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UPA 2005: The French Connection

by Alain Robillard-Bastien, M. Sc.
Principal Consultant, Interactive Ergonomics
Cesart, a Bell Canada company
UPA Montréal Chapter President

On June 28, 2005, something extraordinary will happen in Montreal. This year, the Usability Professionals’ Association’s annual conference will sound a little bit different. For the first time in its young and dynamic history, the organization will hold a bilingual conference to highlight its international flavor. With a comprehensive line-up of French presentations, the UPA will open its doors to a new clientele. Top usability specialists from the French community will get together to share ideas and to bridge cultures with traditional UPA communities.

The French Track of the UPA will be neither the first, nor the only, French conference on usability and ergonomics. Every year, several important conferences, such as Ergo-IHM or “Le congrès de la Société d’ergonomie de langue française”, as well as numerous smaller conferences, take place. These events, held mostly in Europe, give French-speaking researchers the opportunity to present their work and have it challenged by their peers. No other conference, however, lets this community focus specifically on professional issues. Previously, French-speaking professionals and researchers might not have fully benefited from sharing their experiences with their anglophone colleagues – and vice-versa! The UPA 2005 French Track will try to bridge this cultural gap.

A conference within a conference

Organizing the French track of the UPA 2005 Conference, which remains an ongoing process at the time of this article’s publication, has proven to be similar to organizing a mini-conference inside of the larger conference. Much preparation was done, from developing the call to participation to building the evaluation material. Although some content could be translated and reused, several other elements required significant localization and in some cases had to be created from scratch. And much preparation remains to be done. Among other things, the event still needs to be publicized in the French community to individuals who are not necessarily fully aware of the UPA. Needless to say, challenges abound!

The entire Montreal chapter has been working very hard over the past few months to make this project a reality. A dedicated Web site was constructed and all the required logistics were planned, thanks to the inspiring dedication of Chapter members and the UPA 2005 organization committee. Press releases were drafted and various discussion group lists were used to spread the word.

Over time, it became clear that something was really happening. In November 2004, we were almost surprised to see the French Track Web site up & running. Then links to the French Track were added to the UPA main site, then the call for participation was developed, and so on. At the time, I remember talking with other chapter members and someone mentioned that we had made it to the point of no return. Now we had no choice but to make this French Track happen! The thought was exhilarating yet a bit scary at the same time.

In my opinion, not offering a French Track in Montreal is not even an option. The occasion is unique, the context perfect, the timing ideal. Montreal is a bilingual city at a junction between America and Europe. The city has a lively usability scene and numerous local universities have departments dedicated to the study of ergonomics. The conference pieces are slowly falling into place; numerous top-class submissions are being reviewed at this very moment. The word is spreading…

We at the Montreal Chapter will continue to work until the very last minute to ensure that UPA 2005 and the French track will be successes. So spread the word and see you in Montreal! If you don’t come for the usability conference, at least come for the music! The Montreal Jazz Festival, one of the world’s largest and most brilliant Jazz events, will be held the same week as the UPA 2005 conference! Come with your friends and family and plan to stay a few extra days after the conference to enjoy marvelous free jazz and World-Music events in downtown Montreal during the “Jazz Fest.” After that, why not fall under Québec City's spell – the only fortified city in North America – and relax in Old City of Québec, which is on the prestigious list of the UNESCO world heritage sites? So many reasons to visit Montreal in June! See you then!

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