Nearly a week ago, I joined a group of d.school students in attending the GigaOm Roadmap 2013 conference. Our attendance was made possible thanks to a generous invitation on the part of GigaOm senior writer and features reporter Katie Fehrenbacher. The students were charged with re-designing the conference experience as the conference was going on. The assignment was much like changing the tires of a moving bus. They hustled around, interviewed attendees, ascertained their users and points-of-view and brainstormed potential solutions. Before I knew it, they were making and testing prototypes.
Meanwhile, I fought a large computer, the sun (which shone mercilessly on the screen I was using), Final Cut and a bevy of mobile phones, each containing gigabytes of video and photos I needed in my edit. That's right, I was required to deliver a 2-3 minute video of the students' process to the conference organizers. I needed to present the video onstage to the conference's hundreds of attendees at 4:55 p.m.
I was drowning. The video delivery deadline was two hours before I was supposed to be onstage -- 2:55 p.m. -- and I wasn't able to get the system up and running until around 11 a.m.
If video production has a hell, I was wading into the Styx.
The logistics of getting the students to the conference and coordinating their super-fast-paced schedule when we arrived had prevented me from focusing on the learning I was supposed to so deeply appreciate. All I could think about was how terrible this video was going to be, and, oh sweet goodness, I need 55 minutes to render this thing? How did it get to be 4 minutes long? I only have 45 minutes left!
The situation was devastatingly comical.
The dreaded moment, 4:55 p.m., rolled around. I was onstage with two of our design-team members, and the video -- this horrible piece of Frankenstein nonsense -- was lurching across the screen.
If the floor had swallowed me whole, I would not have minded. I had studied video production. I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't have anywhere near the amount of time I needed. Countless hours of studying Final Cut, years of video and television production work -- and I have to show the world this? No, it's not fair.
I conducted a short interview with my colleagues, fielded a couple of questions from the audience and resisted the urge to run to the bathroom and scream. Cheap, quick and good videos are possible, but only the first two categories were on display in my work that day.
The next 48 hours were my recovery period. I found it hard to do work -- both homework and the day job -- and I found it even harder to speak with people because maintaining a positive attitude hurt. The idea of sitting behind a computer was anathema.
I realize now that my production approach was wrong. I should have resisted the urge to cross-fade everything, and I would have been better served had I nailed down my music track ahead of time instead of hunting for it on the fly. The final product could have been good, or at least better. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I need to figure out how to be happy with iMovie, which I've silently mocked for years.
So, I learned from my failure. But it was nowhere near this experience.
That's because my face-plant wasn't in the warm confines of the d.school, where I can flare wildly, throw my arms in the air and cheer when I fumble. Instead, I was in front of an auditorium full of people where the context was fundamentally different and my failure was being live-streamed to the world.
I needed tools I didn't have. I needed realdesign -- a process I could apply to cope with the challenges and stresses I faced while learning on the fly in front of a room full of people.
I feel like I let someone into my home, and we agreed it would be a good -- nay, great! -- idea to set the place on fire. The patterns and methods I am used to were consumed in the blaze, and they haven't been replaced yet. Perhaps this realdesign is somewhere among the ashes. So, please excuse the mess as I start digging.