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September 15, 2022
Tacos = the great. Tide Pods = the not-so-great. An honest chat about the (mostly really great) state of User Interviews.
Roberta Dombrowski is the VP of User Research at User Interviews (and a User Research Yearbook Class of 2022 member—check out her profile here). In her free time, Roberta is an adjunct professor through Boise State University's Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) program, a mindfulness teacher, and a devoted cat parent.
[00:00:00] John: My Taco, I read something the other day that aligns a lot with something I think about work, which is keeping the small stuff the small stuff so that you actually have some space for the bigger stuff.
[00:00:14] Erin: This is Erin May.
[00:00:16] John: I'm John Henry Forster, and this is Awkward Silences.
[00:00:21] Erin: Silences. Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Awkward Silences. We are here with our monthly installment of Tacos and Tide Pods where we talk about what is good and not so good in the world of User Interviews, UX research, and whatever is top of mind. Roberta is here and JH is here. Hi, guys.
[00:00:46] John: Hey.
[00:00:46] Roberta: Hey. How's it going?
[00:00:47] Erin: It's going good. Roberta's getting married this weekend?
[00:00:50] Roberta: I am. I am.
[00:00:52] John: Very exciting.
[00:00:53] Erin: Did I steal your taco or that's just-
[00:00:55] Roberta: That is my taco.
[00:00:56] Erin: Okay. All right.
[00:00:58] Erin: Yes, okay. All right.
[00:01:00] Erin: Yes, you want to start it for us and tell us about you getting married. That's very exciting.
[00:01:05] Roberta: I am, yes. I'm getting married on Saturday. Been reflecting a lot, the first half of the year for me has been a lot of operations work and for this it's been wedding ops. I planned the whole damn wedding, like, oh, my gosh. That's huge.
[00:01:20] Erin: It's a lot of work, right?
[00:01:22] John: Yes. It is a lot.
[00:01:22] Roberta: It's a lot of work but research ops is strangely more difficult because there's more people involved, this is just very different, but yes, I'm looking forward to just having fun this weekend. It's been a long time planning it, so yes.
[00:01:37] Erin: Where is it? How many people are coming? Where's my invite? I think it got lost in the mail.
[0:01:43] Roberta: [laughs] It is small. It's going to be at a farm in Rhode Island, 45 people. It'll be pretty small. Yes, it'll be nice.
[00:01:51] Erin: JH, what's your taco?
[00:01:53] John: My taco, I read something the other day that aligns a lot with something I think about work, which is keeping the small stuff the small stuff so that you actually have some space for the bigger stuff and reminded me a lot of Shreyas Dosh on Twitter, a favorite product follow, kind of popular, has a framework called LNO, which is some tasks are leverage, they're really high leverage so they're really important to do well because they have a lot of return. Some are end, so neutral, so they're kind of break even. Then some things are just, oh, they're overhead. You have to do them, they're important, a status update or whatever, but they don't have that much impact most of the time, so you want to kind of minimize it.
What the quote really unlocked for me was when you take a small thing and spend more time on it, you're not overachieving. What you're doing is you're stealing time from the important stuff. If you have imagine like a fixed 40 hours for your week and you have a bunch of smaller tasks that maybe take 15 hours, spending 20 on them is not a good thing because now you only have 20 for the important stuff instead of 25 whereas if you could get it, those small things can only take 10 hours instead of 15, now you have 30 hours for the bigger stuff. Just something I've thought a lot about with my team, we talk about a lot and just had a couple different things from Twitter and some books I've been reading kind of touch on the same topic in different ways, which is always fun and so that's been on top of mind. Don't spend too much time on not important stuff.
[00:03:11] Erin: Which begs the question of why do the not important stuff at all, right? Because it's also, if you're not going to do it well, don't bother doing it and so I think you get that temptation of like, "Well, if I'm doing it, I want to do it well." Then that's where you get into all that lost time, especially if you're someone who tries to do the things you do well, and so just not doing things can be a good way to go too sometimes.
[00:03:35] John: Yes, I think in his original tweet thread about the overhead task was a lot of people in product and research and other types of work are overachievers, perfectionist types of people. He's like, "So if on those ones you force yourself to do a 'bad job,'" he's like, "you're still not going to do a bad job. Your baseline is still going to be pretty good but you can try to break yourself out of the mental stuff," but I agree. If you can just cut stuff, give a meeting that you don't need anymore, get rid of it is better than trying to break through it.
[00:03:58] Erin: What's a neutral? That sounds like-
[00:04:01] John: I forget. Ge has some examples in there, but I think things where you're just breaking even on your time spent. You put an hour of time in, you get an hour of impact back, so maybe like a-
[00:04:09] Erin: Got it. Linear, as opposed to [crosstalk]
[00:04:11] John: Yes, so they're useful. They're not the things where it's like, if I do a really good job writing this strategy outline and then I share it, it gets shared with 50 people and so that has much more leverage than some other things in your day.
[00:04:23] Erin: Cool. All right. I've got a meta taco, delicious, which is our 100th episode just aired last week and that's pretty cool because not that many podcasts get to 100 episodes. I think our ambition when we started this was just to do it and see what'll happen and maybe it would be a cool kind of thing, but certainly no ambition in terms of like listenership or a number of episodes or anything, was really just to do it and see, a pretty cool milestone to get to. Also, I think one of our concerns in the beginning was like, are there X episodes worth of content to even talk about if we keep it tight on UX research? The more we do the more I'm just like, "There's so many more things to talk about."
[00:05:13] John: Yes, the more you zoom in, the more you explore.
[00:05:16] Roberta: Yes, so to celebrate, I didn't tell you both this, but I listened to the first ever episode.
[00:05:22] Erin: Oh, God.
[00:05:24] John: That's not a good one.
[00:05:25] Roberta: Your interviewing skills have just increased exponentially since then. That was really cool. Then I'm really curious, do both of you have a favorite episode?
[00:05:35] Erin: Oh, gosh, no. Like having a favorite child, I have to think about it, but it is kind of cool to see some of when I look at the stats, which I don't do at times, but when I do, it's cool to see some of the most popular ones really are great episodes. One that comes to mind, not necessarily my favorite, but a really good one was with Amy Chess formerly of Amazon about how to ask good research questions.
[00:06:02] John: Yes, that was a good one.
[00:06:03] Erin: It's fun when people just know what they're talking about so forward and backward it comes so easily and that was a really fun conversation that I know people have gotten a lot out of because people listen to it and they've talked about it, told us how much that's been helpful to them. That was a really good one.
[00:06:19] John: Yes. All right. A quick awkward interruption here. It's fun to talk about user research, but you know what's really fun? It's doing user research and we want to help you with that.
[00:06:28] Erin: We want to help you so much that we have created a special place. It's called userinterviews.com/awkward for you to get your first three participants free.
[00:06:40] John: We all know we should be talking to users more, so we've went ahead and removed as many barriers as possible. It's going to be easy. It's going to be quick. You're going to love it. Get over there and check it out.
[00:06:48] Erin: Then when you're done with that, go on over to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review, please.
[00:06:57] John: Fun like memorable one for me early on was when we got Laura Klein on just because one, she was kind of a big name at the time when we were having trouble figuring out what guests we could get down here but two is, her and I had an exchange on Twitter where I think we kind of got our wires crossed a little bit about a sensitive, complicated topic and it was nice to just have this format and this sort of channel to discuss it on. It was just a much better conversation to have over a podcast than it was trying to do a couple tweets back and forth, and so it was kind of a cool, like the medium is the message type of thing of, oh, this is a conversation that's much better suited for like a back and forth in games than it is hot takes on Twitter. That was cool-- to see that loop come through was interesting.
[00:07:35] Roberta: Yes. That's really cool.
[00:07:37] Erin: Yes definitely. We should do more of that. Get more of folks disagree with public [crosstalk]
[00:07:42] John: Twitter and get them on.
[00:07:44] Erin: Yes. We haven't done that in a while. It's good stuff. All right. That's the taco portion. Who would like to kick off with a tide?
[00:07:52] Roberta: Hi, I can go. [laughs] Well, one of the other tacos was that we got to meet as the leadership team in Nashville and as one of our teammates described it, it was lawlessness, had a lot of fun, but did get COVID from the retreat. That was pretty tough. Still recovering. It's still there. It's still out there, people, so be safe.
[00:08:14] Erin: Well, I'll just jump onto that because this is also my side pod. I guess we could coordinate ahead of time, but why? Gotta keep it fresh. I too got COVID. I don't think you did, JH, but two of three.
[00:08:26] John: I did not.
[00:08:27] Erin: I made it this far without getting it though and my thinking was adults making informed decisions and we're all getting this thing eventually. COVID is the enemy, not getting together with your coworkers and grateful for vaccines. That's a taco on my tide pod. I've been much sicker before and so just kind of dealing with not tasting or smelling so good, but I hear it's going to come back. Yes, getting COVID's not great, but could be a whole lot worse, obviously. Ready for this thing to go away though. Geez. Aren't we all tired of it?
[00:09:02] Roberta: Yes.
[00:09:03] John: I'm honestly having a hard time, like squaring in my head how I feel about it anymore because like your point, I went so long being so conservative and so risk averse, I think like rightfully so, in the early days and now you're at a point where we don't fully know still all the long term effects and some of the other things and so you still want to be cautious. You don't want to get it obvious. You don't want to get any illness, not to state the obvious, but I don't know. It feels really nice to also be able to do things and go to weddings and see friends and everything else and so I don't know where I am on that balance anymore. It's a head scratcher, for sure.
[00:09:31] Roberta: It's hard. You see people who have just been very conservative up until today and with no end in sight and I think the calculus on giving up so much of your life for an indefinite period of time, obviously everyone has to make their own decisions, but for me it's worth it to go out and live a little bit.
[00:09:49] Roberta: Yes. Now you get to have your favorite cilantro as well.
[00:09:53] Erin: That's right. I hate cilantro. For anyone, that's my forever tide pod and I don't hate it right now because nothing tastes like anything.
[00:10:01] John: Yes. Silver lining. Cool. My tide pod was around, I saw two things this week that made me think of this, it is around just super generic formulaic stuff that's happening more and more on LinkedIn, especially in research and product and design. There was two. One was, I forget if it was John Cutler or Dave Gerhart, but whoever it was sorry if I misattributed it.
Basically went through and grabbed a bunch of popular LinkedIn posts and just made all the characters Xs so you could just see the shape of it and the line breaks and the length of sentences were all so similar across the couple they posted. Then there's another AI fake post generator thing for LinkedIn. It's really good. You give it a prompt like, I brushed my teeth this morning, and it spins this whole tale about how that is so impactful to business or whatever. I don't know. I think it's cool that people are there sharing stories and using it as a platform because it's obviously a rich network and all that.
There's a different quote I heard recently. There was something about, the best authenticity is about being authentic about your inauthenticity. But own some of the messiness or own some of the missteps. I think especially now with a downturn and some softness in the economy, people are probably going to have to be a little bit scrappier, cut some corners, not be able to do everything by the book because you're doing more with less or trying to keep the business afloat in some difficult times and to then just come on and always put this schtick on how you present it and everything, it's just a little, I don't know. It's wearing me thin.
To be fair to everyone who does it, I'm sure it works. I'm sure you get numbers. The first couple times I've ever gotten traction on Twitter where I very much copied a thread format and then it worked and I was like, "Oh I see why people do this," but I didn't like doing it. It's a tricky one.
[00:11:35] Erin: I think if working the algorithm feels maybe not authentic but good to you, go for it. If it's soulless then that'll come through eventually. The algorithm will change and you'll be stuck with your line breaks. I did one of those auto generators. I think it was like you're supposed to put in a struggle you've gone through and then the happy result at the end or something like that. I used COVID for the struggle and then the happier result was, what was it? It was something like just keep trying. Oh my God, it was so cheesy. It was pretty funny if you know for sure.
[00:12:11] John: We should put that in the show notes. It's very-
[00:12:13] Roberta: I haven't seen a lot of these before. Now I'm very curious.
[00:12:18] Erin: It's pretty funny. If you know it you know, for sure.
[00:12:21] John: I don't know. You don't have to be so formulaic. You can just share your thoughts in a slightly more unique way.
[00:12:28] Roberta: Yes, for sure.
[00:12:29] Erin: Well, on that note, we've worked through the formulaic aspect of this episode. Anything else, guys, before we break? We're always trying new platforms for this video podcast we're doing now, so let us know what you think. I think we're going to try to livestream this in a not live way. Maybe you can comment or engage. Please do that.
[00:12:54] John: Maybe on that note, now that we're 101 deep, if you have any topics or guests that you'd like to see, please reach out to us on Twitter or LinkedIn. A few people who have actually, as we've gotten a little more popular, have reached out and say nice things about the podcast which is really nice to hear. If you have constructive stuff around who we should talk to or what we should talk about, please reach out. That'd be great.
[00:13:12] Erin: Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences brought to you by User Interviews.
[00:13:17] John: Theme music by Fragile Gang.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.