Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things we are learning

I have never been one for confidentiality (at least with our own initiatives) or competitive advantage nonsense. Everything we learn, we share. And through sharing we reenforce our position as leaders in ethnographic research using smart devices.

So this post is all about something we have learned. I'll start here:

We have now successfully completed four multi-country projects using our App. They came about because we convinced known clients who approached us with standard ethnographic briefs, to try something new and experimental. Which is why they needed to be known clients who would give us some slack in case we messed up.

We didn't.

The only person in the world who I would trust with running an App based project is my good colleague, B, who is based in Denmark. The first study involved respondents filming their own lives in response to questions and themes we sent them via the App. But first we needed to recruit iPhone owners according to a very detailed typing tool.

Once the first project was complete I had a sit down session with, B to go over key learning. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: So the client seemed very happy with everything. Were they just being polite or were they genuinely happy?

B: They were really happy. Look, they even sent us a new brief immediately on completion of the first set of explorations.

Me: That's great! So all went smoothly!

B: Erm... no.

Me: You are kidding.

B: Siamack, it took as much time to recruit and prep up these respondents as any ordinary ethnographic project and probably longer. The whole point of the App was always to speed things up, make our work more efficient.

Me: What!!! Of course it'll be more efficient when all they will need to do is download the App and capture events according to our brief...

B: Listen, next time we ask the question, "Do you have an iPhone?" when recruiting...

Me: Yes...

B: We should also ask them "How many Apps have you downloaded to your iPhone?"

Me: Why?

B: Because I estimate that 80% of iPhone users have never ever downloaded an App. Most of those we recruited didn't even have iTunes accounts!!!


B: No! With some respondents we even had to call them on and off over a three day period to explain how to download the App and to use it. We got there in the end and they used it fine but it took three whole days of going back and forth in some cases.

[You now have to picture me sliding off my seat while looking pale.]

Me: So we need to be sure they know how to download Apps. And we can't just assume that owning a iPhone means they have iTunes.

B: Correct.

Me: What else?

B: No matter how carefully we worded the themes/capture requests, most households started sending us rubbish.

Me: Oh.

B: But we managed to improve their outputs from 'rubbish' to 'amazing' in around two days.

Me: How?

B: By sending them examples of films and pictures we were expecting. And by sharing interesting clips and videos from other respondents.

So, to summarise just two learnings:

1 Do not assume that a smart device means techno savvy respondents
2 Respondents need examples of what you, the moderator are expecting

These may sound obvious in hindsight but they are critical learnings for us.

I hope you find them useful. We will share more mistakes/learnings as we make them.