Ideas, musings and inspirations.

If you’re a web professional, Pittsburgh is a great place to call “home.”

For one, the city is stuffed with outstanding practitioners from a broad array of webby disciplines. With tech stalwart Carnegie Melon churning out batch after batch of HCI brainiacs and scrappy Pittsburgh Technical Institute (yes, I’m totally serious) minting successive generations of well-educated, cross-disciplinary digital talent, Pittsburgh’s web community is as peer-rich as it is talented and capable.

As fortune has shown its light on our town, Pittsburgh professionals have likewise made hay. Jason Head spun up and nurtured one of the country’s most vivacious Refresh communities (full disclosure: I was for several years a “co-organizer” of Refresh Pittsburgh with Jason, although I did more promoting than organizing). Averaging ~70 attendees per bimonthly meeting and boasting over 400 Facebook likes, Refresh has drawn Pittsburgh web professionals together and has become a fantastic forum for regular professional sharing and fellowship. A multitude of other groups thrive as well: the 234-strong Pittsburgh Python User Group, for example. The AIGA is here, and so is IxDA. There’s the awesome Girl Develop It with 377 members, the 642-member Pittsburgh Tech Meetup, The Pittsburgh Web Design Meetup group with its 538 members, a Javascript Group (159 members), a .NET Group (298), Steel City Hackers (137), and a rockin’ little Dribbble Meetup Group (67). There’s a node.js group, a slew of mobile app developer groups, and even a regular meetup group devoted to classic cocktails. Heck, The Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Meetup Group boasts nearly 1100 members. The list goes on – and this is but one list among many.

Then there’s the startup community. Alphalab and Innovation Works cultivate, mentor, and help fund scores of innovative startups every year. Shell Games, The Resumator, Showclix, Apangea, and Modcloth – to name the first few that come to mind – are all Pittsburgh companies. We’ve got an Apple outpost, a Microsoft outpost, and, just across town, we’ve got big-ass Google. Our friends and colleagues at Full Stop and Bearded (literally, in this case, two former Elliancers) are helping to represent Pittsburgh on the national stage, and even luminary Brad Frost moved back to town last year because – I’ll say it again – if you’re a web professional, Pittsburgh is a great place to call “home.”

I’m reflecting on all this local wonder today because, this evening, I’m going to be on a panel for a new local group: The Pittsburgh User Experience Designers group (95 and growing). The topic of tonight’s discussion is going to be UX Process, and I’m excited to hang with the ~40 confirmed attendees, swapping experiences and wisdom with colleagues Devan Goldstein and Chris Carter. As a die-hard UX nerd and ardent fan of Pittsburgh’s vibrant tech scene, I’m even more excited to get involved helping to grow UX Pittsburgh as a focused forum for Pittsburgh professionals from all across the UX spectrum.

I asked group founder Erica Volkman this afternoon, to put her own words to why she started UX Pittsburgh.

I have been working as a web professional for 7 years and felt Pittsburgh needed more specialized groups that can focus on specific areas of interest across the various tech disciplines. I decided to focus on User Experience because there were no Pittsburgh groups available where I could connect with other professionals and get some mentoring and answers to my questions.

The first meeting I had an overwhelming response and 25 people came to chat about UX at a local bar. We set some goals for what we would like to do in the future and get out of the group – namely, to have bimonthly meetings that focused on user experience – starting with broader topics such as process and then later diving more deeply into specific topics like how to conduct user interviews and create personas.

I figured I would start a group or meetup, give it two months, and see if I could gather some people together. Only three months later, here we are with almost 100 members.

Three months, 100 members. There’s something striking about that. It’s not a dearth of community that inspires the creation of new groups; it’s the abundance of demand and support from a lively and dynamic community.

This month’s UX Pittsburgh is August 15 from 6:00-8:00 PM. If you’re a local UXer, come join us at Revv Oakland for what promises to be fun, smart, and irreverent discussion about UX Process. For updates and announcements, follow @UXPittsburgh on Twitter and/or join our Facebook Group and/or join our Meetup Group.

One more thing: If you miss us tonight because you already committed to spending the evening staring at Twitter or whatever, don’t worry: we’ll see you next time.

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