Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the Portland creative community.
Matthew Oliphant is a seasoned UX pro, a community organizer, and a long-time presence at CreativeMornings/Portland events. Also? A fan of Korean dramas. We’ve been noticing his thoughtful contributions to the dialogue within our community for quite some time, but he wins for knowing about Hay Net before Mara even mentioned it in her talk.
What did you have to do to earn the title of “Cleaner” at nGen Works? I mean, Jean Reno. Those are big shoes to fill.
While I did lift that from La Femme Nikita, I promise that’s not how I clean things up!
nGen Works is a pretty non-traditional company in how we run things, and one aspect of that is we all get to pick our own titles. We’ve got Chief Code Thrasher, Super Glue, and Simplify Man to name a few.
If I still worked in a corporate setting, I’d probably have a title like Director of User Experience or some such nonsense. Titles are just a way for companies to make you think you’re furthering your career. I’d rather focus on doing interesting work.
So when I joined nGen a couple of years ago, and I thought about what I really do, The Cleaner made the most sense. Oftentimes, I tend to be the one to come in to clean things up. Whether it’s a broken workflow, an unusable form, or a project that’s spinning out of control. And the more often I do it, the more often I get pulled in to things clean up. And it’s been that way my entire professional career.
You’ve seen the whole sausage making process behind software, from front to back. What would surprise the lay person about how an app gets made?
If we were speaking in GIFs, there’d be a cat, playing a toy piano, saying “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Kind of like this.
Okay, that isn’t exactly true, but most software projects are set up like this: A small group of people come together for a goal that is partially defined. They have varying skillsets and capabilities. They all try to run forward together toward a common destination. And they all pretty much make it up as they go along.
Even those of us who’ve been on scores of projects make it up as we go. Software development has a roughly repeatable process, but I don’t think it can be truly commoditized. There’s often too many unknowns, goals shift and you have to adjust, new tools come on the scene, you don’t always have the best team in place, and releasing software with a usable and complete feature-set with no known bugs just takes a lot of work.
You organize Refresh ‘round these parts. What is it about this particular moment that makes events so important to the creative community?
I do. And I get help from Susan Robertson, too!
Here’s how I see Refresh: While a lot of what we invite presenters to talk about is web-related, we’ve tried to expand it more to be about the process of making things. We’ll have technical talks (next month is a talk about Sass right along side talks the focus on the soft-skills like Mara’s in January.
But one of the things we really try to do is highlight new voices. Susan, prior to joining me in organizing Refresh, did her first presentation ever in September 2013. It was a great, well-attended talk and now she’s been invited to speak at SmashingConf in December.
I really want Refresh to be a welcoming environment for new and professional presenters alike. For the first-timers, we let everyone know from the start that it’s their first talk and when the talk ends, we do a short, constructive feedback session to help the presenter get better. If the audience knows they’ll be called upon at the end of the talk to give feedback, they pay more attention. And then the presenter gets good feedback on the talk they literally (classic definition) just finished giving.
You’ve been to a whole lot of CreativeMornings talks here in Portland. Which were your favorites?
I’m going to take the opportunity here to cast a vote for turning CreativeMornings into CreativeMidMorningsPotentiallyLunchLet’sCallItAnEarlyDayAndAllGoGrabABeer. I say this because I don’t go to as many CreativeMornings as I’d like. :)
As to faves … I have two. Wait. Three. Wait, this is the one I like. I had to look back at all the ones on that page because it’s kind of difficult to choose…
So, no, I can’t choose.
Okay, what I really want to know: how did you get into Korean dramas and what it is about them that appeals?
Two words: Coffee Prince. That’s how it all started. Hulu began putting up Korean dramas a few years ago and I got hooked. Coffee Prince is basically a Shakespeare comedy (who doesn’t love mistaken identities!) with a bunch of coffee and a lot of good Korean food. And Korean food is one of my Spirit Animals.
Basically, I love silly, serious, romance, drama, food, sci-fi, historical shows and a lot of Korean dramas try to shove all of that in, and usually to good effect. It’s really enjoyable brain candy that feels somewhat refined because there’s reading of subtitles involved.