Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Join the club

Wasn't it Groucho Marx who said something like, 'I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member'?

I for one, despite being a member of the AQR, have never been a fan of associations. Partly because none have specifically had my interests (as a ethnographic researcher) at heart. Which is why I formed my own LinkedIn group - Ethnosnacker - to address and debate what I believe to be true and good and effective ethnographic research. And I'm proud to say we have now 1200 members and counting. Not bad for what is still considered a niche discipline. By the way, I'm talking real ethnography - not in-depth-interviews with a video camera and a couple of hours filming inside people's cupboards. Patronising? Yes I am.

As most of you reading this post will know, EverydayLives created an ethnographic research app which, following expressions of interest in buying it out, we spawned into a new company called EthOS. Up to that point in 2010, I had a rather arrogant policy of not attending conferences unless I was speaking at them. Qual360 in 2010 in Berlin was no different. Jasper Lim asked me to speak and because it was in Berlin, a city I had heard so much about yet never visited, I decided to spend the full two days there. Only my plan was to sneak off to explore the city on day two. But I so enjoyed meeting like minded people joining in the workshop discussions that in the end I never left our venue to explore Berlin.

At long last, I had found a bunch of people who were engaged, interested and, heck, passionate about the same things as me: Mobile, qualitative, ethnography, analysis & interpretation, methods, respondent experience, comparisons with other methods and so on and so forth.

One of those passionate people was Mark Michelson, now a dear friend, who I got on with like a house on fire. We met again and MRMW in Atlanta last summer where we discussed and debated matters mobile.

The next time we met was when he called me at home, just outside Brussels, to ask me to join him for dinner in Amsterdam, a couple of hours drive away. So I dropped everything - work, wife and kids included - to go on a five hour round trip drive to join my methodological soul mate for some great Indonesian food.

"I'm forming an association and I want you on the board!"

"What kind of association?"

"An association that will push the mobile research agenda."

"And my role?" (he didn't have one - I have yet to come up with it).

I do, however, know the role that Mark's association, the MMRA - Mobile Marketing Research Association -  will play:  It will function as an action-based organisation, flexible and sensitive to changing technologies and industry needs. Because let's face, the dust that mobile research has kicked up is far from settling. I often describe our own platform as a ship we are building as we are sailing. So flexibility is key. No one really know how things will turn out.

It will also be the only association to involve people from the entire mobile insights value chain. Ranging from guys like me to Consumer facing companies, marketing agencies, marketing research agencies, technology companies, respondents (or non-consent respondents) and media organisations.

The good news is that it's taking members right now. And any one who is any body or wishes to become somebody in the mobile world must join us to help shape, for example and among many other things, the ethical environment we operate in as an industry.

Unlike Mr Marx, this is one club I must to be admitted to if I want to have a voice in how my industry develops. Here is where to go and join. Right now.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Bad to worse in one easy step.

I once heard Bill Gates say that if an organisation is already disorganised and chaotic, introducing new technology will only compound the chaos. But if an organisation is organised and well managed with efficient systems and procedures in place, technology, will compound or amplify that efficiency. In summary, technology will make good, better and bad, even worse.

First example: many years ago, as a student, I used to work as a starter chef in a restaurant called Pudseys in Bristol. We used to have a very ancient and slow microwave oven which our head chef believed slowed us down. One evening I turned up to fins a brand new high powered industrial microwave in it's place. And this is what happened...

With the old microwave, a sauce would be placed inside and because it was so slow, the chefs could do half a dozen other things before the bell sounded. The new microwave was too fast and slowed us down. The chef had no time to do anything else but stand next to it and wait. The cumulative effect was that everything slowed down. What is more, we never managed to crack a way of having ot's speed work to our advantage.

And here, dear readers,  is another example.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Buying vs experiencing and remorse

Here is an interesting blog post by Art Markman.

Came across it via LinkedIn.

Thoughts on a postcard please!


Estonains watching TV

I was Skype-ing a BrainJuicer genius yesterday and we got talking about the home and how it's changing. He sent me this link. I'm not sure what they are all about, but they are interesting, thought provoking and somehow soothing. Ethnographic studies with still cameras have always interested me but I have never had the nerve to propose it to a client.


Dinner in Milan

Many years ago now, Peter Cooper, a friend and former colleague/boss, returned from a meeting with Unilever (London) and called me into his office.

"Well, my dear boy, I told them what you told me to tell them..."
"They didn't get it!"

Here is what, Peter had told some very senior folks at Unilever, Blackfriars:

"The difference between good and great ethnographic research is that you need to scrutinise the video repeatedly. Many, many repeat viewings. Once is never enough."

The Unilever client questioned the need to ever look at any video more than once. Why bother? When you have seen it you have seen it! Right?


"Peter, I hope you explained that the more you watch a scene/event/happening the more you see."
"She (client) never let me get that far!"
"Didn't you show them the clips?"
"They didn't have an LCD projector."

Twelve years on, I would like to invite you all to watch this short video. A study for the Arts Council following an art teacher around London:

Only don't watch it once. Watch it at least three times. And then tell me what you perceive each time. It can be one word or several sentences. And I'm not interested in quotes you might find interesting. I want MEANING. There is a seriously good prize for the best answers, which I will share in a new blog post.

It frightens me to death (truly it does) how little time we ALL spend repeat watching films. And there are ways of watching films from everyday life do decode meaning (separate post). Transcriptions only tell a quarter of the story and one view of a film will yield nothing more than what any lay-person can see. There is no short cut. And it's important for client side people to dedicate some time each week to watching and thinking - don't just rely on your consultants.

Now to my dinner in Milan. I was enjoying an evening out with fellow delegates from Qual360 and happened to sit opposite a US colleague who I knew nothing about - I had no idea what he did.

"Does your platform," he asked between mouthfuls, "allow you to add different codes to the same sequence of video?"
"Do you mean giving different codes to different sections of various clips and then being able to view all of the cuts/codes end to end in one go?"
"Exactly what I mean!"
"Not really - we don't usually receive entries longer than 3 minutes."
"Well, our platform does!" He replied triumphantly.

I nearly choked on my Ravioli.

"You have a mobile research platform?" I asked.
"Not exactly... we can't send video like you... yet." Then he chuckled to himself before adding. "You know what though? No one ever uses that feature!"

He went on to tell me how much time and effort they had invested.

Incidentally, one of the wonderful things about Qual360 - where I met this and many other like minded people - is that they are small events and very intimate. So lots of frank and honest sharing takes place, especially over food and wine.

The interesting thing about this exchange is that there appears to be two distinct way of thinking about video.

1) Code/transcribe and cut it to use the correct sections for illustration
2) Watch and watch again to begin to 'see' what others have not seen and think what others have not thought.

The former lends itself to quantitative thinking and the former to qualitative thinking. And as harsh as this may sound, if you don't have time to watch films, don't set them as tasks for your respondents in the first place. Stick with audio and pictures. Seriously.