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Mr. Smith,
Nice synopsis. I've been going over their report this week myself. Two things. First, the ambivalence about being over-reliant on tourism isn't difficult to understand. There are many musicians don't want to make their living entertaining the "lowest-common-denominator" of visitors coming for the Disney-fied, aggressively marketed fiction of the city's culture. Currently, the landscape doesn't leaves much room for much else. Secondly, I went to the presentations and spoke with several team members. The fact is that their solutions come from a place of empathetic agnosticism that isn't looking to introduce new tools and changing behaviors. They wanted the challenge of pushing productivity by amplifying what they perceived cats were already doing.

Evan Christopher
New Orleans-based musician

Clyde Smith

Thanks for sharing!

Clyde Smith

Upon more thought and a private communication from one of the organizers, I should clarify a few things:

I do not doubt their good intentions and wish good intentions were enough.

A good researcher does not assume they know why someone said something. They ask. Perhaps the issues around tourism are more complex than any one individual could know, even a musician from New Orleans.

At this point we do not know why these people were told that some folks don't want to focus on tourists. That's a glaring absence that should not be treated as an outlier.

I know the people involved were volunteers and apparently they also paid for their trips themselves. That has nothing to do with the analysis of research. I've done lots of things out of pocket myself. I would never expect a pass based on that.

I've been asked to tone down my rhetoric but check out their Vimeo account:

Here's their current tagline:

"User Experience design is the planet's last, best hope. UX for Good is like our league of superheroes."

What can I say to that?


Thanks for the thoughtful critique. I was one of the designers involved, and take the feedback very seriously as a way to do better going forward. While I am all for evangelizing about the power of design for social change, I too cringe a bit when I (or other designers) are referred to as "superheroes."

Clyde Smith

It's a really bad sign that the organizers could only come up with a defensive email in response. One that did not address the issues at hand.

Especially given other such signs of hubris as a Twitter account called UX Saves the World:

I really appreciate your comment. My critique comes from a desire to see positive change and a history of watching do-gooders putting their own agendas over those of the people they claim to serve.

From my own research background I know how tough some of these issues can be and that a researcher has to always be examining and checking themselves to get closer to the truth. Applied research is even more complex and requires a self-critique that can be painful at times.

As long as you continue to question yourself in an honest manner without letting your human limitations cause you to give up, you'll just get deeper and more effective over time.

Keep going. We need more thoughtful researcher/activists in this world!


Check Mt.Auburn & Assoc. extensive 24 mo. study on LA Cultural Economy with great focus on music in LA.

Sadly many of the interviewees for this abbreviated study are not music industry at all. Most are non profit and others with limited success in the music business.

One was a teacher who worked in the field with local and limited success, and plays in a cover band. Others never were successful at all in their attempts at a career in music.

Some come from gov't and one came from healthcare. Other industry are from NY, L.A and Chicago.

They also failed to bring the tourism industry into the conversation.

Where was the comparison of Nola to the successful models of Nashville and Austin? Or even Memphis, who does better than Nola.

Look at MS who is beating LA/Nola at their own game.
Seems like just more resources wasted which is the trend in this state and country.

There have been millions pour into LA in hurricane and oil spill recovery, but throwing $ at it is not the answer b/c still Nola/LA is still stuck.

We want the state to blow up their potential for greatness, but they have much room to grow and they need successful industry helping them to the finish line.


Clyde Smith

I definitely could have said more about these issues but once I did this post the productive conversations ended.

It kind of bothers me that they have talked about starting a new nonprofit to pursue the ideas raised in this study when there are already numerous nonprofits doing relevant work. Starting a nonprofit is a nontrivial task that soaks up additional energy and resources just to exist.

For example, they mention Sweet Home New Orleans as interviewees but they aren't otherwise referenced them in the report even though they've done related reports and work on related issues, for example:

Having worked in activist settings, particularly in the 80s, I've noticed that groups of well meaning outsiders often work in this manner, acting as if they have the solutions and glossing over previous efforts.

I would have liked to give these guys the benefit of the doubt but except for one individual all my communication after this post involved people making excuses that really weren't relevant to the points I was addressing. And I also encountered some outright hostility and small mindedness. So that confirmed my worst suspicions about privileged outsiders who don't have to live with the problems coming in and talking about saving the day.

Which in and of itself is certainly not a new phenomenon in social change settings.

Clyde Smith

Here's an interesting take on some issues facing musicians in New Orleans that UX For Good apparently did not uncover during their brief visit:



Anyone interested in learning more about this issue should start by realizing that Ux For Good is used as a marketing tool for Manifest Digital, the company where most of the founders work.

Manifest Digital is the company currently being sued by one of their biggest former clients, Children's Hospital. To learn more about the Manifest Digital lawsuit, check out this article:


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