A Non-Fireside Chat with Steve Portigal


Matthew chats with Steve Portigal. Partly because he hasn’t chatted with Steve in a while, and partly because we all want to know: “Auralization of Document Structure?” Also, we chat about research topics that are way more relevant.


Matthew: Good old Guelph, Guelph doesn't get enough shoutouts I think.

Steve: The fact that it ever gets shouted at all.

Matthew: First off can you just do like a really brief introduction, of who you are?

Steve: Oh me, oh okay

Matthew: Or you could introduce me, hi hello

Steve: Yeah I'm Steve Portigal, I am outside of south-side San Francisco in a little coastal town. I run my own user research consulting business, I've been doing that business for 18 years and doing this work for 20 something I don't know, way back in to the dark ages, I have a dog.

Matthew: Perfect, so one of the questions that I wrote down actually comes up, you said it there is user research and I wanted to ask what do you call what you do and to whom do you call it that and ill have that as a open question, open ended question but then I'll provide you some context behind it if you'd like but

Steve: Context is always good.

Matthew: I'm always curious about, so you say user research some people say design research, some people just say research, some people say ethnography and I note that it often depends on who you're talking to right? So you and I are talking, you can say user research I totally understand what you mean maybe if you're talking to a client or a prospect and someone was like well someone sent me to you because we're supposed to do some research

Steve: Yeah.

Matthew: You know, how do you talk about what you do, particularly to people who don't necessarily have the background.

Steve: Yeah I think maybe one aspect of privilege I have or being sheltered that I have is that maybe I don't talk often enough to people who don't know, well two things, what it is and who I am. That creates a certain kind of laziness, I had experienced recently where I was referred and I think it was like a series of do you know someone, do you know someone, hey Steve could you talk to these people all the way back and I ended up being hired to work with them and even in the kick-off meeting we had, or maybe the second meeting, the person that's my main contact really, just really amazing advocate and smart person who's in a non, their in like a internal corporate operations role basically and so they sort of introduced me or sort of tell the story as we're kicking off about, I was told that we were gonna build this system, we would need a UX researcher and I didn't know what a UX researcher was and so we're really happy to have Steve who, clearly the language wasn't comfortable for her and in fact there's no, if I say there's no UX in what we're working on then that will get somebody upset because there's always a UX but we're not working with a team that represents sort of what you might consider when you think about that there's no design people, there's no software people, it's just sort of process and operations people so I'm far outside of my sort of familiar peeps. It was a really good practice for me to be able to make a case for how I can add value. So the nice thing was they were convinced and maybe from on high they were kind of encouraged to find someone with my skill-set and so in our conversation we had to kind of align a little bit on language and you know what was that gonna look like practically, like who we're gonna talk to and what does that mean. We just even had a moment in the middle of the project where I'd been doing these internal interviews and we're sorta getting ready to talk about what it all meant and that they propose lets just have a meeting and you know and that we get everyone together and sift through what we learned. If i say this wrong its gonna sound like I was kind of taking umbrage at her language, I didn't take umbrage at the word sift, but I used that as a chance to sort of say well here's how we have to work on this, ahead of time and we have to be intentional, we have to use these methods and here's what I want everyone to do and its really, it's about, I gave the low-key version of what analysis versus synthesis is and how we're gonna pull things apart and build them up into something new and that if you call it sift, again I wasn't trying to be turf defensive here but really just help her feel confident about what we're gonna do and that sifting is kind of, that verb before it's something different that what we wanted to do. So I'm answering a different question than yours but

Matthew: No that's okay because it goes back to, I think its all related, like how do we talk about what we're doing to other people

Steve: Yeah.

Matthew: I think in a way you can look at sift and say, okay we're going in the right direction together right. Sifting if you think about it is probably a lot less intentional than doing analysis and synthesis where you're just maybe shaking things around and hoping something comes up.

Steve: Let's talk about it all day and then see if we get any conclusions, yes.

Matthew: But then it's a, it's not her responsibility to know these terms right? And so sift then becomes your cue to say okay, so lets sort of scaffold this conversation to get her and the team or whoever is involved from this, I don't know, more a theoriol, unstructured approach to no there's actually like, a real method behind this that really delivers results if we follow this method process or however you communicate that and so it's always curious to me about how people explain what they do because I've seen, you probably didn't, I know you didn't, you didn't say, hey we don't call it sifting come on but I've been in rooms where I've seen people who are a little bit newer in their career who are very much you know, no that's not correct, this is how we do things, how we approach things and we call things very specific things you know, ethnography is different from contextual inquiry you know and yeah, I feel like anyway it's just more of a curiosity of how you approach it.

Steve: So I'm often, one of the things that I do is teach in-house teams, I mean basically how to talk to people and learn from them maybe we call and interview users, that's the sort of pain that they're approaching me with or the challenge. I'm really excited that over the last even just six months it's more product teams that are reaching out to me saying we're talking to our customers, we need to do a better job, it's not sort of UX or even researchers that are tryna drive that change internally, it's product leadership that sees this as a opportunity so I'm meeting different kinds of people that maybe I've met before and so I have this workshop and right at the beginning I say, I try to address this thing that you're asking and I say, slide says what do we mean by research anyway? And it lists a bunch of things that you just said, ethnography, contextual inquiry, video ethnography, site visits blah blah blah and then I put up just a big splash on top that says whatever and my point is to like, that it's not possible to resolve this issue of labels and for me it's not possible and it's also not germane, there's a different conversation to be had and then I try to offer a much more wordy and reflective slide kind of breaks down you know, we do some thing with people, hopefully in their own context, it's like a Michael Pollan, but much more verbose, we do some thing with people I don't know what it is, in their context, we look at what they do and we also learn what it means, is sorta the first part and then we infer, interpret, synthesize we find patterns that didn't exist before and then we apply it to some kind of business problem, try to tell longer wordier thing that's like, this is the thing that we're talking about doing here and you know even if in this workshop we sort of follow one thread if you were to do usability testing it's different than if you're gonna go talk to somebody in their workplace, so we can't talk about everything about everything but at least you kind of think about the space of what like learning from people, interpreting things and then solving a problem with that so I just try to provide a different, I guess a meta-definition and stay away from kind of the jargon part of it.

Matthew: When we engage with people, whether we're in-house or doing consulting or contract work I think one of things we're taught, hopefully we're taught, is to try and get the people who are creating the products and services to use less jargon certainly if it isn't in, isn't germane to the people who are using said products and services. Obviously you get into healthcare you're probably not gonna hold as fast to that because there's very specific meanings to things in certain industries. Within our own profession I feel like we jargonize a lot and I don't know what drives that, whether it's, we're supposed to be like well I know what contextual inquiry means and I'm gonna use that as, to prove my knowledge but I find that when I'm talking to people about this stuff who don't know about it, if I can abstract as much as possible and use you know to your point, a lot more words, it takes a little bit longer to explain but you're imparting a lot more meaning to them. I think that's a lot more valuable and I wish more people would take that approach, so yeah it's just always curious to me about how you think about it, how other people think about it and how they approach that as well with their clients, or even their people that they work with on the product team or project team or whatever. So do you find that the product teams that are reaching out to you is that being driven by product managers? Or above that? Saying you know we want a larger group of you doing better at this if it's like the VP of product or something like that, where are those requests coming from?

Steve: They're coming from product leadership, so whether that's a head of product or a VP of product. It's funny coz to me in my little bubble I think oh these people are new, they're just new to me personally and that everyone that I meet in product is like, we've been doing this for a long time, we just haven't paid attention to best practices, we haven't developed it as a thing, you know I'm just seeing like the product conferences and the kind of people that are in that community, sort of thought leaders if we can say that word sincerely, you know people that are teachers and advocates are super hungry for this stuff and are kind of just supporting a broader dialogue and that's looping me into it.

Matthew: When you get down to the team level is that do you find the desire there as well?

Steve: Yeah.

Matthew: Or is it a bit more of a, or to what extent is it a challenge to get a team onboard, you know if the top down is saying hey do this,

Steve: Yeah.

Matthew: This team how do they react to you coming in and helping with that?

Steve: I mean I think we like to craft sort of stories of kind of passive or active I guess, it's the passive and the active resistance and there's passive resistance, active resistance is like when someone just says like well I'm not doing that, or I think you're stupid. That's not usually what you see, you don't sort of see that kind of thing happening. So depending on how I engage with a organization, I'm gonna see more or less it's something else, if there's like a training and people are encouraged to come, there might be a person that sits quietly, that person could be checked out or they could just be a quiet attendee I don't necessarily know that there's a problem or if there is a problem. I need a more sustained relationship with someone then I'm, so I have different kinds of relationships than you know, trainees not gonna give you a sense of where people are resistant, I mean if you're gonna show up to the class almost anybody that comes is, I can't say it always happens but for the most part people that show up to like spend half a day or a day are excited, they want to learn and they see this as a opportunity and you know I'm always just so I guess pleasantly surprised, maybe I shouldn't be surprised if it's a consistent thing but you know I think so what, where there's reluctance or lack of engagement sometimes is just naivety as apposed to I don't believe in this and sometimes they look they the same right, they feel the same so sometimes you're sort of hearing and this happened to me the other day, again it's not exactly what you're talking about but I was spending the day with a organization and I was doing just a mix of things so it's not someone, I hadn't really worked with them before, I was meeting people, a lot of them for the first time and I gave a talk and we did kind of a workshop it was very interactive it wasn't really teaching but at the end of it, one of those we're done and then a out of the blue question comes up that's like really important but we're done and someone is saying you know when I go out, we were talking about planning research but then this person who was not even, I think they were a designer or a researcher but they said when I go out to talk to people I have to sort of re-teach myself how to not ask leading questions

Matthew: Right.

Steve: Like the phrase leading questions is sort of the, like that's a tell that that's the fear that someone who is not experienced, that's how they express their discomfort at not knowing how to do this properly, cause I don't researchers or anybody that has a certain amount of experience, we never talk about that, it's just sort of the outsiders view of what the inside looks like so he brings this up and he says, yeah I go and I just google and I find some Medium articles and I sort of re-teach myself how to do it, we were like you know, literally at the end of the workshop so I was not going to well in our remaining time let me condense,

Matthew: You were putting your coat on and be like my flight?

Steve: Yeah, but you know there is, there's an established research group at this organization so I thought, well let me kind of give shout out to them, so I sort of asked the question for the group, for people who are in the research group, what resources have you already assembled right? Cause this is not even a new research practice, it's quite large and it's distributed across different sites, this must have come up over and over again, they must have their internal document on their network that just is written up in their language that says, beginners guide to I don't know, something about asking questions, that must exist I assumed given the sort of history of this company, so I kinda tried to like, hey can anybody who knows what the resource that you would use is, kind of help out this guy here. I got sort of crickets and then someone took my request as an invitation to explain how to do a interview in a open-ended way, again the thing is over. When I do a interview I try to do it this way, I mean

Matthew: Did she pause and say is anyone writing this down?

Steve: Well that would have been more, it would have been better than just, it's barely tribal knowledge so I don't know if it exists or not in that organization, anyway as we were sorta wrapping up, someone had told me oh we have you're books here Steve so I just, I found out physically in the building where they were and I told them go find Interviewing Users, my book. Its in the fifth floor in the library and I sort of sent him with, I dunno I mean I guess googling to find out a best practice is fine, it just seemed a little ad hoc and I wanted him to feel more intentional and purposeful about this and that that wasn't being provided to him internally, so that's not resistance, that's sort of inertia right, there you've got someone that kinda wants to do it better but it doesn't seem like anybody's kinda getting together and saying like hey here's best practices, we're going to empower you, I'm gonna empower myself, I'm gonna share it, I'm gonna write this down like you said and I think those are sort of, like that's what I worry about more is sort of the ad hoc'ness of it versus the I don't need to talk to users cause I know everything. I hear that very rarely and I hear the former sort of scattered well intentioned but sort of bumbling that's the area that I wanna help companies get better at, I think the active resistance stuff is becoming increasingly uncool and you know I think it's being phased out but the knowing what we're doing part is also not very accessible yet.

Matthew: The way I think about what you were just talking about the person who asked the question, I really feel what we do, are a set of skills and skills are things that need to be practiced and if you don't practice them you get out of practice, so I know that there are times when I haven't, it might have been a while since I've done a usability test or something like that and I'm always really grateful that for me I have this practice of basically testing the test before I go and do it with actual people, I do you know the hey do you have a pulse, could you help me out? Invariably I will ask a very leading question just because it's like it's conversational you know I'm not, maybe it's partly because I'm not doing it quote end quote for real yet but then I'm like okay right, right I have to think about that and I'm gonna get there much faster because I have the experience doing it than someone who doesn't so you know, good on that guy for trying to inform himself right but you're right to me it kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier about the outside of our profession we try and de-jargonize, inside of our profession we typically don't, we paint with a broad brush here and similarly it feels like and maybe it's changing but it feels like there's sort of a knowledge hoarding that happens and I don't know, I don't believe it's intentional at all but its, well we're the researchers you're the X Y and Z, we'll take care of this stuff if you take care of your stuff and I've been on research trips where we've had like the back-end developer along because they wanted to know, later when we were going through the data the developer was like oh what if we did this for the app? And we just sat there and looked at him like that's a really good idea. He was thinking of terms of this is gonna be easier for me to build in the back-end. If the back-end is simpler then the inputs are simpler and that was back in 2007, 2006 something like that and that's where I was like oh everybody should come research you know, to a point obviously we don't want to go into someones home with 33 people, but I guess where I'm going with that is like the need to bring as many people into the practice as possible I think is really core to what we do and I don't see a lot of people doing that maybe as much as they should. To your point that they didn't even have that stuff written down because it didn't occur to them that someone else might want to help or be it maybe it's a product manager who's going out and talking to customers about so what features do you want you know, or a business analyst who is going out and reaching out to customers or a technical account manager who's out in the field with maybe a sales rep and they're talking to customers, not just demoing the latest features but they're eliciting feedback on things where a researcher wouldn't be with them, I mean it'd be great if they were to be able to get those people aligned with here's just some basic how to talk to people without leading them to the answer that you hoped they come to. I would just love to see a lot more of that so fix that Steve.

Steve: Sure, I'm old enough to remember when talking to a customer or a user was unique you know maybe exciting and maybe a rare opportunity I mean what I find ironic is that you know we've been asking for more research, more people talking to people, more, more, more. As that has happened it's less of a, it's more of a commodity as it's less of a unique thing, so the more commoditized it gets the less you can involve people basically because I mean like this idea of setting up every Friday we have users come in and we show them something whatever it's gonna be like those kinds of programs I mean that's making it as sort of, I mean that's fully operationalizing it and making it part of the infrastructure of the process but it also doesn't make it like oh we're gonna show our work to somebody and get feedback like it, so some of the thrill is gone I guess that maybe would motivate people to I don't know, rearrange their schedule or you know prioritize this,

Matthew: Where you're making it like a real event

Steve: Yeah as an event is a great way to put it.

Matthew: As appose to it's just a meeting or something you know,

Steve: Yeah

Matthew: That happens every Friday or every other Friday.

Steve: Yeah cause it's certainly not just a meeting for those participants right I mean so the more we operationalize it then can commodify it then but less it seems like a side-effect of a good thing, but more research, it involves more people, it involves more parts of the process that's yeah. So I mean it's fun working with this internal operations company because, or department because it's just not a thing that they do, there's a little bit of a, I don't know if it's power or ego or influence or something, like I can frame what I'm doing as something that's a little bit different, not to get pats on the back but to get their attention and hopefully get them to reflect on what they're hearing and how it's different than where they started, I think the more you commodify it, the less you're engaged as a culture and the less you are yeah, ready for re-frames or ready for to follow assumptions challenged, again I prefer it the way that it is now, when there's just more of it that obviously is better for everybody but yeah you can't have a event every Friday that's like a unique opportunity that's not. Then I think about the product folks for example who are to me, newly hungry again it may have been historically like that but that desire to get that information to do it better and to kind of build based on it that drive that they have, I can just sort of feed into that, I can give them these things.

Matthew: They're excited to be incorporating that as they go.

Steve: Yeah.

Matthew: Yeah, as appose to it just being oh it's this thing we're doing.

Steve: Right, where it's just a box that you check off or you get your qual, something like that that just sucks all of the joy out of it.

Matthew: Right, yeah, so when you are doing the workshops or, are you mostly doing I'll say broadly training these days? Or are you also doing research research?

Steve: Yeah, I'm doing, it's a mix, it's a mix of research research, yeah.

Matthew: Which is the new name of it, research research.

Steve: Yes, yeah, research research and research training. Yeah it's a mix I get involved with you know a organization for weeks if not months or I get involved with them like for a day to kinda come in and kinda help here and there.

Matthew: So to what extent in all the work that you're currently doing, does improv still play a role for you?

Steve: Hmm,

Matthew: Do you consciously think about that? Do you use, because you've written about improv and you've given talks about how to use the games of improv to elicit,

Steve: Yeah, there's probably not a session,

Matthew: I'm hitting you with some old school stuff again.

Steve: Yeah that's good, right I mean I first started writing with that in like 2003 I think I did a first workshop on improv, I mean I still use that and I still do it, I mean you know improv you can boil it down to this idea of yes and, you say yes to something and add something to it, and I mentioned that as a principle like anytime I'm sort of standing up in front of group, I have slides about it, so it's a little bit of sort of improv flavor when I'm teaching people about doing brainstorming I talk to them about coming up with bad ideas in order to build on them, as appose to tryna like make everything the right thing, you know I think I approach any kind of facilitation activity as improv. I just had this experience maybe two weeks ago, it was the first interview in a study and my client wrote the interview guide and it's pretty good, I mean I helped him punch it up but it's you know, how do you do this in your work? What tools do you use? How do you do this in your work? What tools do you use? How do you do this? And like here's all the things we wanna learn about and so in my head I'm kinda getting ready to talk to this first person and I'm like that's the scene that I have in my head, I'm just gonna ask him about all this stuff, it's pretty clear, a guy walks into the room that we're meeting in, he just starts talking, like even sort of starting the interview he just starts talking about like very openly about like his life and his history and kinda how he got to the point, it was cool he actually started to cover some of these things and I could kind of go in and like you know ask a little follow up, ask a little follow up but I had this idea like I was in control of the interview and then of course what happened was, how am I going to have this conversation with this real person right? Here's a real person that has their experiences and I have to integrate my set of inquiry into their structure so like totally a improvisational game right? All these kind of constraints on it, you know I think it worked out fine and we kinda were able to cover what we needed to cover that was sort of relevant for him, but yeah it's kinda like you're saying about that you know that first usability test thing, you sort of find yourself doing things, so I don't think I messed it up, I think I did a good job at it, but it was that realization that you just keep having over and over again like every time you do this like, oh yeah this is about responding about what's happening in the moment, not sort of writing a script on top of some person I know, so this visceral feeling of like oh the challenge got thrown back at me I had a idea of how i was gonna handle it and then I realized I had to rely on improvisation and say yes to him and ask him about the tools he used and ask him about that, yeah it was challenging, it was challenging and fun in a good way and I felt good afterwards but it was like oh yeah phew that was not what I thought was gonna happen, 

Matthew: Yeah, Matt and I had a project together couple months ago and we interviewed 20, 22 people or so and it was all this kind of interview where it was all remote, halfway through so we had you know a discussion guide and all this stuff and things we were tryna ask people, probably halfway through we got on a call with a participant and I said hi my names Matthew and I'm, and he said look, I know what you guys are trying to do and I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna work and I was like okay, this is how this conversation is going and it wasn't so much like discussion guide out the window, but discussion guide is like informing this conversation at best, it's definitely not driving the conversation because this person has like walked into this meeting angry,

Steve: Hmm.

Matthew: Because, and that point I don't know why, like I don't understand why he's angry but I need to let him yell at me in a way, not to be rude, he wasn't being rude to me but, and get that stuff out of the way so we can get to the conversation that we need to have, but also if he needs to vent for ten minutes let it go, but let him talk and having that flexibility of not having to come back to the participant and say well you know bullet point number two here says that you're supposed to be listening to me right now so one moment please and I guess it kinda goes back to that whole, we've put together these plans, I always feel like we put a lot of work into these plans and we go out and we do the research and it's like well we use probably about 25% of that plan because it went where it went you know, and I think that's a good thing, so I'm not sure the extent to which we should be planning maybe, we should just, not that we should be winging it but

Steve: I think the planning helps you be your improvisation, or helps you along

Matthew: Yeah exactly.

Steve: I mean what you described is I think a whole other level, like that's a superpower you're describing because it's not just, the interview didn't go where I thought it was gonna go, there is a lot of emotional energy and so you had to sort of let that blow past you, you had to do a lot more handling of yourself, of your own expectations, I mean to deal with someone that wants to talk about something else is one thing, but someone that has issues and is concerned like I had this happen this week again sometimes the logistics are out of my hands, this was supposed to be in person and it ended up being over the phone and they didn't know that they were gonna be recorded and they were gonna asked to sign something so I didn't have a way to ask them to sign, which basically I let the form say, what we're doing, what they can expect and when and so on, so I just had to say at the beginning of a call like or I chose to just ask him is it all right if we record because I thought a whole disclaimer is just gonna get in the way so I just kinda winged it and he got really upset, sometimes people ask you a couple questions but he was mad, he was kinda spitting nails at us even said if this and this happens I will sue you like he was really mad, and we ended up in a good place afterwards like he was right like he was right, he was right to be sort of incensed and surprised and given his context which he kinda revealed he's super sensitive to a lot of things, so we kinda triggered him and he settled down, like he settled down because we listened to him and we talked to him and we did all the things, like you said I mean you know, the person that you allowed to vent but I think that's like sort of a extra researcher thing, I don't know that we teach that, I've been with researchers in the field and had people be very kind of egotistical an talking about what they've accomplished and right I was showing like a paper, a stack of papers that was kind of a whole scenario and I think they like grabbed it from me and like went through and just started critiquing it like you said I guess this is gonna be the interview and I thought it was awesome cause you know it was just unfiltered and so clear, this guy had a story about himself and he wanted us to know what it is and if he in another context I might say that guy is a egomaniac but that's not how it felt to me, it was like really good clear I'm telling you Steve what you have to do like that's what I want but my colleague afterwards was just kinda rolling her eyes and like didn't like the way he was acting and sort of felt I guess judgmental of him but it was interesting to just you know that's the fun thing about doing research with somebody else, you just see what bothers them and what doesn't bother you and kinda where they are coming from

Matthew: And you're like wait should that bother me?

Steve: I don't wanna have that interaction in my social life but you know in a field setting like I have nothing to complain about he so he told us about which president he met and which ivy league his son was going to, good like I want people to tell me things that they're excited about and proud about like and I will welcome and support that,

Matthew: You're going out there and interrupting their life but you still want them to be a real person, you're not looking for them to be like all right, could you write down the 33 steps you go through for this task please so that I

Steve: Right

Matthew: Thank you very much

Steve: They may have to perform a little bit to do that, I mean you're gonna hear how great I am and you're gonna hear how well I've accomplished all this stuff and you're gonna hear this and like you can't get to like what's wrong until you hear about what's right and sometimes you still can't get to what's wrong because their whole narrative is about what's right, which by the way is a insight about how we're gonna go about changing how this work gets done, how the need is perceived so it's all grist for the mill I guess but anyway I just liked your story about not being bothered by that persons outlook.

Matthew: Oh yeah absolutely, it was definitely a surprise in the moment like when it was initially starting so it wasn't like I was totally chill about it from the get go but within the first minute I was okay, this is the conversation we're having, if we don't get to the question six, seven or eight or whatever that's fine you know, we'll get to where we go and that's kinda why I wanted to talk about the improv stuff because it's something that's really at the top of my mind of late, I've been taking some improv classes again from the last time I did it 30 years ago and I'm thinking about just how much I wish it was standard training for all researchers to do you know, improv 101 basically, how to listen to people, how to adjust, how not to drive things and it's co-creation right, that's kinda where I was going with that but we don't have much time left, so I wanna give you, so I have one final question for you, and this may be a softball it may throw you for a loop but what's your next book about?

Steve: My next books about leading questions, like what can we talk about. Definitely interested in creating stuff to share with people I mean you know I have my own podcast Dollars To Donuts shout-out, interviews with people who lead user research in their organization, but I don't know that I want to write a book is the next thing that I do, there's just different formats and so what kinds of outcomes get created like I've written two books is pretty, both were challenging experiences and extremely rewarding, does writing a third book, just the effort sort of create the kinds out of outcomes for my own career versus you know, writing more or speaking more or not doing any of those things I mean the fun thing is you know about a podcast is you get to bring other people in so 

Matthew: Right. 

Steve: My podcast is about highlighting what work other people are doing so I'm learning from it, I'm also able to yeah, show off people that don't have the platform that I do yeah I mean I'm learning a ton from the interviews that I've done and I guess, somebody even wrote me the other day and said oh you should write a book about the podcast or you should do a talk and I did one sort of like the talk you do when you're not sure what you have to say about the thing that you're working on, I've sort of done that talk, I don't know, I don't know what the long answer is, I don't know sort of what the I mean I'm focused on the podcast right now because that's just where my energy is and it sort of fits into my consulting life as kind of a one activity in that but does that ladder up to something else I don't know,

Matthew: Yeah it's more of a that prompting question of going back to the beginning of this conversation where you know instead of saying contextual inquiry we talk a bit more about it, so instead of the book what's exciting you to share with people and what's keeping you in interested in what you're doing and it sounds like right now that's your podcast, Dollars To Donuts,

Steve: Right and that podcast is about some of the things we're talking about right, how do, because so much of research leadership is happening inside organizations you know, versus back in the day when I was in agencies or you know, external consultants, there's just a lot to examine there I think around you know building these practices, building up, you know dealing with people with fewer skills that are kind of coming in and have less experience, so I have been doing some talks, I've been writing about that stuff you know maybe it's just sort of stepping back and looking at where the research practice or industry whatever you wanna call it is you know at this point where we've been, what's unresolved, I'm sort of interested in those things that's maybe adjacent to the podcast but in a lot of the work that I have done has been about hey here's a practical way to get better at your skills, like that's what the workshops some of them are about, so I'm interested in like talking with researchers specifically, there's now enough of us that we can have our own channels, our own content, our own gatherings and talk about the specific things without being under the umbrella of UX and just have research be our thing, we have a lot to talk about and lots of people are kinda contributing to those dialogues so I'm interested in that right now, you know we've talked about these things, as research grows it changes, different people are doing it that are not quote researchers, it creates a lot of interesting challenges and opportunities and it's shifting very rapidly but you know what are we not addressing what's kinda left out there I think you know the convenience to do things remotely like we're doing has led to certain kinds of compromises and then that changes what's being produced and then it you know if commodification is something we wanna resist then setting up eight Zoom calls in a day and then asking people a bunch of questions over crappy video connections, that supports commodification and if you are so over-tasked that you're hiring people with almost no experience and not giving them any mentorship or supervision, just sending them off to be junior researchers without any support an they're doing Zoom calls and kind of asking leading questions rapidly then research stays as kind of a, reverts back to a support function that's very tactical not a leadership function that kind of drives innovation, so there's all these sort of tactical factors that are all kind of integrating in each other and by no means do I have a say here how we should solve it, I guess I'm just trying to observe it and analyze and synthesize and present it back and say like here are the choices that we are making collectively us as a profession and the people that engage with us, I mean I'm very much hand waving right since you said this was the last question, this is sort of where my thinking is at, just sort of look at the field right now and sort of look for symbols and signs about you know, where were you not making progress or what's kind of holding us back or sending us back into like a previous era and either just call attention to it or you know invite people to think about iterating or improving in that.

Matthew: All right well I have been a terrible host and run you right up to your next meeting so I apologize for that, I will let you go,

Steve: All right well thanks.

Matthew: But that last little bit was like I really was interested in that so thank you for sharing that part cause that's the things that I'm really curious about as well.

Steve: Great.

Matthew: Thank you for chatting with me.

Steve: Thank you.

Matthew: Always good to talk to you.

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