UX Research Trip Part 1: Gadgets I Love

I am back in the office after a 10 day ethnographic research trip. The schedule was crazy! To fully understand the “24 hour freight life-cycle”, I had to observe shifts around the clock. When I was in my 20s I worked as a casual for the IATSE Local 578 loading in, running, and loading out rock and roll shows in the WVU coliseum.  That, too, was a 24 hour circle of life — but I was in my thirties!

Besides lots of fish-oil, Emergen-C, and coffee, here were the gadgets  I carried in my cargo pants.  These little guys really  made this trip productive  (in no particular order):

1.   Flip Video Camera:  I love my Flip better than any spendy camera I have used.  It’s small and unbreakable :  I’ve dropped it twenty times on concrete and it still keeps on going.  It’s is also plug and play.  I keep a private YouTube account where I immediately upload and make notes and can share those videos back with my team.

The main thing I love about this camera, is that it is so unobtrusive; people forget they are being filmed.  It’s just point and click.  I can hold it casually in my hands or set it on a counter and we are good to go.

2.  Pulse Smart Pen: This pen is freaking magic!  I don’t even know what I ever did without this thing.  I have a small little black notebook that looks like a moleskine — but it has teeny magic dots that are read by a camera in the pen.  I can record all of my notes digitally, plus get voice recording along with what I write — I got really creative about using symbols to capture notes, so I could make eye-contact and do better prompting during interviews.  I didn’t have to bury my face in my notebook.   As a practice,  after every shift, I would upload my pen notes to my Mac and turn them into text that I’d augment while listening to the recorded voice transcript.  I emailed those notes to myself and back to my team periodically.  This is a lifesaver now as I am needing to start reporting out.

I also used the pen to do participatory UI sketching with users.  This will be a whole ‘nother post.  IT ROCKED!!

3. Blackberry Curve: I love my Blackberry.  I took  pictures and emailed them to my gmail account.  Every time I collected a paper artifact, I’d snap a picture and MMS it with a reference note to myself.  Now that I am combing through a pile of paperwork trying to figure out where everything has come from I have help.   I also kept my gmail account hopping with frequent notes updated to myself when I was away from the computer.   IMHO, the blackberry keyboard wins hands down of any I have used on a mobile device.  That being said, my little pink curve died on the road, and I just got my new every 2 Motorola Droid from Verizon.    I have to say,  love the apps.  HATE the keyboard so far.

Freight Operations Supervisor’s station : he is planning for the outbound dispatch late on a Friday night.

5. Garmin Nuvi: Perhaps this little guy will be replaced by the fancy new Droid Google Map feature on my next trip.  I have trust issues with connectivity though.  My Garmin got me from Baltimore to Seaford Delaware, to Arlington, VA, to Hagerstown MD, to Allentown PA, and Newark NJ without a hitch.  I love the way she talks to me.

AND a few non-gadgets of note.

6. Balsamiq Mockups: (on my MacBook)  Invaluable for doing participatory sketching with users and sending back click throughs to the team.   I will be demonstrating this at UX Show and Tell PDX on March 30.

7. Safety Shoes:  These are not gadgets.  I owe my comfort and sense of well-being to my Hytest shoes.   Arch support – check. Steel Toes – check,  Padding – check, Oil Resistant tread – check.  And, they were slip-ons.  I breezed through airport security.

I will be posting more about this trip.   For an in-person report out, join me at  UX Show and Tell PDX on March 30

Published by JB

@uxsuccess Lean User Experience; Agile software development @Tellagence, I believe user success = business success. I talk about that here: uxsuccess.com Personal blog - http://staticpoetboy.com

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