymond Phillips, and an article delivering the news that he had passed away this past October. I've spent the last half-hour trying to track down an obituary to learn more. I just found one.

I first met Dr. Phillips in my American Literature class. I'm not exactly sure why he was cursed with teaching this freshman class. Perhaps it was the English department's version of a weeder class. All I knew was that Dr. Phillips was hard. And strange. Most students avoided his classes if they had the chance.

I didn't have a class with him again until my senior year. Most folks took their senior seminar with the favorite teach Dr. Ray Stevens. I couldn't fit the fall class into my schedule so I was stuck with Dr. Phillips in the spring. It's a situation I am thankful for to this day.

That class was a joy. So many folks took the class in the fall that there were less than a dozen of us. It turned out that Dr. Phillips wasn't that strange -- he just hated freshman and enjoyed playing with their minds. Did I work hard in that class? You better believe it. But I did it as much FOR Dr. Phillips as because of him. He challenged us. And I learned more in that class than just about any other in my four years at Western Maryland.

It's strange to think Dr. Phillips is now gone. The obit said he was 75 and had a stroke. He's not the only professor that I know has passed on. Dr. Keith Richwhine died while I was a senior. I'm pretty sure Dr. Ray Stevens is gone. And I'd be surprised if Dr. Del Palmer was still around. An era has past. They were smart, insightful, talented and caring men. I'm honored that I was able to spend the time with them that I did.

European Tour 2008

Watch out, here I come! I just booked my plane ticket, so it is now official. I am flying to Amsterdam on Sept 24 (arriving the 25). I'll be speaking at the EuroIA Conference Sept 26-27 in Amsterdam.

The next thing on the agenda is UX Intensive Copenhagen Oct 13-16. (Register before the price goes up June 30 and be sure to use the code FOCF to save an extra 15%!)

Sandwiched between those two events is two weeks of lovely, lovely vacation. E and I haven't been on a proper vacation (e.g., one that doesn't involve family and is longer than 3 days) since we went to Maui in 2005.

Right now we are thinking of getting a houseboat for a week+ in Amsterdam and just relax and get to know the city really well. We really enjoyed our short trip there last year. We know we want to take the train to Copenhagen and have a few days there together before E goes home and I go to UX Intensive. But what else shall we do? More time in Denmark? Should we get off the train and explore Germany? We're thinking possibly a few days in Berlin.

The major goal of this time is to relax. We definitely want to see the sights, but it's not going to be a rush-rush-must-see-EVERYTHING kind of trip. It's so exciting!

Phoenix has a lovely airport. I can't speak to the rest of the city, since I have only ever been in the airport. But I know the Phoenix airport really well. How is that you may wonder? Let me tell you about my trip to Minneapolis for UX Intensive.

I knew better than to book a flight straight on NorthWest to Minneapolis. I opted for the US Airways one with a stop in Phoenix simply so I would still get miles on United. I WILL get Premier status this year!

I left San Francisco at 8:25 this morning, on a United flight. Got to Phoenix early. Which was good because United and USAirways are in different terminals. I had a leisurely lunch and then headed back through security to my gate. Where I discovered they had overbooked the flight. Lovely.

BUT! They had another flight they could put you on that got in 10 minutes earlier than the oversold one. Great! So I volunteered. Two other folks also volunteered and the three of us got our paperwork (I now have 1 free ticket on US Airways, go me!) and headed over to terminal 3 where NorthWest is. It will be okay, I thought. NorthWest isn't as bad as I remember. Heh. Famous. Last. Words.

We get over the terminal 3 and head up to the counter. The woman at the desk gives us dirty looks and tells us that she has no seats, all her planes are full. Don't we see that our paperwork has code UCI on it? That means it wasn't confirmed. After a huffy call to US Airways, she tells us that she can't do anything for us and we have to go back to US Airways. Lovely.

So, we shelp back out into the 100 degrees, again, to terminal 4. The two folks with me are beside themselves with worry and angst. I walk up to the first class ticket counter and explain our story to the woman. She was lovely. She made multiple calls and even got a supervisor when I asked what other compensation they could give us.

They kindly explained that they never move volunteers over unless the other airline has seats to give. One of the folks I was with watched the guy call NorthWorst and check there were seats. What happened in the 15 minutes it took us to get over to the other terminal is anyone's guess. Someone read the computer wrong or was looking at old data, is my guess.

The two other folks are now headed to American Airlines where they will fly to Chicago and then transfer to Minneapolis, getting in at 11:10 tonight. If they checked in early enough they'll get first class seats on the CHI-MIN leg.

I am now sitting in the food court of the mall that is Terminal 4. I'm on the 6:20 flight out of Phoenix, but at least I'm direct to Minneapolis. I'm scheduled to get in at 11:50. The only saving grace is that I'm first class. Oh, and I have a $5 meal voucher to spend in the food court here.

At least they have free wifi. I guess I'll go over my slides for tomorrow.

Realization of the Day

The older I get, the more I realize I have the body of my Great Aunt Helen.

She's the one on the left in the front.

God help me if I start wearing the polyester-princess clothes to go with it.

Decisions, Decisions

I'm having trouble deciding what to do with my blogs. I started out with just this one and then spun off Chachi In Charge because I figured that folks coming here because they knew me from work didn't really care about my political rantings or what the cats were doing today. ended up going fallow for a long time as a result. I posted a lot more on Chachi. Yet, ChiaraFox is the one that has the wider readership, higher rankings in Technorati and such. Which makes me want to post here more often and really spruce up this site.

I'm wondering if I should merge them back together. Or change the focus. Or, I'm not sure what I want to do. A new visual design is in the works. And I'll be thinking a lot about the content and topics to cover here. Any input from you readers would be most helpful. :)

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