Friday, November 27, 2009

Essential TED talks

A client sent me the clip above and below. Must watch as far as I am concerned. The one above is particularly frustrating as I wish I had seen it before debriefing Channel 4 on Hopes, Dreams and Fears among young males around 6 years ago.

The one below resonates because I started my ethnographic life out in Advertising (JWT and DBB). Watch these. Your time won't be wasted.
If you have any recommendations for great TED talks for ethnographers, please let me know.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Introducing FieldCREW

It came in the form of a comment: Siamack - "Siamack, have a look at this tool which is quite similar to your App...." So I had a look and loved what I saw. A complete product designed for people like me. The chap behind it, Ron Tannen, was keen to stress that this is only a concept and not a physical product. Nonetheless it's only a matter of time, surely, before these replace exclusive, expensive and skill dependent cameras...

You can download a storyboard of the concept design process and early sketches here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Leica Update

He still hasn't replied...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things people say which make me think very too hard about what I do

Someone at my father-in-law's summer barbeque asked me what I did for a living. As a rule telling the truth is best avoided because I get really bored of having to answer the second question which always quickly follows, “Are you analyzing me right now?” But this particular individual didn't ask me that question. Instead, here is what followed:
“Holiday videos…” he started, “become your memories, don’t you think?”
“You know... when you watch a video of your holiday, you forget your real holiday because the video replaces that reality and becomes your only memory.”
“I never thought about it like that…”
“And photos are different to videos because they trigger your memory rather than replace it like videos do.”
I stood with drink in hand as he turned to talk to someone else. What an amazing observation. What do you think?
Update: contrary to popular belief, the above picture is not of me at work...

Every App. needs a cloud. What do you think?

Before we even started working on the App. We were thinking about a Twitter service for ethnographic researchers. A service that would allow clients and colleagues to ‘follow’ and to collaborate with a researcher in the field as he or she posted text, audio, video and photo updates. Quickly we realized there was no way of efficiently collecting such data on one device and sending it to an online ethnographic Twitter service. So before we build the service, we thought, let’s build the App.

Now that the App. is nearly ready, we have turned our attention to the web based service. And here is what we have in mind.

1) Even though clients can ‘follow’ a researcher in the field, we figured the last thing they would want are updates every few minutes. Which might include spelling mistakes or half baked thoughts and observations. So we experimented with a ‘digester’. This is someone who follows up to 6 ethnographers in the field collecting their posts and organizing them on a web based service (we have yet to build). A digest of the very best of the rest can then be sent to client side followers every few hours for them to comment on and collaborate with the thinking percolating through.

2) From a UI perspective, the digester/client/follower would see a tree (growing with time across the day) grow branches as its trunk stretches across the screen. Each trunk would represent a captured event and each leaf on the branch would represent a clip, photo or text post and a fruit would represent an insight referencing the event. And the digester/follower/client would be able to pick their favourite leaves/fruit into buckets and review/analyse/add meaning to data which has is easy to overlay, compare and view the same events across numerous households

3) My big idea, however, was a client/respondent matchmaking service. When a consumer downloads the App. they are given the choice of registering to make themselves available for video diary studies. Once registered, their relevant information will appear on the site for clients to view and choose which to select to participate in their study. Incentives can even be paid directly through the site using PayPal.

4) A skinnable site so clients can personalise their own pages with their branding or panel name

These are basic specifications. I know the matchmaking service, for example, won’t be as simple as I have set out above. So my question to you, gorgeous reader, is: what do you think? Have I missed anything? Would you tackle the web based service any differently? Are there similar service out there we could use without having to build one from scratch? And remember if there is, it will need to talk to my App.

Would love to hear from you.


Where is our App. at?

I have a few confessions to make. But first… you know the old tale about the hairdresser who let his own hair grow so long he couldn’t see what he was cutting any more? That’s me. We run innovations projects all the time for clients. We have a process and a methodology which is rigorous, tried and tested. Yet here I am supposedly ‘innovating’ my own ethnographic iPhone App.:

  • I don’t even have an iPhone. And once it dawned on me that I needed one to test my App. it was too late.
  • I did virtually no competitor analysis.
  • I have no idea how much to sell my App. for.
  • The developers had to keep tweaking and sometimes completely changing things because I changed my mind so often. I.e. no clear brief or specifications.
  • I need a web based service to accompany the App. yet I haven’t even started to set out the specifications and we are only a few weeks away from launch.
  • The App. has a ‘share’ button alongside the ‘send’ and ‘save’ buttons. Share allows a researcher to send an interesting event/observation which is not confidential to a central archive open to all our App. buyers. As yet, I have no central archive because I have no web based service. Put simply, the button will not work.
  • As well as ethnographers, planners and the like, the App. will be a great tool for consumers to download and make themselves available to researchers - e.g. to take part in video diaries - on the central archive . Again, I have no central archive because I have no web based service, yet.

Many of the above issues are down to funding – I have gone over budget by a factor of 2 on the App. However, on a positive note, there have been a couple of rather exciting developments.

After the Research Magazine article – I have my good friend Paul Edwards at RI London to thank for sending my Ethnosnacker link to them – many individuals and a couple of large multi-nationals got in touch. One of the multinationals was based in the US and as I was already going to be in NJ for another meeting, they suggested we meet. They told me they wanted the App. for all of their marketing, research, branding and agency teams around the world. We are still talking. The second multinational is based in London. They wanted to know about the web based service and what it could/couldn’t do. Their idea was to give each of their panelists the App. to use in research diaries and the like. I am still in talks and I will keep you updated.

At this very moment I am busy writing and rewriting the blurb which will accompany the App. on the App store site when it’s finally launched. Once done we will send it to Apple for approval. This process will take, I am told, 2-3 weeks. And then, and then, I will have perhaps the most anxious wait of my entire life as I wait for the first reviews to come through.

Update: As of Thursday 19 November 2009 - two days after writing this piece - I have a 16Gb 3Gs!


Reading list continued

Ever since I posted a list of great books to read on the subject of ethnographic research I have received dozens of new recommendations.

So I thought I would share:

  • Pierre Bourdieu's books on reflexivity
  • For those interested in contemporary tribes: The Time of Tribes. The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society Theory Culture & Society by Michel Maffesoli - I have no link for this
  • Anthropological research - the structure of inquiry - no link but it's by Pelto & Pelto
  • Cross-cultural film making: A handbook for making documentary and ethnographic films and videos - no link but it's by university of California press 1997

Please let me know if you have any more suggestions...