Posts tagged “passover”

Interview with Steve posted on Ethnography Matters

Here’s an interview with me at Ethnography Matters. We talked about the book, the writing process and other aspects of how interviewing users is playing out in the corporate world.

EM: How much heterogeneity is there between companies / clients? Are there any broad typological characterizations of companies and their attitude towards user research? Does this inform different ways of delivering research results, different ways of “talking to” these companies?

SP: There are no doubt dozens of frameworks (see for example, Jess McMullin’s Design Maturity Model on page 142) for characterizing the organization. But let me throw out a new one: in the Passover Haggadah there is the example of the four sons. One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question. The wise son asks to have all of the history, insight and other findings explained to him. We’re encouraged to explain everything to him. The wicked son separates himself from the issue by asking why it’s important to you. We’re told to tell him why it’s important to us (and not persuade him that it should be important to him). The simple son doesn’t even focus in on the issue and just asks “What is this?” so we’re to give him the headline. We’re told to approach the son who doesn’t even know how to ask a question and take the initiative to explain things to him. And one scholar writes about a fifth son who isn’t even in the room and it’s up to us to seek him out and give him the lowdown.

Sure, it may be a bit forced but it’s not hard to see those sons as archetypes of individuals, departments or entire workplace cultures. Whatever your framework is, you obviously need to understand the specifics of who you are dealing with and have a range of approaches for responding. All of this stuff with people (be they clients or research subjects) is messy and I’m not so comfortable with pre-emptive categorization and its resultant tactical choices.

Thanks to Tricia Wang and Jenna Burrell and everyone else at Ethnography Matters for a great discussion.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts [BBC News] – The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger – in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts. A Cornell University team studied 52 of the most famous paintings of the Biblical scene over the millennium and scrutinized the size of the feast. They found the main courses, bread and plates put before Jesus and his disciples have progressively grown by up to two-thirds. Based on the assumption that the width of an average loaf of bread from the time should be twice that of the average disciple's head, the researchers plotted the size of the Passover evening dishes. The main meals grew 69% and plate size 66% between the oldest (carried out in 1000AD) and most recent (1700s) paintings. Bread size grew by about 23%.
  • Butch Bakery – Where Butch Meets Buttercream – "Butch Bakery was born when David Arrick felt it was time to combine a masculine aesthetic to a traditionally cute product -the cupcake. When a magazine article mentioned that cupcakes were a combination of everything "pink, sweet, cute, and magical", he felt it was time to take action, and butch it up." Flavors include Rum & Coke, Mojito, Home Run, Beer Run, Campout, Tailgate, Driller, and (ahem) Jackhammer
  • Making Design Research Less of a Mystery [ChangeOrder] – Design researchers don't work exactly like professional detectives. We don't sit down with their users and start asking them point-blank questions regarding a single moment in time, such as, "Exactly where were you on the night of November 17th, when Joe Coxson was found floating face-down in a kiddie pool?" We don't consider the users as criminals, having perpetrated crimes against the state—our clients?—that must be solved. The crimes are the points of friction that go remarked (or unremarked) about the course of our subject's lives, in using the tools that surround them, and in the myths and beliefs that drive their everyday behavior. Our methods of detection are geared towards being sponges, soaking up both the large-scale and minute details that indicate layers of behavior that may have gone unremarked in the design and everyday use of various products, services, and interactive systems.
  • The Medium – Shelf Life [] – People who reject e-books often say they can’t live without the heft, the texture and the scent of traditional books. This aria of hypersensual book love is not my favorite performance. I sometimes suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling? Among the best features of the Kindleis that there’s none of that. The device, which consigns all poetry and prose to the same homely fog-toned screen, leaves nothing to the experience of books but reading. This strikes me as honest, even revolutionary….Most of these books were bought impulsively, more like making a note to myself to read this or that than acquiring a tangible 3-D book; the list is a list of resolutions with price tags that will, with any luck, make the resolutions more urgent. Though it’s different from Benjamin’s ecstatic book collecting, this cycle of list making and resolution and constant-reading-to-keep-up is not unpleasurable.
  • Human-flesh Search Engines in China [] – The popular meaning of the Chinese term for human-flesh search engine is now not just a search by humans but also a search for humans, initially performed online but intended to cause real-world consequences. Searches have been directed against all kinds of people, including cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, amateur pornography makers, Chinese citizens who are perceived as unpatriotic, journalists who urge a moderate stance on Tibet and rich people who try to game the Chinese system. Human-flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the political issues, polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China.


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