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XXV.2 March-April 2018
Page: 87
Digital Citation

Reflections on community growth in Philadelphia

PhillyCHI Board

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Established 12 years ago in the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia chapter of ACM SIGCHI—known as PhillyCHI—strives to personify a welcoming atmosphere that matches the city’s nickname. We aim to create a fun, engaging, and safe environment for UXers of varying backgrounds and experience levels to make connections and learn as a community.

Throughout the years, we’ve seen ups and downs in the growth of the community, tied specifically to how we entice people to attend events as well as how they’re financed. Within the past three years, we’ve seen a 28 percent surge in attendance and a boost in sponsorship backing, but how did we do it?

back to top  Fostering Community Growth

We attribute this growth to efforts in diversifying our events offerings: promoting inclusion and building community partnerships. We focused on increasing diversity in the event types, their geographic locations, and their content.

In 2017 alone, we hosted 20 events—educational events such as speaker talks, workshops, and our Design Slam, as well as social gatherings such as happy hours and dinners. To make these events more accessible, we held them in neighborhoods throughout the region. As a result, we attracted a wider range of attendees, from recent graduates to senior practitioners with families.

By listening to our community, we were able to find unique topics that interested participants. Event topics included the relationship between neuroscience and aesthetics, heuristics, voice usability design, and service design. By involving practitioners, UXers at any level of expertise learn about real-life scenarios. In return, we saw an increase in diversity across attendee expertise, background, gender, and age.

back to top  Involving The Community

Partnering with other local groups and companies was critical in expanding both our event range and attendee reach. Two standouts included Arts & Crafts Holdings (, a real estate developer revitalizing the Callowhill neighborhood, and NextFab (, a membership-based makerspace supporting local innovators. Through these partnerships we were able to introduce UX topics that practitioners might not get exposure to through typical learning or work environments.

In 2017, more than a dozen sponsors provided financial support, helped us promote events, and encouraged their employees to attend. Sponsors like Think Company (, Hero Digital (, and Bresslergroup ( have also lent out their offices at no cost for their respective events. These partnerships make our events more accessible by allowing us to host, for the most part, without charging admission to attendees.

These sponsorships are mutually beneficial. Think Company provides a suburban location, food, and drinks for our annual UX Show and Tell. “We’ve met prospective and current team members through PhillyCHI,” says director of marketing and communications Suzanne Cotter. “And our team has learned a great deal about our work through PhillyCHI’s educational programming.”

back to top  Looking Ahead

PhillyCHI will stay busy in 2018. As we reflect on our successes and challenges over the past few years, we continue to learn how to better serve our community. We hope to expand our events and find new ways to collaborate with higher-education institutions, introducing students to the community earlier.

We would love to hear from you! Whether you’re starting a new chapter or managing an existing one, please reach out to share how you’ve dealt with challenges and what you’re looking forward to in the upcoming years.

back to top  Author

PhillyCHI is the Philadelphia region’s chapter of the ACM SIGCHI. It holds monthly educational and social events covering multiple facets of UX for all levels of practitioner. PhillyCHI’s yearly programming is made up by the board, which in 2017 included Kelsey Leljedal, Megan Moser, Stephanie Lin, and Brian Crumley.

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The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2018 ACM, Inc.


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@Mark Albin (2012 06 30)

This is a very interesting article about social bots, thanks for sharing.

@Aman Anderson (2012 07 18)

This is great
“So what’s the center of a design? In one sense, it is the designer’s nuanced understanding of the problem or opportunity at hand. The focus of design is problem solving, not self-expression.” - Uday Gajendar, Interaction Designer

@Bill Killam (2012 07 31)

This is a long overdue article.  And I couldn’t agree with it more.  I’m current working on yet another Federal RFP that is asking for us to do work using short cut methods that are likely make it harder to get them quality results, and we can probably propose a cheaper and more data rich approach if they didn’t specify how we had to do the job.  Sad.

@Demosthenes Leonard Zelig (2012 08 12)

Great Article, it is funny to notice that such huge corporations do not even bother to do a market research before releasing products on a new market. However, I guess we are still learning from our mistakes. (2012 10 24)

Hi everyone, In the Technological University of Panama there is also a movement. There is a 2 years MS in IT with a specializtation in HCI. We are also trying to include HCI as part of our main curricula. This year we started a research with a company interested on incorporating usability in their development. We expect to receive a Fulbright Scholar next year in this area…


Karla Arosemena

@John Michael Sheehan (2012 11 06)

There are thousands of blogs that requires comments on them. What is the intention of blog comments? Sent From Blackberry.

@Junia Anacleto (2012 11 07)

A very shallow and naive view of a much more rich and complex context.
I am still waiting for a fair position paper to be presented.

@Rick Norton (2012 11 17)

Excellent article raising significant issues that are largely overlooked.  The prospect that the collapse of sustainability for a growth/consumption related societal model is inevitable, is a topic I have often wondered about, given the nature of capitalism as we know it today.  Even the “Great Recession” of current times gives me pause to wonder just how long we can keep this economic engine going before we have to face the reality that we are all going to have to learn to “live with less”.  (A quantitative assessment, not necessarily qualitative.)

Keep up the good work.  Hopefully, you will raise awareness of these topics.

@Noah McNeely (2012 11 27)

Very nice article, that raises meaningful questions.  I actually think that the idea of sustainable products and sustainable product development is a bit of a myth.  All products consume energy and other resources in one form or another during their production, use, or re-use.  The key, ultimately is to balance resource consumption with resource production, but we will always need to be producing new resources.  See my blog post on the subject at ( ) (2012 11 30)

The quote in the article mis-contextualize James Landay ‘s essay. James actually is actively working to break down those stereotypes, but you can’t do that without understanding what the deep problems are.

James’ blog post on this is at

@Lee Crane (2012 12 03)

This is a topic that is thought provoking and important.  The message explores how humans can escape and survive the world they have jumbled.  So many of the theories and ideas are basic.  Our future may look a lot like the distant past.  And indeed we may be happier for it.

@ 4996484 (2012 12 19)

this is a great article David and Silvia!  I’‘m so excited that you guys wrote this up and are showing everyone the complexities in this space. I hope Interactions features more of this kind of research on China.  Although I agree w/ @landay’s assessment of China’s creativity problem - but he’s working with a very different population than you guys. I think you research is absolutely on point - creative folks are going to hacker spaces like Xinchejian, they aren’t ending up in institutions like Tsinghua!  I explain more here:

@Joe (2013 01 04)

I think that if you study the Elliot Wave Theory it can answer your questions.

@Rafeeque (2013 01 06)

good one

@zhai (2013 01 17)

Enjoyed reading this article. I finally got why Harold wants to call it “the Fitts law”. If enough people write it that way I would never have to correct another submission making the embarrassing mistake of ‘Fitt’s law”.

I did not completely get the following remark though:

        “The Accot and Zhai paper about the Fitts Law [3] has a clever title that illustrates
        the rules on letters, “More than dotting the i’s…”—a bad pun on eyes.”

I came up with the title, but the word “eyes” never came to my mind. We meant that the point-and-click style of UI is like dotting the i’s everywhere—- placing a click on constrained targets as the fundamental action in interaction. Why not using ” Crossing the t’s ”  as an alternative action?  Indeed, we presented models of a new style of UI, which systematically reveals when crossing is superior to clicking,  hence the subtitle of the paper “Foundations for crossing-based interfaces.”

Shumin Zhai

@Mohamadou M. Amar (2013 03 22)

I am a Doctoral student in I/O Psychology with Touro UW and need to access your articles.

@Mohamadou Amar (2013 03 22)

Need access for Doctoral Research

@William Hudson (2013 04 09)

Gilbert overlooks the important issue that the ‘big boys’ largely do not appreciate the need for design all and the problems that real people have with technology. I admit that we’ve had a hard time selling UCD but I am not persuaded by the arguments here to abandon it. Perhaps have a look at my article on a similar subject - User Requirements for the 21st Century - where I take a more pragmatic view of trying to address real users’ needs in the development process.

@ 0343665 (2013 04 29)

Fantastic text. I came here by searching for people that quote the Standford study on multitasking. The introduction is fantastic as it builds up an argument that attention has some features that do not change over time.

@Simon Taylor (2013 04 30)

not wanting to do anything so grandiose as building a (technology for) a world parliament, I have in essence been working on the same problems and facing the seven challenges with a project called ‘company.’ []

In 2011, working with senior software developers - gratis - although neither the ethical undertaking nor the promise of sweat equity were enough to keep them involved - I established the technical feasibility of ‘company.’
In 2012, turning from the ‘voluntary’ ‘principled’ participation model - because the attractions of real paying jobs had lost me my team - I received financial support from the New Zealand government. This part-funded an Intellectual Property Position Review - which government considered a pre-requisite - as commercial due diligence - to investing in an initial build, or beta. The IPPR recommended I do proceed… However, government offers only part-funding and without a team - either technical or commercial - there has been little to no investor interest.

As things stand at present, I have the tools and schematics for a beta build of something which would fit the sort of use imagined here. If you have any interest in helping, please contact me.

Simon Taylor