I recently read remarks you made about my discipline, anthropology. There you proclaimed that your state, Florida, didn’t need any more anthropologists.
“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”
It saddens me that you are ignorant of the fact that your state is the home of one of the best anthropology programs out there. That said, I think you should really do that thing we anthropologists call “research” before you make statements that you’re not prepared to defend.
Here, some University of South Florida students have given you a head start: .
Lastly, I would like to state for the record that I am an anthropologist. I not only have a job, but a very good paying job. Additionally, I do research in everything from Open Source Software development to User Experience Design. I have conducted research for companies such as Microsoft, Motorola, General Motors, Red Hat, and am currently working on research for yet another tech company. Last I checked these all represent aspects of technology, one of those subjects that seems to be tremendously valued by you. Please learn more about my discipline before saying it’s useless.
Sorry to keep it short, but I have to get back to work.
I have worked from multiple parts of the world with people from all over the world, but this is the first time I’ve been sequestered to a single place with a single in person contact for multiple days on end. Here’s a bit of what it has been like to go from being some what of a highly motivated social butterfly both online and in person to someone who fell into social isolation and un-motivation before I even realized it and what I did about it.
When my husband was assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas, I was excited because that meant we could actually live together and I could still keep up with things like work and school. The company I work for gave me the opportunity to work remote and I was able to fill my semester with all online classes. We then traded in my sports car for an SUV and headed off to West Texas.
After a month of spotty internet connections from the hotel we were staying in, the Starbucks down the street, and the public wifi on base, I was ever so thankful to finally get setup in our home off base. What I didn’t realize is that I would for 6 out of 7 days have only 1 person I would physically see and converse with now that I was at home. While I’m ever so happy this person is my husband, and after a year of him being in a foreign country I am definitely not complaining, I had no idea the effects this would have on my psyche.
What I have learned is that it’s not just about the fact that I am home alone all day. No, it’s also the fact that even if I wanted to leave I do not have the option to do so. You see, we opted to have a single vehicle because well it was cheaper and I didn’t have to drive to work. So, though it made sense at the time, I now see the error of my ways. This situation has set me up with the overwhelming feeling of being trapped in my own house!
After two and a half months of this (July, August, September), I found myself feeling more and more down, uninspired, and completely unmotivated. What was more alarming was I found that after the 3 to 5 days a month I spent in Dallas in the office and on campus I’d come home feeling renewed and refreshed only to have it all drain out of me within a day or two. For those who know me, this is the very opposite of who I am. I generally have so many projects going I don’t know what to do with myself! To go from that to having absolutely no interest in anything was a giant red flag for me.
I tried many tips and tricks including:
Getting up and dressed for work even if you’re not leaving the house
Having a specific room in the house where work is conducted
Taking the occasional afternoon out where I worked on base until my husband got off
Unfortunately, none of these seemed to make a difference. I had to find a way to fix this or it was going to drive me crazy, and not in the figurative sense. To that end, I started running. Yes, running. I don’t know what it is, whether it is just getting out of the house farther than the few streets I normally go to walk my dogs or the resulting endorphins in my head – but it seems to be working. It helps now that it’s cooler outside so I’m not killing myself in the Texas heat. It’s also nice because it’s something physical and I completely leave all of my work and school work and RA work behind to just have a bit of time to myself, for myself.
Being the self-competitive person I am, it’s also turned into a bit of a game of going further, faster, longer. Though I love my computers and I love being online, sometimes you just have to step away from it all to get some perspective. This taught me something else as well, I need time away from work. Working from home means for most people, myself included, more hours and more varied work times.
I found myself finishing something Sunday night that I could have had completed the Friday before had I just had it in me to do it. Now I turn off my work email and chat at 5pm. My work day is done and it doesn’t start again until 8am. This means I HAVE to get my work done during the hours allotted. I get even more motivated when I spend my lunch hour running as that means I can’t do work during lunch time either! (Which I was guilty of doing while I was in the office all the time.)
This change in my schedule also meant I had to tell my boss, no I cannot work on that tonight – giving me time to set aside specific hours to work on school work as well. Funny enough, this in turn gave me more time to do things I enjoy doing outside of work and school like gaming! Putting exercise and more structure in my day was a brilliant way for me to get out of my funk.
Last week, not only did I run every day (2.5 miles), but I also took 3 quizzes, 1 test, participated in class discussions, conducted a bit of heuristic evaluation for my research assistanceship as well as completing all of my office work before the weekend. In addition to all of that, I also got a lot of work done for my wedding (yes, I’m already married – but we didn’t have a wedding as we go married at the US Embassy in Seoul, South Korea). This included designing and ordering save the dates and proper invitations as well as getting a photographer, a cake baker, a DJ and working with all of my bride’s maids to get their dresses ordered. This also meant that I actually got to play video games last weekend as I actually had free time for once.
So, there you have it. Now I actually get to take advantage of some of the freedoms granted to me by working from home even if I don’t have a vehicle and only see a single person in person 6 out of 7 days a week. All it took was a little organization and thinking outside of my computer screen.
My next couple of posts will go into some of the interesting things I’ve experienced in online gaming as of last as well as how I am using a Facebook group to organize my wedding. This is just my way of getting back into writing something at least a little relevant here. My hope is that someone gets some use out of this. If nothing else – this place will not look as dormant as it has of late.
So, I know this has been a widely written about topic from multiple sides of the equation. I have to say though, if there is one thing I’ve learned from Agile – and from Organization Behavior in general – there is no “one best way” to do anything. That said, I’ll give a short explanation of our version of Agile, what I do, and how I work within our Agile environment as a UXD.
Let’s talk about Agile:
Agile is defined as iterative incremental development methodology. What? This means the product we are working on has new features and bug fixes released, in our case, every two weeks. Everyone involved in the process works together within those two weeks to make it happen from graphic designers to quality assurance testers. This is different from waterfall where the discovery, architecture, development, design, testing, and release phases are all very separate from each other, happen in a specific order, and in the end the product is “final”.
While that may not sound revolutionary by any means, people moving from waterfall to agile tend to have a rough start. Biggest reason why? Things change, nothing is solid, it’s not final, and the team needs to be agile enough to roll with the punches. Let’s put it this way, I haven’t seen a statement of work or product requirements grid for nearly 4 years and I’ve never been finished with a project.
That brings us to the next part. What is it that I do?
User Experience Design:
Well, my official title is User Experience Designer (UXD). In short, I design user experiences.
So, what is a user experience? A user experience is what the user sees, feels, hears, touches, uses, understands, believes, and comes away from any application with. This means I’m a bit of a business analyst, information architect, interaction designer, art director, user researcher, usability expert, heuristic reviewer, and decipherer of languages of developers and business processes past.
But, what do I actually do? My main function is to do all of the above to create wireframes and application requirements from which developers take direction and create an application. Then I go through continuous reviews and revisions throughout the development cycle with the developers where we have to make changes and compromises due to time, resources, and hardware / software (API) restrictions that do not surface until we are already neck deep in the iteration. During that process I’m researching features for the next release and working those into wireframes which include processes and interactions that are then translated into stories. Let’s just say where people normally have peaks and valleys in their work, my work tends to run at a constantly high level.
Our Agile Process:
The other part of the Agile process is the use of stories and tasks by the developers which help direct how they spend their time and what they spend their time on for each iteration. A story is basically the development requirements for each piece of development occurring during an iteration. Each story has a set of tasks and subtasks that developers then divvy amongst themselves. Each story / task / subtask has an amount of time the developer thinks it will take to do, then as they work they report against it the actual amount of time it took. This gives us an idea from iteration to iteration what can be accomplished by the team given the tasks at hand. This helps for planning and keeping the team on task.
Our original process included a meeting to come up with the stories based on the wireframes for the devs to follow. This meeting was important because the stories had to be understood by the developers and had to capture all of the specific dev particulars that a wireframe doesn’t necessarily convey. After that meeting there were meetings to decide tasks, subtasks, and time allotted for each.
Getting Agile with Agile:
During the last two iterations we’ve change it up a bit where I wrote out the stories while I was doing the wireframes and we now use the story meeting as a brainstorming meeting for the devs. This was an important change which allows the developers time to actually collaborate together on the thinking part of development rather than just banging away on their separate pieces of code. It also makes the meeting less mind numbing and monotonous as they actually get to throw ideas out there and bounce concepts off of each other whereas before they had no time to do so. While there are specific Agile processes, we go with what works and the best part about that is it allows us to be agile with it.
There you go! Not the most earth shattering ideas or methods out there, but I think it’s always nice to document what works and to share what you can when you can.
So, tomorrow starts my 3rd semester as an Info Sci Phd Student. I’ve been in school for so many years that I have developed several habits on the eve of the semester that help me get focused and get organized. Realizing that there are a few students that read my blog, I thought I’d share just a few of these things that others may find useful as well.
1. I make sure I already have all my books
Yeah, this may seem like a “well duh” statement, but I take this one step further in that I put tabs sticking up off the top of the first page of each chapter. This helps me understand when the syllabus says “Read chapters 1 – 4”, I have a good idea ahead of time just how much work that is. Additionally, I can easily flip to any chapter I need to in an instant when I need to study.
2. I create my file structure
This is perhaps the IA coming out in me, but I like to have a place for everything from the beginning. I create a parent folder for the semester Fall_2011 and then I create a folder for every class. Once I get the syllabus and the class materials I create a folder for every week inside each of the class folders, as well as a homework folder so all of my assignments are in the same place.
3. I setup my Omnifocus database
Each class gets its own setup where I put in all of the assignments based on the syllabus once I get it. This way both my computer and phone go off to tell me when I have something due. I also get that bit of excitement when I get to check something off as done.
4. I setup my Evernote notebooks & tags
Each class gets its own notebook that all get stacked together in a notebook for the semester. I then setup tags for each class and the semester overall.
So there you go. It’s not the most exciting stuff ever, but it helps me stay organized which is very important for online classes – especially in grad school.
For those who want a little more in depth look into all of the tools I use check out my Signal to Noise post I made about 4 years ago.
So, as you can tell I took a break from blogging for a bit. Several things lead to this including some side work I was doing researching mobile developers, finishing my spring semester, living in South Korea for a month, summer-mester survey methods class, and moving to El Paso from Dallas including all of the packing and unpacking (not quite done yet) that comes with that. I actually dropped my second summer-mester class, which was very hard for me to do, because I needed a break!
I have a few new projects that got put on hold as well including an in depth analysis and process for Lean Phd, setting up a consulting business as a Netnographer, and a blog I want to start about all of the things user experience research and design has done to make our lives better outside of the computer from gum packaging to packing building materials.
A few other things I want to do are get up to speed on HTML 5 and CSS 3 as well as getting my programming chops wet again by delving into Python. Oh, and now that I live in El Paso, I want to learn Spanish as well.
Let’s just say I could really use Hermione’s time turner right about now.
So out of all of those projects, I realize I need to really focus on one and then move on to the next after that is either completed or I have a really good start on it. I just have no idea how to prioritize any of this yet because I want to do it all!
Combine all of that with my regular full time job as a user experience designer, a full fall semester, and my new research assistanceship delving into virtual research environments, well I suppose I may just have to put all of my extracurriculars on hold for the time being.
So, while staying up late to do a paper for class (yes it is spring break, PhD students never rest!), I got this wild brainstorm of how to apply both my development training (I work in an agile development environment as a UXD), and the lean startup methodology I spent all day hearing about at SXSW toward my PhD studies. Below is what I quickly jotted down (instead of writing my paper) as the clock turned from 1am to 3am due to DST.
Agile Development – As in, how to quickly get started and iterate on a project in order to get it to releasable state as fast as possible.
I believe the biggest problem with most of us PhD students is just getting started on that damn 20 page paper or huge research project. Why? Because we don’t know how to begin. Well, who says you need to start at the beginning? If you know that you can knock out a section of your document faster than the others, why not start there then move on to the next fastest and the next fastest until you’ve reached the one part that will take you the longest and now it won’t take so long because you’ve already written the rest and it all applies to what you have left!
MVP: Minimum Viable Product / Paper / Project – What’s the least amount you can get away with? As in, what can I do to make a C? Then, what do I need to do to make it better in order to get an A?
Do what you need to in order to fulfill the barest and most minimum of requirements of your assignment, then build on it. At least at that point you know you’ve touched on every point the professor asked of you, and now you’re going above and beyond.
Or – how to quickly iterate on a paper. Write out a bunch of crap for a paper even though you know not all of it will go in, because you know at least some of it will and you just need to get it typed out. Then, you go back and cull it down to something respectable and focus just on that one thing rather than the overly broad dribble you spewed out to begin with.
Pivot – Change in direction after gaining valuable information
Ever get to that point in your research where you go – “damn it, now that I know more I should really go in this direction instead of the one I originally intended!” Go with it! Change the entire direction of your paper/project it even if it takes more research. In the end your final product is so much better than it would have been had you gone on your initial assumptions without exploring your research further.
Business Plan Vs Business Model – Paper/Project Plan vs Paper/Project Model
What’s the difference? One you’re following simply because you’re told that’s the way you’re supposed to do it (plan). The other you’re modifying and iterating on until it fits your paper/project needs (model). Both give you something to start with, it’s just one is a lot more versatile than the other. You end up with something much better when you can improve upon it rather than sticking with something just because “that’s the way it’s done”.
Metrics – Quantify your results
I figure for us PhD students this plays out in figuring out the least amount of time you can spend on something and still get an A. By keeping track of the time you spend doing each part of the task for each project you do until you know with certainty how long it will take you to nail that paper/project you can then plan accordingly and be not only much more efficient in your work, but also be a lot more engaged in it because of your confidence level and high ROI.
It isn’t a finished piece of work, but hey – I got it out as fast as possible and I can always iterate on it later – especially if I get feedback from readers! So tell me what you think. 🙂
As always you can find me @sollitaire – or email me diana [@] cyber-anthro.com.
This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, I am a cyber anthropologist after all and I do pretty much LIVE online, but perhaps I should explain.
My husband is in the US Army currently stationed in Uijeongbu, South Korea. We have been married all of a month and a half as of today, Valentines day – however, our wedding isn’t until December 30th of this year.
You see, he proposed to me on Christmas Day last year (the proposal story is posted on my Facebook) and we decided the day before we did it to go ahead and get married while I was there celebrating the holidays with him. Yes, we got married just 6 days after we got engaged and yes, we really surprised our family and friends with that one. As his little brother said, “it just kind of Facebook happened” commenting on the fact we let everyone know we were engaged and then married via Facebook status updates as we made each one “Facebook Official”. Now, I haven’t written up the marriage story yet, but let me tell you – getting married in a foreign country is a story in and of itself.
Not only do I have all that to contend with, but I also have to help make a 7 thousand mile long distance marriage work. Add to that the fact that our schedules are 15 hours apart (when it is DST it’s only 14 hours) and you can see this makes for an interesting set of circumstances when trying to coordinate and spend as much time together as possible.
You may be wondering how we make this work? This is where we enter the world of cyber marriage. What do I mean by “cyber marriage”? Well, at the moment, we spend our time as a married couple completely online. How do we do this? Our number one tool is Skype and we each have laptops with a built in web cams and mics, which means we can see and talk to each other on a fairly regular basis.
In addition to that, I bought him an iPod touch with camera for his birthday and I have an iPhone 4. Having these allows us to video conference both over Face Time and now Skype. We also use Facebook quite extensively both through our laptops and mobile devices. For us it is used mostly as an instant messaging service since we can’t text each other, a way to send notes to each other rather than emails, and as a way to keep up with one another via 4sq check-ins and wall posts. This way all we have to do is get real time status updates during the short time we have together rather than having to hash out our entire day when the other can keep up with it in our “off times” via our Facebook wall posts or notes. Lastly, we have a shared Mobile Me account where we can upload files to each other, share our calendars with one another, and even post pictures to one another. Having all of these options for connecting is very handy given our schedules.
Speaking of schedules, this is where we have to get really creative. Currently, with the 15 hour time difference, I hang out with him before he leaves for work, which is my afternoon from 4:30 to 6 pm and his morning from 7:30 to 9am. Then we hangout during his lunch, which is his 11:30 to Noon and my 8:30 to 10 pm. The only other chance we get is when I get up in the morning before I go to work my 7 to 9 am, which is just before he goes to sleep as it is his 10 pm to midnight. Sometimes things get in the way, like the fact I have class on Wednesday nights and I don’t get home until he has to be back at work. That and once a month I have class Friday day, Friday night, and Saturday day, which ends up being his ENTIRE weekend. Lame huh?
Though those are the only times we actually get to hangout and talk with each other, he’ll have me up on his Skype from the time he gets home at just after 5 pm (my 2 am), until I get up at 7 am (his 10 pm), and I’ll call him back when I get to work at 9:30am (his 12:30 am) and let him sleep until he has to get up at 5:45 am (my 2:45 pm). Though that may sound odd, it really is a comfort just knowing the other person is there, even if they are unconscious.
On the weekends it’s a bit different and we both make adjustments as best we can to spend as much waking time with each other as possible. Usually we spend our time playing World of Warcraft or Borderlands together. This does become hard when I have things like homework to keep up with, but even then, it’s nice having him up on my screen while I write papers. As I said before, knowing he’s there and being able to see him and interact with him whenever I want is a great comfort. It’s almost like him being in the room next to me, just hanging out at his computer playing video games, while I’m at my computer working on a paper. Almost…
The funny thing is, if you count up all the hours where we are both conscious and unconscious with each other, it turns out we spend more time together now than we would were we physically together and both holding down jobs and me with my school schedule.
This is the schedule we kept up while we were dating and still keep up now that we are married. When he comes stateside in May/June, we’ll be able to keep a more regular schedule with each other and actually be able to use things like phones to communicate, but until then, this is good as it gets in our cyber marriage.
So, for those of you this Valentine’s day who have the opportunity to reach out and physically touch the person you’re attached to, be thankful. There are those of us who wish for that every day, but we do what we can to make it work with a computer, a web cam, and an internet connection.
I miss you Rob, my Cyber Husband.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, his Valentine’s present consisted of Steam games I bought for him off his wish list. He bought me an in game pet and in game mount for World of Warcraft!
Well, it looks like I’m SXSW bound yet again this year. Still trying to find a hotel as they are all sold out and I was late to sign up – but that’s another story entirely!
While at SXSW this year I hope to not only enjoy a lot of great panels, but also recruit some of the top speakers and participants I find there to hopefully contribute to and collaborate in a virtual barcamp community I’m helping to launch. (There may even be a private rooftop party at SXSW for the chosen few *hint hint*).
If you’re a technologist who would like to connect with your peers, share your knowledge, and learn from others through teleconferences where you choose the topics to speak on and/or choose from a list of sessions led by others you wish to participate in, please contact me (diana [at] cyber-anthro.com)! We need thought leaders on all subjects who aren’t afraid to share their knowledge with the masses. Each conversation will be recorded and then posted as a podcast on our site to be shared with anyone who wishes to listen.
There is no catch to being a part of this community other than you have to participate! Only those who wish to participate in leading or joining in these conversations need apply. That said, this service will not only be free to all participants, but it will also all make all recorded sessions available to the public.
That means if you just want to listen, there is no need to join! You can visit the site, or follow the RSS/Twitter feed to hear the latest and greatest discussions on tech today. So, if there is someone you think would be great at leading and/or participating in these tech conversations, I need you to please send them my way. Otherwise, there will be no one to listen to and that just wouldn’t be any fun now would it.
I’m really hoping people in the Open Source and Fedora communities will step up and participate. This is not only a great way to get your voice heard, but it is also a great way to talk about the projects you participate in and may even help to get the word out to get other developers to join your cause.
Lastly, this isn’t just for developers. If you’re a scripter, coder, designer, or usability professional we need your voices too! The goal is to have thought leaders in all aspects of technology connecting, sharing, and learning through live audio conversations and collaborations.
We figure barcamps are very cool, but they are limited to the geographic area in which they are held. So, why not find a way for people from all over the world to participate in one without ever having to leave their desks.
I’m really stoked about this unique opportunity to bring people together from around the world to have live conversations with one another about all the wonderfully awesome things that are going on in tech today. I’m even more excited that these conversations will then be made available for FREE to anyone who wishes to listen and learn something.
If you’re willing to speak on something as early as next week and you have the perfect topic in mind (and perhaps know of a few people that can jump in on the conversation with you), I need you to contact me ASAP (diana [at] cyber-anthro.com)! We are still in the very early stages of getting the site up – but I need content to make it happen, so I need people now (who aren’t afraid to work through a few bugs with me) to help me get this going.
For those interested in the community report on my research can be found here.
If you have questions, or just want to chat please feel free to email me (diana [@] cyber-anthro.com), comment here, or find me on IRC. I’ll also be at the conference through Monday and look forward to chatting and collaborating with you if you’re here!
Virtual Ethnography is a highly interactive process that provides the ability to make observations of and participate in computer/device mediated cultures through a multitude of non face-to-face methods. It is used to better understand the behaviors and knowledge of participants in and contributors to those cultures. It is also concerned with the artifacts these cultures produce and the methods in which these cultures share, use, and iterate on them. The key to virtual ethnography is not to consider digital lives separate from real life as they both belong to the same life and can only be holistically understood when approached as one.
This is something short and sweet I came up with on the fly when asked for something completely different. I’m reposting it here so it doesn’t go to waste!
As I get time in the coming weeks I’ll work on expanding and rounding it out. If you have any contributions you’d like to make or opinions on it let me know what you think!
Do you play Farmville or any of the other what seem like thousands of passive games on Facebook? Do you enjoy it? Get something out of it? If so, you probably don’t want to read any further. Head back to your Facebook page and continue to spew your digital litter all over the place and I’ll continue to toss your pixels wasted on your mind numbing updates into the digital recycle bin.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold the fact you play the games against you – but please don’t be offended if I do not share in the excitement or even interest of your overzealous updates on your latest point-click-refresh time sink.
Now, I’m just as guilty as the next 4sq’r on your list. Yes, I’ll admit to that. But, you also have to admit you rarely see a 4sq update from me, and when you do it’s someplace really cool and usually with friends. Most of the check ins I never publish to my feeds and if it takes any longer than 30 seconds to check in, I get over it and move on.
That’s just it, the crux of this post, gaming used to be synonymous with having skills. Working for 3DFX, we even used games to compete with one another for special privileges like hosting the booth at Quakecon. I remember the days of Atari (yes I was young, but I played it!); when pizza joints had arcade tables where you could eat and at the same time play Pacman with a friend; the awesomeness of playing against someone in Street Fighter and Mortal Combat at the arcade; beating Super Mario and Paper Boy for the first time on the NES; and even playing games on the now defunct Dreamcast and Sega Saturn.
My first exposure to PC games was Doom, then on to Quake and Unreal Tournament, and I definitely remember enjoying Myst, 7th Guest, and Myth. From there I moved on to Diablo / Diablo II, & Warcraft I/II/III. (Gotta give Blizzard props for having games that came out on PC and Mac at the same time – this is what won me over to them early on.) Can’t forget the original Sims (though it’s been hard for me to get into the latest version and I’ll admit only played Spore a few hours). Hell, I remember playing the first Halo game when it came out and finding it funny that it took Microsoft buying Bungie, who was originally a Macintosh game developer (anyone remember Oni?), to put out a great game.
These days I’m all about Borderlands (via Steam and my ever expanding library of games there), WoW (/played since Nov 23, 2004), as well as games like Little Big Planet, any of the Lego games (Batman, Star Wars, and Harry Potter are my favs so far), and many many others on multiple computers, consoles, and hand held devices.
I don’t mean to spark a debate here over what should and should not be called a game, or even the quality of the games themselves – this is more about the gaming experience and what it means to self identify or earn the title of Gamer. This is by no means the type of academic post most are used to seeing here, it’s more of an opinion piece. My opinion is simple – games should take mental skills, actual effort, quick thinking, consequences of making critical choices, and even some practice.
If you’re playing a game that doesn’t require these things, especially the making you think part, well perhaps you should try them sometime. Then, maybe we can talk gamer to gamer. Until that time, I’ll continue to block your point-click-refresh posts off my Facebook feed and decline every single invitation you send my way. Look me up when you want to waste time with me playing a real game. I promise not to beat you too bad, – the first time.
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
Blogs / Fedora Planet
Email / Mailing Lists
In-depth Semi-Structured Interviews based on data gathered during participant observation
Conducted via Email and IRC
Online Survey based on analysis of the Qualitative Data
Conducted using LimeSurvey
Based on the data gathered during this research I was able to structure my findings into five themes.
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!
“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.”
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.
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.
For those who want to learn more about this research study you can start here at the beginning or you can browse the Fedora tag in my blog for relevant posts.
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.