Posts tagged “emotion”

Nadav’s War Story: Baptism by Tears

Nadav Zohar is a UX researcher at AEP in Columbus, OH.

My first ever user research project was for a healthcare app. Our users were nurses who work with poor and high-risk patients, often called “the under-served.” My supervisor and I had a reserved conference room at the client’s site, and our pre-scheduled users rotated in about one per hour. It was a grueling two days of nonstop interviews. For the first day I took notes while my supervisor moderated.

On the second day, after he moderated the first couple of interviews, my supervisor turned to me and asked if I thought I was ready to take the lead on the next one. I said “Sure” so he handed me the discussion guide. In came our next user, a middle-aged nurse who was very sweet and eager to help us in any way she could. This was my very first user interview and I was ready for a clean, uneventful affair.

As the questions on my discussion guide turned to the technological hurdles she encounters when helping her patients, her frustration mounted. At one point, while discussing how her technology failed to help her manage the stress of the enormous workload placed on her and her colleagues, she mentioned having lost a patient. I watched her relive that pain – she broke down and started sobbing. None of the other users we’d talked to had even come close to that kind of emotional response, even though some of them had lost patients too.

Right then and there I learned there’s an awkward balance between not wanting to seem clinical and cold at that crucial moment, but still wanting to preserve an interviewee’s dignity: I figured weeping in front of strangers at work must be somewhat embarrassing. So I bowed my head and looked down at my notes, or my lap, or at nothing in particular, to give the crying nurse a bit of privacy. I waited a few sobs so it didn’t seem like I was trying to shut her up, and then I warmly and gracefully offered her a box of tissues. I let her know I empathized with her pain (although looking back on it I don’t see how I really could have…but my empathy felt genuine anyway) and she eventually calmed down and we finished out the interview. After that, back at the office I was jokingly known as the guy to call in to make people cry.

I think I deal fairly well with very emotional user research situations and over my career I’ve learned they are not uncommon, but it was interesting to have one right off the bat.

Susie’s War Story: A Sigh Is Just A Sigh

Susan Simon Daniels is a Senior Design Insights Analyst at BlackBerry in Waterloo, ON.

In September 2012, I was interviewing people who had recently purchased and set up a smartphone. During the interview, I asked the participants to unbox and set up another, new smartphone to see if any usability problems emerged.

One of the interviews was with a male in his late 40s who worked as a translator for people whose first language was not English (I’ll call him “Rick.”) As he unpacked the box that contained the new smartphone, Rick frowned and sighed. I watched silently and noted that a few moments later Rick sighed again.

At this point, the researcher inside my brain was shouting, “Red alert! There’s a problem! There’s a problem!” After a few more moments, I turned to him and said, “Rick, I noticed you’re frowning a bit and you’ve sighed a couple of times. Can you tell me why?”

I waited, fingers poised to capture the fatal flaw that the participant had discovered in the product set up – something so egregious that it evoked a heavy sigh!

Rick turned to me and instead shared a personal story. Both he and his spouse had recently lost their parents. These major life events, complicated by delays in traveling to another continent for funerals and family arrangements, left a lingering sadness that crept up on Rick during quiet moments.

His sigh was just a sigh – not a signal of a defect or usability issue to solve, but a personal moment I happened to witness. We talked for a few minutes about his loss and how he was feeling and then Rick returned to the task at hand and continued to unbox and set up the phone.

We had passed through an awkward moment. I felt I had rudely probed into an open wound. But I had to ask the question. I couldn’t assume the frown and sighs were caused by the product or process. My job was to get to the why. At the same time, by taking a few minutes to let the person share how he was feeling, I was able to give Rick the time he needed to gather himself together and continue with the task at hand.

In the end, Rick contributed by uncovering a couple of areas of improvement for the product. And I found that taking a moment to pause, to just be human beings who shared a bit of sympathy, allowed us to resume the interview with dignity and purpose.

I’m reminded of a verse from the song “As Time Goes By” (music and lyrics by Herman Hupfeld) from the classic war-romance movie Casablanca.

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.

And the fundamental things do apply: never assume and always ask “why?”

Kavita’s War Story: Managing money, oh joy!

Kavita Appachu shares her story about uncovering emotion where she hadn’t expected to find it.

Finance has never been my thing, and where possible I leave the chore of managing my finances to others. That changed somewhat a few years back when I started working for a company that makes financial software, specifically tax software. This threw me right in the middle of people’s financial lives.

What I had not realized was that while the task of managing finances may be very functional, everything else related to money and taxes is at its core very emotional. I have lost track of the innumerable times participants have poured their hearts out as they describe how they manage their finances, from the twenty-something who referred to her mom as ghetto, or the hulk of a guy who rattled off the choicest of expletives for his ex-wife. The one story that has stood out in all this is about a mom, wife and editor in Seattle.

On a rare sunny day, we pulled up to a community of condos with well-manicured yards. We rang the doorbell and my fellow researcher and I were greeted by our participant, who welcomed us into her very tastefully done home. There were pictures of the kids, family vacations, sporting events. It seemed like a happy home. The kids were at school and our participant had the morning off so she had decided to catch up on her finances, specifically her investments. We talked about the members of her household, her husband’s job, her job and their approach to financial planning. She was concerned their savings were not going to be enough for retirement and the kids’ education.

She had all her papers spread out on the dining table beside her laptop. We observed her going through the process of logging into both her and her husband’s 401(k) accounts, monitor her mutual funds and stocks and even place a sell order. Nothing out of the ordinary…and then she broke down in tears.

We were a little taken aback. She had a helpless look on her face and kept sobbing and muttering that woman, that woman. We calmed her down and then asked her if she wanted to share what was bothering her. She told us that as part of her husband’s divorce settlement from his earlier marriage he was required to pay for her stepchildren’s college. That was making a deep hole in their pockets and she was unable to save for her own children’s college education, take vacations or save for retirement. She hated the ex-wife and held her husband somewhat responsible for giving in to the ex-wife’s demands. She avoided tracking finances if she could because it was a painful reminder of her dire situation.

That was my aha moment. I had known all along that personal finances are very closely entwined to one’s life, but this really brought it home: personal finances are a mirror of your inner joys, sorrows and insecurities.

Whitney’s War Story: Stories of War

Whitney Hess is the author of Pleasure & Pain, and the founder and principal of Vicarious Partners, an independent consultancy specializing in strategic user experience. She believes empathy builds empires.

I interviewed Holocaust survivors. Four words that still send shivers down my spine. Their stories were meant to shape my research; they ended up shaping me.

It was the project of a lifetime. I was asked to conduct user research for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with web design agency Happy Cog. Together we identified several constituents of the Museum to explore: visitors, students, teachers, scholars, activists, volunteers, donors…and survivors. Survivors of the Holocaust. I would be performing the interviews, crafting personas, and reporting on findings to the Museum’s executive board.

As a rule, when I engage with a research participant, I, Whitney Hess, cease to exist. It is a skill I have honed over many years of conducting research. I don’t get hungry, I don’t get tired, I don’t have to pee. I shed my beliefs and my assumptions and my identity. My only need is to listen. My only purpose is to absorb – with total objectivity.

Would it be possible then for me to objectively study Holocaust survivors? I am a Jew.

At first I told myself that being Jewish somehow qualified me to understand their stories and empathize with their pain. Then I feared that I would get so emotional that I wouldn’t be able to make it through an interview.

I was wrong on both counts.

I had the honor and the privilege of interviewing seven survivors – from Germany, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, and Great Britain – all volunteers at the Holocaust Museum in varying capacities. Some interviews were in person at the Museum, others were over the phone. They shared their stories of survival, and they shared their feedback on the website. Both extremes were just as relevant. I listened with reverence and I asked probing questions. I was so busy taking it all in, I didn’t have time to feel anything about it. I was working.

When it came to crafting personas, I started with the teachers and students, moved on to activists and scholars, and eventually I could postpone it no longer – it was time to review my findings from the survivors.

Reading back through my notes and the interview transcripts, I maintained my composure. I kept reminding myself, You have work to do. But in a moment of weakness, I allowed myself to listen to a recording. And then another. Day became night and I was still listening. They recounted the abuse they’d endured, the brutality they’d witnessed, the family they’d lost…it was so raw, so real. I let myself go. I cried, bawled. For what they had overcome, for themselves, for their families, and for me.

In the end, I decided not to create a persona of a survivor, and my teammates and clients understood my reasoning. Their stories were unique; they could not be merged.

Instead I gleaned a few key quotes, to convey the essence of the individuals. What they had to say changed my whole perspective on what we were doing and why we were doing it. Their message had to be heard. I had to share it. I got to share it.

And it changed everything.

Fumiko’s War Story: Goodbye cruel world

Design researcher Fumiko Ichikawa offers this devastating tale about losing face.

In May 2008, I coordinated what I call an inspiration study concerning healthy eating. What do Japanese people eat and drink? Why? Is there a particular tradition or habit that people have developed around eating? How are the perceptions of eating and health related in Japanese culture? My mission was to make sure that my client’s researchers had all the exposure they could imagine around how Japanese people buy, cook, and eat, through interviews, observations, and own experiences.

One day, our interview took place in the residential area of East Kanagawa, an hour-and-a-half from Tokyo. Our informant was a housewife in her late 40s. She expressed a clear preference about her choice of vegetables, for the sake of the wellbeing of her husband and two children. She offered us pickled vegetables and soft bamboo shoots, all homemade and requiring time and dedication to prepare. She also allowed us to see what is inside her refrigerator, which some would consider a brave act, as many housewives whom I met considered this far more private than their bedroom or toilet!

The interview went fairly well. She was very relaxed and open, and I felt that we got more than what we came for. But there was one minor glitch: the interpreter we hired was not quite the person we hoped her to be.

The interpreter came from an agency, arranged by my fellow researcher. An hour before the interview she appeared at the meeting point and we had a chat. She was a lady in her late 30s with a soft, elegant smile. Dressed in a white jacket with a stitched Camellia flower, she appeared to me to be very sophisticated. The way she spoke to us prior to the interview was soft but confident, and until the actual interview started, I had no doubts.

As the interview progressed, I noticed that my clients appeared confused. The interpretation concentrated on facts and did not convey the emotion and the passion that we were clearly seeing from the housewife, with her big smiles and gestures. Thirty minutes passed by and after some struggle, my client asked in a very polite way that the interpreter stop. From that point on, the client asked the questions, and I became the interpreter. This change of setup was done quite discreetly, and I do not think that the housewife noticed much.

Dismissing someone on the spot is not an easy thing. It is awkward and challenging. But I felt my client addressed the matter in a very professional way. After we left the informant’s home, I saw that my client stepped away from the rest of the group and approached the interpreter, to talk with her about why she had done that. From a distance, the interpreter appeared calm. I assumed that despite the situation, she took things well.

Soon after this interview the study was complete and my clients went back to the States. But four days later, in the middle of the night, I received an international call: it was my client. I called her back. She told me that she received an email from that interpreter and I should read this as soon as possible. In the email, the interpreter has written eloquently about how humiliated she was on that day. This email was in fact a suicide note, telling us “I have no choice but to kill myself.”

I felt like someone had hit my head real hard. There was a tremendous rush of anxiety, anger, and confusion. How could this happen? What did we do wrong? Why is she reacting this way? Despite of the odd hours, we frantically called her and her agency. After three or four hours we confirmed there was nothing wrong with her. We learned it was simply her way of expressing her anger and making sure we felt sorry for her.

“Lip! Lip my stockings!” a Japanese call girl shouts in the film Lost in Translation, as she forces the American celebrity actor played by Bill Murray to ‘rip’ her stockings in his hotel room. The combination of an exposure to foreign culture and the wrong interpretation can generate confusion, frustration, and often times, laughter. But on that day, it was mostly confusion that the experience brought me. Sometimes we experience foreignness in our own culture.

Observation and empathy

Here’s another proof point for the power of video in user research. Check out this very simple observational video.

If you didn’t watch it, it shows person after person stumbling on poorly designed stairs.

I don’t know about you but I felt increasingly emotional the more I watched this. A bubbling outrage and a sense that something so obviously needs to be done about this. Of course, this is a simple problem, which makes the failure to act even more aggravating.

The goal of user research isn’t always to uncover people’s fail states with the team’s existing products, but when it is, tools like video are impactful on rational and emotional levels.

Update: according to this Tweet, the stairway is now closed.

Priya’s War Story: Taking empathy to a whole new level

Design Researcher Priya Sohoni has a very personal experience in the field and reflects on the challenge in order to find deeper insight about her users.

I’ve never been too comfortable with hospital environments–the smells, sounds, sense of urgency–it makes me nervous. Yet, as an ethnographer should, I’ve attempted to conquer my queasiness and conduct research in medical facilities several times.

In October 2010, I was conducting research in a hospital in the SF Bay Area. I was almost 8 months pregnant with my first child. I was given a choice between spending a day in the ICU, emergency, or the maternity department. I picked maternity – I was excited to be among so many about-to-pop mothers and so many who had just delivered. I thought to myself that for the first time I wasn’t feeling so queasy, I could hear babies in nurseries, we shadowed some nurses as they took the babies for their first immunizations, observed visitors greeting happy families with flowers, balloons, gifts…it seemed so odd that this was a part of a “hospital” environment.

On one of the shadowing sessions, I sat in on a nurse shift change. The nurses went around the table sharing information about the newborns and their mothers and taking careful notes of the patients’ needs and requests. On one of the nurse’s share-outs, she turned to the nursing manager and said: “Baby girl in room 203, born vaginally at 8:02am, had trouble breathing, survived for 53 seconds and then died. Should I register her as a live birth or a still birth?” I felt as if someone had stabbed me in my stomach. So much pain that I clenched my tummy, sat down on the floor and broke into tears. I was expecting a baby girl too, in just over a month. Why was the nurse so unemotional around a baby’s death? The nursing manager noticed me sitting in the corner, brought me a glass of water and apologized that I had to sit through that. She suggested I take some rest in the nurses’ break room. But I wiped my tears away and stuck around.

In a few more minutes, the shift change was over and the nurses dispersed. The nurse from 203 then walked over to another room to check in on another Mother and her baby. I continued shadowing her. She entered the room with a big smile on her face, congratulated the parents and commented on what a beautiful baby they had. She changed the baby, swaddled her, gave the mom her meds and assured her that she could call for help whenever she felt like it. It then struck me that the nurse was concerned about her patients. Deeply concerned. She too had felt the pain that the family in room 203 had gone through. But she had made a commitment to hundreds of other patients, a commitment to take care of them and make them feel better. She could not have done that if she had carried the sorrow with her, out of room 203.

As ethnographers, we get trained to empathize with our respondents. To speak their language, to make them comfortable, to be one of them. I had just witnessed a remarkable new level of empathy that the nurse had. Where I had failed, she carried out each one of her roles with respect and propriety.

I went home that day with a new appreciation for the nursing profession.

ChittahChattah Quickies

The Saddest Movie in the World [Smithsonian.com] Describes the rigorous process of choosing clips that will reliably evoke various emotions for clinical research purposes, and how the use of movies to elicit unpleasant emotional responses is considered humane and ethical. It’s incredible that a Ricky Schroder scene from the rather obscure The Champ has been scientifically deemed sadder than, say, Bambi’s Mom dying or Old Yeller. Can’t argue with science! (But I’d bet that the first 5 minutes of Up would beat them all.) Another gem here: the two clips that are proven most effective in generating feelings of disgust – yes, I’m on about disgust again! – are an amputation and… Pink Flamingos!

The story of how a mediocre movie became a good tool for scientists dates back to 1988, when Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his graduate student, James Gross, started soliciting movie recommendations from colleagues, film critics, video store employees and movie buffs. “Everybody thinks it’s easy,” Levenson says. Levenson and Gross ended up evaluating more than 250 films and film clips. They edited the best ones into segments a few minutes long and selected 78 contenders.

Scientists testing emotions in research subjects have resorted to a variety of techniques, including playing emotional music, exposing volunteers to hydrogen sulfide (“fart spray”) to generate disgust or asking subjects to read a series of depressing statements. They’ve rewarded test subjects with money or cookies to study happiness or made them perform tedious and frustrating tasks to study anger. “In the old days, we used to be able to induce fear by giving people electric shocks,” Levenson says. Ethical concerns now put more constraints on how scientists can elicit negative emotions. Sadness is especially difficult. How do you induce a feeling of loss or failure in the laboratory without resorting to deception or making a test subject feel miserable? “You can’t tell them something horrible has happened to their family, or tell them they have some terrible disease,” says William Frey II, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist who has studied the composition of tears. But as Gross says, “films have this really unusual status.” People willingly pay money to see tearjerkers-and walk out of the theater with no apparent ill effect. As a result, “there’s an ethical exemption” to making someone emotional with a film, Gross says.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Music and speech share a code for communicating sadness in the minor third [Scientific American] – [We unconsciously employ culturally-imbued musical cues and tonal differentials with each other to convey emotion, sadness being one. This seems so obvious once it's stated, and so important to our methodologies, as we search for emotional response and connection.] The tangible relationship between music and emotion is no surprise to anyone, but a study in the June issue of Emotion suggests the minor third isn't a facet of musical communication alone—it's how we convey sadness in speech, too. When it comes to sorrow, music and human speech might speak the same language. Since the minor third is defined as a specific measurable distance between pitches (a ratio of frequencies), Curtis was able to identify when the actors' speech relied on the minor third. What she found is that the actors consistently used the minor third to express sadness.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] America: Land of Loners? [The Wilson Quarterly] – [Thoughtful commentary on the notion of "friends," a watered-down word these days, thanks to Facebook.] Friendship, like baseball, always seems to send intellectuals off the deep end. Yet there is more biological justification for our predecessors’ paeans to friendship than for our modern-day tepidity. Friendship exists in all the world’s cultures, likely as a result of natural selection. People have always needed allies to help out in times of trouble, raise their status, and join with them against their enemies. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to conclude that a talent for making friends would bestow an evolutionary advantage by corralling others into the project of promoting and protecting one’s kids—and thereby ensuring the survival of one’s genes.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Ewwwwwwwww! [The Boston Globe] – [Scientists are working on unpacking the psychology of physical disgust and it's role in moral decisions, which are obviously also based in powerful socio-cultural factors. Food for thought on just how layered the decision-making process is.] Just as our teeth and tongue first evolved to process food, then were enlisted for complex communication, disgust first arose as an emotional response to ensure that our ancestors steered clear of rancid meat and contagion. But over time, that response was co-opted by the social brain to help police the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Today, some psychologists argue, we recoil at the wrong just as we do at the rancid, and when someone says that a politician’s chronic dishonesty makes her sick, she is feeling the same revulsion she might get from a brimming plate of cockroaches.
  • [from steve_portigal] iPad/Kindle combo proving deadly to rest of e-reader market [ars technica] – The show floor of January's Consumer Electronics Show was swamped with E-Ink-based e-readers of all shapes and sizes, to the point that it seemed that a tsunami of Kindle knock-offs was going to hit the US market in the first quarter of 2010. But in hindsight, it turns out that the wave actually crested at CES, and has now almost entirely subsided. The problem for these products is that the e-reader market appears to consist almost exclusively of people who want to use the devices to read, which means that they don't really care about being able to bend or flex the e-reader a little bit, nor are they willing to pay the huge premium that a touchscreen commands. Neither of these features enhances the basic reading experience that's at the core of why people pick an E-Ink device over a reader with an LCD screen. For those who just want to read, the Kindle is now very cheap. And if you're going to pay for a touchscreen, you might as well spend a bit extra get an iPad.
  • [from steve_portigal] Persona [a set on Flickr] – [An ongoing series of photographs of people, and the stuff they are carrying with them. This sort of raw documentationism is without explicit analysis or articulated insight but of course the act of creation and the act of editing/selecting introduces a curatorial voice and implicit point of view on the world. It's just up to us to figure out what that is]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Books Travellers Read in Mumbai Locals [Windy Skies] – This is Part I of my ongoing attempt to note the books my fellow travellers read in Mumbai local trains on their way to work and back. I ride the infamous Mumbai local train network to work each day, unconsciously observing my fellow passengers when I’m not squeezed breathless or pounded into submission in the surging crowds that bring a new meaning to the concept of pressure. While it is not always easy to move around once inside the train, it is sometimes possible to pull off a picture of the reader and his book. The readers will rarely look up from the books they’re reading. They don’t need to, tuned in as they are to approaching stations from years of travelling on the local train network.<br />
    (via Dina Mehta)
  • Duncan Hines Brownie Husband – [Saturday Night Live] – "The perfect blend of rich fudge and emotional intimacy." Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. (via Design Observer)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Books in the Age of the iPad [Craig Mod] – I propose the following to be considered whenever we think of printing a book
    * The Books We Make embrace their physicality — working in concert with the content to illuminate the narrative
    * The Books We Make are confident in form and usage of material
    * The Books We Make exploit the advantages of print
    * The Books We Make are built to last
    The result of this is:
    * The Books We Make will feel whole and solid in the hands
    * The Books We Make will smell like now forgotten, far away libraries
    * The Books We Make will be something of which even our children — who have fully embraced all things digital — will understand the worth
    * The Books We Make will always remind people that the printed book can be a sculpture for thoughts and ideas;Anything less than this will be stepped over and promptly forgotten in the digital march forward. Goodbye disposable books. Hello new canvases.
  • In Our Parents’ Bookshelves [The Millions] – A virtue of digital books is hey take up no space at all!—but even a megabyte seems bulky compared to what can be conveyed in the few cubic feet of a bookshelf. What other vessel is able to hold with such precision, intricacy, and economy, all the facets of your life: that you bake bread, vacationed in China, fetishize Melville, aspire to read Shakespeare, have coped with loss, and still tote around a copy of The Missing Piece as a totem of your childhood. What can a Kindle tell you about yourself or say to those who visit your house? All it offers is blithe reassurance that there is progress in the world, and that you are a part of it…To the extent that bookshelves persist, it will be in self-conscious form, as display cases filled with only the books we valued enough to acquire and preserve in hard copy. The more interesting story, the open-ended, undirected progression of a life defined by books will be lost to a digital world in which there is no such thing as time at all.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Waldo Hunt, 88, dies; repopularized pop-up books in 1960s – "He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of UCLA.

    The first golden age of movable books began in the late 1800s, when European publishers crafted elaborate books for children, and ended with the onset of World War I. With Mr. Hunt's epiphany, the second golden age was about to begin.

    "I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."

    He started Graphics International, and produced a series of pop-up ads featuring zoo scenes as part of a magazine campaign for Wrigley's gum. Soon, his company was creating pop-up table decorations and greeting cards for Hallmark.

  • Electronic Popable Books from MIT – Electronic popables integrate paper-based electronic sensors that allow amazing interactivity — turning on lights and moving images at the touch of a finger. Will it catch on or will the line between printing on paper and electronic media become so blurred that consumers will opt to watch the story on a screen?
  • StoryCorps: National Day of Listening – On the day after Thanksgiving, set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you. You can interview anyone you choose: an older relative, a friend, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood.

    You can preserve the interview using recording equipment readily available in most homes, such as cell phones, tape recorders, computers, or even pen and paper. Our free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide is easy to use and will prepare you and your interview partner to record a memorable conversation, no matter which recording method you choose.

    Make a yearly tradition of listening to and preserving a loved one’s story. The stories you collect will become treasured keepsakes that grow more valuable with each passing generation.
    (via BoingBoing)

  • London 2009 – a set on Flickr – My London pictures from our recent visit
  • Every year, The Harris Poll asks a cross-section of adults whether they think about 20 leading industries do a good or a bad job of serving their consumers. – Note that the cable industry regularly appears on this poll as doing a bad job.
  • Time Warner insincerely and manipulatively asks customers to "vote" if it should "get tough" or "roll over" – Facing expiring deals with a number of key programmers, the nation's second-largest cable operator is launching a Web site, rolloverorgettough.com, which it says is designed to give its subscribers a voice in what it calls unfair price demands by content suppliers. Time Warner says those who operate broadcast and cable networks are asking for "incredible price hikes," as much as 300%. Customers will be able to vote on whether the operator rolls over, or should get tough, about price increases.

    "You're our customers, so help us decide what to do. We're just one company, but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Storylistening for consumer insight – There are many ways of collecting stories but here are three that may be new to you:
    * Anecdote circles
    * Naive interviewers
    * Mass narrative capture
    Collecting stories is not about finding the one perfect story that describes a brand or a consumer experience. Rather it is about gathering a broad spread of qualitative data. Individually a story may be seen to be banal but their power lies in the cumulative effect of many stories.

    Interpreting stories
    * Experts
    * Machines
    * Participants

    Story interpretation is best done by a range of groups (e.g. consumers themselves, a marketing department) that may have differing perspectives on the same situation. The most appropriate techniques often avoid direct analysis initially and allow different groups to immerse themselves in the stories to produce nuanced interpretations of the consumers' world.
    (via DinaMehta.com)

  • Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners – Boing Boing recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader, named the "Daily Edition." "Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."
  • OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. – Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.
  • What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators – Interesting to look at various collaboration and communication scenarios and unpack what's going on to define some principles that can be reused. Not sure how much new about design research is brought to light here, but the framing may make it more memorable or understandable. Always glad to see the emphasis on rapport, but I don't agree with their hostage-rapport approach as a one-size-fits-all method for design research rapport building. I also think they underplay the emotional levels that good design research can uncover. Beyond frustration with products, we hear stories about cancer, divorce, infertility, hopes, dreams, and beyond. All very charged stuff.
  • If you outlaw meep, only outlaws will say meep – Tthe nonsense word started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker. Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
    "Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."

    The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.

    But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.

    In an interview with the Salem News, Murray said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.

    (via MeFi)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Product Is You, No. 12 – Rob Walker does a series of advertisements that reveal a customer segmentation and the associated characteristics. Similar vein to my postings about personas leaking outside the enterprise
  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "Culture Kicks Our Ass: How To Kick Back" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from Steve Portigal and D. P. Haine, of Obvious Design.

    We’ll explore the different cultural challenges that breakthrough products must overcome: emergent usage behaviors that are impossible to predict, a global customer base and cultural barriers inside the corporation that suffocate innovation. We’ll also share best practices for addressing each challenge.

  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "FAIL: When User Research Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from
    Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting
    Nate Bolt, Bolt|Peters
    Dan Saffer, Kicker Studio
    Aviva Rosenstein, Ask.com
    Mark Trammell, Digg

    Best practices for user research are not hard to come by, but experience is the ideal way to develop mastery. And with experience inevitably comes failure. Embarrassing, awkward, hilarious failure that gives the gift of self-improvement. We’ll share our own unvarnished examples and what they taught us.

  • Do programmers still buy printed books? | Zen and the Art of Programming – Likewise, when I’m holding a book or have it open on my desk, I’m in “book reading mode”, which makes it far easier to immerse myself in it. This means that I’m focused on the task and can proceed quickly. The only context switch that happens is between the book and the editor/shell, if it’s the kind of book that warrants typing along. If you are reading a book in a browser tab, it’s very easy to think, “I’ll just check my email for a second”, or introduce similar distractions. I’m sure I’m not alone in this respect.

    When I buy a physical copy of a book, I feel psychologically more obliged to at least try to get through it. Online I experience a paradox of choice of sort. With hundreds of interesting books available there in front of me, I’m more inclined to excessively multitask, and end up checking out different books while I should still be reading the current one.

    (Thanks @onwardparam and @chirag_mehta)

  • New study suggests people from different cultures read facial expressions differently – East Asian participants in the study focused mostly on the eyes, but those from the West scanned the whole face.
    They were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for "fear" as "surprise", and "disgust" as "anger".

    The researchers say the confusion arises because people from different cultural groups observe different parts of the face when interpreting expression.

    (via Design-Emotion.com)

Series

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