videotaping interviews with SMEs

Subject: videotaping interviews with SMEs
From: Emily Berk <emily -at- armadillosoft -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 09:34:37 -0800

Hey, Will:

I have occasionally videotaped SMEs, but usually at formal discussions, like scheduled technical talks. In these cases, the SME already knows that others will be watching, so will have already taken the time to brush hair and teeth, etc. I always suggest in advance that I tape and get permission from the speaker and any managerial types who might otherwise. I always bring a copy of the videotape in promptly afterwards, so others can watch it. I don't think I've ever been refused permission to tape.

On the other hand, I OFTEN audio tape SMEs. I learned to do this when I was working with a particularly bright group of Russian programmers. These guys were very, very smart and spoke pretty good English. But they talked with accents and very quickly and I found that I was having to interrupt them repeatedly to ask them to repeat certain phrases because I had trouble understanding them. I would ask permission to tape when I scheduled my meetings with them (no one ever refused) and then, back in my garret, I could play back the tapes as much as I wanted. There would still be phrases that I could not get but many fewer. Another thing I do is when someone starts describing a line of code or a command or something like that, I ask them to email it to me then and there. That way we don't have to sit there with the SME spelling out keywords to me. (Or, writing it on a whiteboard in their unreadable handwriting.)

Oh, and, I never DEPEND entirely on the tape -- audio or video. I take copious notes and work mostly from them. Notes are random access and I find that I learn by writing. But the tapes are fantastic backup.


On Mon, 9 Dec 2002 14:49:29 -0800, "William Turner" <whturner -at- earthlink -dot- net> asked:
>In her post of 12/06, Lisa Bronson mentioned that she loves "taping
>interviews with SME's and watching and/or listening to them over and over
>to get the information I need." ...
>However, I wonder if there might be some problems with early videotaping,
>such as resistance on the part of the SMEs (the same kind of resistance
>that engineers present to putting their half-formed ideas in their
>engineering specs...or maybe just shyness?) or on a more formal level from
>the company (potential exposure of intellectual property?). Have any of
>you who have tried videotaping had negative feedback?
>--- Will Turner
>--- whturner -at- earthlink -dot- net

~ Emily Berk ~
~\091101 *** Armadillo Associates, Inc. ~

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