Well, I answered question 1 in about a day and a half with 16 sources and in 12 pages including references. Starting question 2 of 4 tomorrow.
This morning I got my list of 8 qualification exam questions of which I am to choose 4 to answer. At first it of course looks overwhelming, but I’d be disappointed if it didn’t. While I can’t discuss the exact content of the questions or my answers, I can discuss the process I go through to answer them and all of the real life stuff I have to deal with at the same time.
Like for example, should I leave the house to do this? Or, should I just barricade myself in my office (where I have all of the sudden noticed the lack of flat space on which to lay out materials), turn up my music, and try to get it done here.
I can say, for those who are interested, my questions focus on things like the interdisciplinarity of info sci, open source, virtual ethnography, and social informatics.
This entire process is wrapped up in a mess of excitement and anxiety. Oh and procrastination of course, but I only have a week to complete four papers that will determine whether or not I actually get to begin my dissertation process, so that really can’t last long. As I look around though, I have to say, my desk could use some tidying before I even try to start this madness…
A friend posted a link to this article, A crisis of perception, on Facebook asking for my response. The article talks about how the perception of science is currently shifting from that of discovery to pure application. I wrote out a response and felt it was an important enough topic to post here. (My apologies for my otherwise lack of posting – I’ll post my reasons for this in a separate blog post entirely.)
Response to A Crisis of Perception:
I think a lot of this links back to today’s current lack of established classes that promote critical thinking for thinking’s sake going all the way back to high school or even jr. high and elementary. There is a saying I’ve seen going around that says something like “We’ve forgotten that college is meant to build a mind, not a career.”
Until we can get away from having to tie everything to money, we will continue down this path where every degree ends up being sponsored by a company, or a political party. Students will be like racecar drivers with sponsor patches littering their laptops and mobile devices. And, the only thing our society will be able to do is what our sponsors have had us trained to do.
Gone will be the days of innovation – one of the only things that actually makes us different from our competitor countries. This sort of thing is already happening in China . They are GREAT engineers, but they are poor innovators. Without a culture that promotes science for the sake of science, that’s where we are heading…
Wow, it’s been a while I know!
On August 12 I presented my practicum / thesis to my anthropology department on the Fedora Project titled: An Exploration of the Fedora Project’s Online Open Source Development Community.
The unique part of my project was that I used virtual methods for almost the entirety of my research. The methods entailed the following:
- Participant Observation In Person / Online
- In Person
- FUDCon Toronto
- Blogs / Fedora Planet
- Email / Mailing Lists
- In Person
- Qualitative Research
- In-depth Semi-Structured Interviews based on data gathered during participant observation
- Conducted via Email and IRC
- In-depth Semi-Structured Interviews based on data gathered during participant observation
- Quantitative Research
- Online Survey based on analysis of the Qualitative Data
- Conducted using LimeSurvey
- Online Survey based on analysis of the Qualitative Data
Based on the data gathered during this research I was able to structure my findings into five themes.
- Getting Started
In the final report each of these themes had key points that surfaced to support them and recommendations that were made based on analysis of the data gathered throughout the entire research project. You can find the community version of this report here. If you would like the full thesis / practicum paper (a bit more academic than the community report), please email me: diana [@] cyber-anthro.com. If you would like me to give the presentation again, just let me know. I am more than happy to share this data with anyone in the Fedora / FLOSS / Anthropology or Academic communities.
My committee was very pleased with my work and the results of my research, which culminated in the previously mentioned final report and presentation. With that, they signed off on the last of my graduation requirements and on August 13th I graduated with my Master of Science in Applied Anthropology!
Virtual Methods Report
I am hoping to find time in the coming months to write up a report on how I approached my research from a virtual methods perspective and did everything virtually from taking down and organizing field notes to daily interactions within the community. Not to mention the trials and tribulations of doing a study like this and lessons learned for those who wish to embark on a similar path. If you think you’d find this useful, please email me and nudge me to get it done!
Onward to PhD!
Last year I applied and was accepted into the Interdisciplinary Information Science PhD (IIS PhD) program at UNT where I started this fall. I will be focusing my studies on Human Computer Interaction and Information Policy. Due to my academic record I was nominated for and subsequently awarded a fellowship that covers my full tuition for the next four years. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be continuing on with my PhD studies, daunting though they may seem right now!
While my PhD is not in anthropology, the program is heavily centered around research, which is where my anthropology background will be a huge benefit. I will be utilizing all of my anthropologist skills in each of my research projects and final dissertation. Being interdisciplinary, I am able to blend all of my previous education as well as my skills in information architecture, usability, interaction design, and user experience together into a combined subject of study.
I am very excited to start down this new path and my goal is to aim my studies on the same subjects I did for my undergraduate and masters degrees. Those being, gaming, social networking, blogging, online communities, and open source. My hope is to also extend this into the realms of the digital divide, digital property rights, net neutrality, information accessibility, and more!
Thank you Fedora & Red Hat
Thank you to each and every single one of you who worked with me on my Fedora research. Every single one of you made a difference and I hope we get the chance to work with each other again!
From a direct email Best Buy sent me:
“Next time you’re at a Best Buy store you can conveniently get the product information you need—right from your mobile phone. Learn more about specifications, ratings and reviews using the new QR Mobile Code Reader APP.”
From a post I made December of 2008:
Two ads come to mind immediately of stores mentioning how they provide access to a computer right in the store in order to research the product and their competitors prices. I think though, that they should take this one step further – why not offer an in store wireless connection that mobile phones can use to do the research with. Through that connection offer a ‘homepage’ or default page that comes up when they go to connect with all of the in-store specials. These specials then list not only the store’s price, but also their competitors online prices as well as specs, compatibility, and upgrade information about the product itself.
While yes, I agree that few people will use this in the beginning, but imagine those people then SHARING that information with the people around them. Then those people the shared it with learning of it, using it, and then sharing it with others too. It’s an in store marketing device, one that they are already providing through the use of an in store computer, but one that is a bit more private and a hell of a lot more useful than most sales people.
This can then be extended even further than that – say using a barcode scanner or photo recognition software. Just imagine the possibilities when you put access to pertinent information in the palm of a consumers hand.
One example would be utilizing Target’s Amazon relation ship by putting URLs on the tags for all the electronic items in the store. Here I can go an extra step and actually read the reviews for the item I’m looking to purchase. I not only get to look up prices, specs, and other important information, but I also get to see what OTHER people think of the product too. Then, if I purchase it in store I can say perhaps get $5 off my next Amazon or Target purchase if I leave a review thus perpetuating the cycle.
Someone should pay me to come up with this stuff. I come up with these sorts of ideas all of the time!
(Yes this is a repost as I realized recently I had copied out the wrong paragraph from the BB email!)
I’ve been avidly following a discussion on the anthro-design list about guerrilla research and thought that perhaps my reply as both a traditional researcher and a guerrilla researcher may be useful to those who follow my blog. So, here it is!
Little about me:
Academically, I am finishing my masters degree in applied anthropology in 3 weeks where I focused on cyber anthropology – or studying culture online and using virtual research methods (as long as everything goes according to plan). Additionally, I am starting my PhD in 4 weeks in Human Computer Interaction.
As far as work experience I have 13 years in the computer industry and over 10 years in the fields of software development (JCPenney internal marketing applications that serviced over 5000 internal employees and over 1000 stores), graphic design (various jobs over the years from traditional print to web design), and user experience including positions as interaction designer (school information systems), information architect (at an interactive ad agency), and user interface engineer (designing HR software) / designer (designing mobile, desktop and web tools).
In all of my experience I have rarely ever been able to properly conduct user research. Even the one time I was given the go ahead to do so the recruitment methods which were performed by the product management team were so awful we only had a total of 6 people participate!
This means I’ve had to utilize any opportunities available to me to conduct ‘guerrilla research’.
Methods I’ve used include:
‘Participant Observation’ – I sat in on and participated in training classes where support people were being trained on current versions of software and were able to voice their concerns for themselves and their customers. I was able to take this information plus a heuristic review of the software’s current state and use that as my basis for what challenges needed to be tackled in the new interface and process design.
Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews. Here is where I went deeper than the stakeholders or even those that called themselves SMEs and ferreted out those people who had to be SMEs not because it was their job title, but because their positions within the company required them to be. I found a great source to be the Sales department (and sales engineers) of all people. Why? These people are the ones on the front lines trying to sell the software. They are the ones that do the most competitive research and are asked the most questions by both potential customers who are shopping around (so I saw in this demo by this other company they did it this way – why do you do it different?) AND existing customers looking to upgrade (so why should I upgrade to the new version when the version I have does everything I need it to – or the current version is no longer meeting my needs and I’m not sure the new version will either – why should I stay with your company when I need this, this, this and this that you have yet to offer). Additionally, these people are GREAT to reconnect with after you’ve done your job and they are selling the software you’ve designed as they can give you both potential and current user feedback on it that they receive during demos!
Developers, developers, developers… They get such a bad rep because they are seen as the ones that just do the behind the scenes plumbing and aren’t as concerned as how it should operate on the front end. This, for one, isn’t necessarily true and in most cases is a simply out dated notion. Though many aren’t sure what to do on the front end, once you give them prototypes or wireframes and actually talk to them about your ideas they can help you expound on them 10 fold because they know how the system works, why it works the way it does, the current pitfalls, and ways to not only improve the front end based on all of this information but also ways to improve the backend which also has implications for user experience especially in terms of things like errors and page loads etc etc.
Online forums! Getting out there and seeing what people are actually saying about previous/current state is a huge help. Though it can be damaging to the ego once they start talking about YOUR contributions to the project, it is definitely a place to gather at least unabashed criticism and sometimes helpful suggestions to the product.
Stakeholders – really, I go to these people last. Especially in terms of product managers. They have too many people to answer to, to be in the right mindset of user experience most of the time. Though I’m not their adversary, I look at myself as the user advocate and the person that has the user’s voice when things come up where they might want to sacrifice usability and accessibility needs for niceities/unnecessary features/timelines.
More traditional methods done in a guerrilla way:
Site visits – can’t stress this enough. Though we only got a chance to visit two offices, just being able to see the tools they work with (monitor size, the size of their browser windows, how busy their office is etc etc) were very insightful.
Phone interviews – these were most helpful when the user already answered a set of predetermined questions up front and the phone call was used to expound on them.
Journals – having users take screen shots of problem areas and talk about them prior to our visits or phone calls was very helpful in that it got them thinking about where their problem areas were and it saved us time in that we could jump right into issues they were experiencing in the WAY they were experiencing them even if we couldn’t be there to see how they got to the issue, why they got there, or how they had to satisfice their way around it at the time (and all previous times).
Card Sorting – we had several different types of people across two offices take a stack of cards with navigation points on it and asked them to sort them in what they would most navigate to in terms of top level navigation and where they’d classify the rest of the cards beneath that top level. This was very insightful and helped our client see that yes 13 top level super cats was a bit ridiculous.
Shadowing internal users – when you have the opportunity to develop for in-house clients shadowing them is one of the least obstructive and most informative research methods I’ve been able to perform.
Examples of work:
If you’re at all interested you can find out more about my work via my resume, and my portfolio, which doesn’t include anything from my current job – but you can see an example of the work I’ve done for them here.
Let me know if this was useful!
Hello again Fedora!
I know it’s been a while, and for that my apologies. But you see, I’ve been working very very hard this last month and a half to bring you the results of the research study we worked together on. I want to thank each and every one of you who worked with me on this study. By taking me in at FUDCon Toronto, letting me bug you insistently over email and IRC, and letting me pester you enough to take the survey – we’ve been able to create something both interesting and useful that I hope you find will be worth all that time and trouble.
Without further adieu here is the beta version of this research in two forms both a PDF available for download so that you may share it or view it offline and an online version available here on my blog if that is your preference.
Why beta? Well, I feel this can perhaps be improved based on your feedback. I’ve already conducted an alpha release with those who directly contributed to the interview portion of the study. Now I am offering you all the chance to put your own mark on it. This document I am presenting here is after all for you Fedora contributors. So, if you have any questions or comments or feedback in general please let me know. You can either comment on here or you can email me directly diana [@] cyber-anthro.com.
I look forward to hearing from you!