Semi structured interviews are the staple food of the UX Research field. So you have fully scripted “structured” interviews on one end, and you have completely free-flowing conversations with no scripting in the “unstructured” side of things, and semi-structured interviews occupy the middle of that space. What’s great about them is that you have a framework to ensure your key questions are answered, but it gives the interviewer flexibility- to move within that framework, to follow interesting threads, to change the order of questioning with the flow of the conversation.
Unfortunately what happens a lot of times is that semi structured interviews get over scripted with too many specific questions. This can happen for plenty of reasons- an increase in the project scope, or a need to cater to multiple stakeholders who have various different requirements for example.
Here are the key points I mention in the video:
In the beginning when I was an untrained interviewer, I tended to script every aspect of the interview, right from the initial conversation to the conclusion. I just didn’t have the cultural frame of reference to make small talk, for example. The training wheels helped me get past the initial hurdles.
As I got more interview experience under my belt, I realized the beauty of the medium.
Training wheels help you learn to ride a bike, but if you never take them off you’re holding yourself back. You can’t ride a bike as fast, you can’t take quick twists and turns.
What I find unfortunate is that UX practitioners have to account for this over-scripting by doing things like having checklists to make sure all the questions are answered, which is like being put into a straightjacket. No freedom to follow interesting leads because you’re always concerned about getting all the questions in. No breathing room, no allowance for creativity in the obsession with dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
When you overly script, you become a human google form.
Philosophizing on the nature of semi-structured interviews. Thinking of it as Jazz music, where the missed or off key notes are part of the performance. Or even like Indian classical music, where the ragas provide the framework, but a classical vocalist can sing for hours on end with multiple variations. Or even like the yin-and-yang symbol of the Tao, order and chaos in harmony, being comfortable in giving away control to the participant and taking it back as the need dictates.
Finally, a connection to Professional Wrestling. I talk about how an over-scripted interview makes me feel like Jon Moxley when he was on the Stone Cold podcast, where he concluded by saying he was “playing in big brother’s yard” when he was asked to take more creative control of his character. I then compare that to the experience of doing semi-scripted interviews as they are intended, to Jon Moxley’s debut in AEW. Him breathing in and taking in the atmosphere, feeling free and confident in his abilities.
Results. The outcomes of your actions. The products of a chemical reaction, the solution, the hidden X in a mathematical equation. Results can be so many things, but we tend to talk about results as the positive, tangible, visible product of our efforts.
Recurring Dreams about Examinations
I have recurring dreams from time to time. One is me in an examination hall, writing a paper, or completing an assignment when the time runs out, and I either don’t finish what I was writing, or I do, and the examiner refuses to accept it. The other and by my estimation more universally experienced one is that I got the results of an examination and I did badly.
Whenever I talk about these dreams, it seems to resonate with my peers, especially those who grew up in India or South Asia in particular. It tells you a lot about how the education system we were raised in just sticks in our minds and our psyche, never really leaving, but just fading slightly, like an old tattoo.
As a kid who grew up in India, “Results” generally meant the results of examinations, the most important of which were Standards 10 and 12- secondary and higher secondary education. A lot depends on these results, and a lot doesn’t. Going through all these examinations has an effect on all of us, I guess- it occupies a corner of our mind, and the subconscious uses it to communicate – fear.
The fear, of not measuring up to some invisible ideal. Of not having enough time to do the things we set out to do, within the time we were given to do it. An invisible plan laid out by some invisible man. The invisible examiner, pointing at an invisible watch, with his invisible hands, glaring at you with his invisible eyes. It’s all invisible, all in our heads, but all of us feel the icy glare all the same.
This fear then morphs into insecurity and a deep dissatisfaction- in our childhood we’re so conditioned to see letter grades or numbers associated with whatever we do, and with whatever anyone else does, that we feel dissatisfied when we don’t see that tangible, visible product.
Working Out and seeing “Results”
I’ve been working out for over a year now. I started lifting these small weights, then I slowly trained enough to lift these heavier ones, and then I got these, which are even heavier than that. Two to three times a week, I lift these weights, above my head, or off to the side, and I put them back onto the ground. I FEEL better than how I used to a year ago. I eat better, I sleep better, I feel more limber, more lively, all great things. Despite all these things, the first question anyone ever asks is: “What about your results, though? Where are your results?”. Of course, they’re talking about the visible results- where are your biceps, your triceps, why do you still have a double chin, why don’t you have abs, and so on.
Because, if you can’t see a change, a visible result, It’s all for nothing. I might as well have done nothing at all. Right?
I turned 28 this past November. I think all the time about how I’m going to hit the big three-o in a couple of years. I think about how unremarkable my 20s were. How there were so many things I wanted to do and didn’t. Either because they were withheld from me, or because I withheld myself. Just lists of to-dos left incomplete. One of those I remember I wrote as a joke on my 25th birthday. It was a list of things to learn, starting with “learn to talk to adults”, followed by learning to talk to children, infants, animals, and so on. The only thing checked off was the “talk to adults” part. But that’s just among a whole lot of different insecurities.
I got to thinking about this and I realized I felt like I was going into my 30s feeling like I had a blank scrapbook. Just blank pages. No glitter, no sequins, no fancy pictures. Just an unremarkable man who had an unremarkable decade. And that filled me with dread. It was as if someone was going to hand me a report card on my 30th birthday, showing me how I’d failed to get a good grade in all these aspects of life. Or it’d be worse- they’d show me a report card that just said, “no remarks”. Because I’m an unremarkable man who lived unremarkably through his 20s. And that’s just it, isn’t it- the idea that if you didn’t live out all those fantasies, all those frivolities that they said you should have lived out in your 20s, then the time to do so has run out.
And that’s because certain things have to get done by a certain age- right?
Don’t Believe the Hype
Of course not! My answer to those who clamor for visible results, and to those who think everything should be time-bound, is simple. The first thing is that sometimes you should just do things for their own sake. For the fun of it. You don’t need to turn everything into a test, a competition, or a hustle. You don’t need the imaginary examiner looking at everything that you do. The second is that you have more time than you think you do.
When I was a kid in school, people used to make fun of me for “being in my own world”. The more I grow older, the more clear it is to me that it’s the way to be. It’s kind of like the dude from the big Lebowski, and how he goes about his life. This quote by Gwen Ihnat really captures that character and that philosophy, and I’d like to leave you all with this. She says,
“We envy The Dude for knowing himself, for escaping the need to conform, and for rejecting mainstream society for the little one that grows around him.”
I’ve been wanting to make videos about UX-related topics for a while. I was inspired to talk about learning via observing other interviewers, because I’ve been studying other interviewers for a while, I’ve been told that it isn’t useful, and I don’t agree. It all came together in my head as I was reading Steve Portigal’s famous book, “Interviewing Users: How to uncover compelling insights”.
Here are the key points I make in this video:
Interviewing is a skill: the best way to hone this skill is through practice, learning via experience. However, I have a question: Is there any value in learning by observing other people conduct interviews?
I asked this to a highly experienced UX-er, and the answer I got was “No, because there are certain intangible qualities certain people have, that you cannot replicate within yourself. You could copy what they do, but that’s just unnatural and forced.”
I don’t agree with this, because I am not trying to copy someone’s style. I am observing to see if there are certain things I can learn from interviewers that I can imbibe within myself, like a “formula” of sorts. The goal of observing other interviewers is to augment the key thing which is practice and improvement via direct, actionable feedback.
That being said, I don’t just observe other UX-ers. I observe interviewers in various industries. For example:
Therapist “Dr. K” From HealthyGamerGG. He has a knack for establishing a rapport with the interviewee, he knows how to steer and control conversations, and I learned a couple of neat tricks from him, such as pausing to think for a minute, and slowly sipping a glass of water during the silence portions of the conversation, to get the other person to speak.
All Gas No Brakes. What I learned from the interviewer here is how you can get people to let their guard down by amping up your “naive-ness”.
Great Radio and Podcast Hosts: What you can learn from them is how to keep track of narrative threads and how to pull at the right ones at the right times.
Lastly, this is personally important to me, because I moved from India to the US. A completely different cultural environment with different social norms. I don’t have any experience with working in customer or client-facing jobs when in high school or college, like a lot of people my age tend to have when they’re born and raised in the US. Observing interviewers helps me understand the different norms (turns of phrase, idioms, common topics for small talk, etc.) that I may not know right off the bat.
Looking at me right now you might have a few questions- Why am I standing? Why do I have my hair tied in a ponytail? Why, am I wearing a suit? One because I can, two because I feel like it, and three, because this year hasn’t given me any reasons to wear a suit. So I made a reason. This is a video about my fascination with suits.
A lot of my fascination for suits stems from my childhood- growing up you get to see all kinds of suit-clad characters on TV, in movies, and in video games. You’ve got your heroes, like James Bond and John Wick in their trademark tuxedos and black suits. You’ve got villains, like the G-Man from Half Life and his blue bureaucratic suit. You’ve also got the cool anti-hero/anti-establishment types like Kiryu from the Yakuza series, and of course, my personal favorite, Tony Montana from the movie Scarface. he wore a lot of great suits in that movie, but the one I remember the most is the iconic white suit, with the red shirt and cuban gold links chain. I always thought that was the coolest thing back when I was a teenager- the getup evoked the whole larger than life nature of the Tony Montana character, and it all worked together perfectly. I still kinda want that suit, but I wonder if I could pull it off. That whole outfit needs a level of swagger and confidence that I haven’t reached yet. I don’t want a bunch of people looking at me and saying, “well, that just doesn’t suit you”.
A side note on the phrase “it doesn’t suit you”. It has so much to do with how other people view you, and when you’re a teenager or adolescent, you’re at the intersection of trying to find who you are, and also trying to find a way to be accepted in some socal circle. That’s the point of life where you try new things, different clothes, different catchphrases and all kinds of different stylistic choices, while constantly being told what suits you and what doesn’t, because of who you are and where you come from. How you react to that- either by changing your choices or sticking with them- often forms the core of your identity through adulthood. But, I digress.
Going back to suits, another reason I think I’m fascinated with them is that I didn’t have a suit of my own until just a few years ago. I didn’t have one as a child- suits are expensive to get made or to buy, and don’t make the most sense to buy for a child who’ll probably grow out of it and need another one every year.Also, traditional Indian festive wear was a lot more practical, more affordable, and would actually be worn a lot more times in a year.
But I did always gravitate towards the idea of wearing a suit as a child. I’d watched as I said before, grown-ups wearing suits in media as well as in-person, you had your traditional suit-and-tie, the rare tuxedo, the Indo-Western hybrid of wearing a suit jacket over a dhoti, there is also this odd curiosity I have always been fascinated with, called the “Safari Suit” or just a “Safari”- which is a half sleeved jacket with four pockets, popular in the 90s and is a rarity these days. I think I’ve only ever seen political figures or older people wear safari suits, and I really want to know where that trend came from and whether it will ever come back.
I had some close shaves with getting to wear a suit back in the day though. I remember being picked to play the role of Abraham Lincoln for a school play once, and one of the things I was looking forward to about the whole thing was getting to wear a suit, or a costume facsimile of one. Unfortunately for me, the only thing the costume rental place had was a weird stagecoach driver costume made of nylon or polyester or something, and it was a few sizes too big. It did come with a top hat though, so with that and a fake beard, I made for a passable Lincoln.
There was also my high school farewell party, where I saw most of my batchmates wearing suits- I’d opted for a more “out there” look that belongs in a cringe compilation. Also, it was the middle of summer in India, and a suit does not go well with that amount of heat and humidity. I have to admit though, my classmates looked cool, even though they were quite uncomfortable.
Not having a suit doesn’t matter in 99% of social situations, like those days in college where you were supposed to wear ties to class and some people decided to take it up a notch by also wearing a suit. I do remember one instance where not having a suit almost got me in an awkward situation. I was new to the US at the time, and I was invited to a family event. It was an official wedding reception and at the time I didn’t know that the dress code was more “suit and tie” and not quite the traditional indian wear that I had packed and what I was used to wearing for similar events in India. I managed to avoid embarrassment because my cousin was gracious enough to let me borrow a suit jacket and we managed to piece together a formal-enough outfit for the occasion. That was the first time I had donned a suit, well into my adulthood, and even though it wasn’t my own, I felt great wearing it.
After that event, I had the proper justifications to own a suit- before then, every time I brought up the idea of getting a suit made, my parents always shot it down saying “When are you ever going to need one anyway?”. But now that I had a story of near-embarrassment, it was enough to push them over the edge, and I finally got a suit made for myself at 24. Now you might ask, “why is this relatively innocuous event worthy of its own video?”.
The main reason was that the reality of owning a suit actually matched the expectations that I had all those years growing up. It is one of those pieces of clothing that brings out that feel good factor just by virtue of how it looks. The design of the suit in general is made to make you look good- with the padded shoulder sections and the tapering down – it mimics the ideal male physique that we all have in our minds, and enhances how the wearer looks if it’s made well. Speaking of made well, the fact that the suit was tailored to my measurements, an experience that I had never gone through before, with choosing the materials, the design, and getting it fitted to my proportions… I had almost always bought mass produced clothes off the shelf and had them altered in some minor ways, that was the only experience of “tailor-made” that I’d had up until that point.
Even thinking about that experience brings a smile to my face. Just everything about the rush of thoughts that go through my mind – wearing a perfectly fitting suit, feeling great about my reflection in the mirror, getting compliments and feeling great about that, and just the joy of finally being able to experience something you always thought about growing up. It’s a confluence of a bunch of wonderful emotions, every single time.
And that’s what lies at the heart of it all, really- everyone always talks about how much they want to go back to their childhood, where they didn’t have any responsibilities and life was easier, that adulthood is just not worth the extra responsibilities it brings. But I like thinking about it from the opposite perspective. That of how adulthood and an increased amount of agency in the world, has allowed me to experience things that I had not experienced before, and how many of those experiences live up to my expectations. A relatively small deal, an article of clothing, but it signifies so much to me on a personal level. An exercise in delayed gratification that had the perfect payoff. All those years of never getting to wear a suit, made the feeling of finally donning one that much sweeter.
If you’ve watched the video till this point, thank you so much for watching. In the comments, let me know about something in your life that fascinates you like my fascination with suits. Like this video if you liked it, share it with people if you think they’d like it, and remember:
Hello and welcome back to Shriviews. A lot of you noticed the issue with my last video, with the audio and video being out of sync- that was definitely not supposed to happen, it wasn’t some artistic flair that I added to make things cinematic.
Now, technical difficulties are a common part of video production, especially for me – I don’t have any fancy equipment and I’m just making these videos as a hobby- I have no formal training in videography. This time though, neither the software nor my computer wanted to cooperate with me. The software was choppy and kept freezing on me despite trying all the tricks the different forums suggested online. Not to mention the fact that my computer- one that I built 4 years ago (even blogged about it on my website shriviews.com), really starts hitting the limits of its capabilities when I try to use it for video editing.
I’ve been using the PC that I built for gaming and for work (things like spreadsheets and whatnot) for these past few years without any issues, and I had never set out to build a video editing workstation in the first place so I am not at all surprised that it struggles with that workload, but I’m not frustrated by the apparent obsolescence of my computer on the horizon- in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It has helped me rediscover a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time- the feeling that’s known to many kids in middle-class families who grew up playing computer games in India. The joy you get from getting something to work on a hopelessly feeble PC.
I say that this is a shared experience with some confidence because I knew a lot of kids in the same boat as me when I was in school- we were all trying to get our hands on the latest games, only to settle for bargain bin titles that were years or even decades old most of the time. Even when we did get our hands on the latest and greatest, there was the question of how we would even get these games to run on the computers we had at home. You see, gaming in general was and still is, a luxurious and expensive hobby to pursue in India– enthusiast-level hardware is super expensive, and what’s considered even consumer-level stuff in the western world can get super pricy.
I remember begging my parents for an Xbox 360 when it released and I saw ads plastered all across the neighborhood mall. I remember going to gaming centered cyber cafes and gawking at the PCs with one gigabyte of RAM flat-screen monitors. The one I had at home was a Pentium 4 System with 256 Megs of RAM, positively ancient in comparison. I remember the horror in my mother’s eyes when she took me to one of those and saw a couple of zombified looking guys staring intently at their computer screens playing Counter-Strike 1.6 in a seedy, dimly lit room with the occasional expletive being hurled at no one in particular.
But even if the hardware and the games were more affordable, I have a feeling that most kids would still be bereft of videogame induced joy, because even if you can afford video games, your parents still have to let you play them in the first place. I don’t know about parents these days, but my parents definitely thought video games were unproductive, a waste of time, and in the case of my mom, tantamount to gambling (I think she made that connection from the aforementioned seedy gaming den).
Despite all these obstacles and limitations, we still found ways to find games and make them work on our computers, whether it be by cranking the settings down to their lowest levels or even sometimes messing around in config files. The end result was usually a blurry, pixelated mess with missing textures and all sorts of weird glitches. I vividly remember going through all those things to get GTA 4 to run at 24 frames per second. I even played through the game with that experience- twice! In the end, the experience of playing the game wasn’t limited to the game itself, but the experience of buying the game, getting it to install, trying to get it to work, trying to get it to run at a framerate that wasn’t a complete slideshow, talking about games with your friends and nerding out about them, really wringing out every last drop of enjoyment out of each and every game that we had. I might even argue that the fact that videogames were so looked down upon added to the enjoyment- we fancied ourselves to be rebels engaging in some underground activity, in an age where gaming was starting to grow out of being an underground subculture, a time where it didn’t have the widespread mainstream appeal it has now.
These days, gaming is pretty commonplace- the smartphone has taken over as the device of choice for a lot of people. In my case, I was able to build my own PC after years of dreaming about it. Seriously though, I was lucky to have a computer parts store where I lived, where I got to see shelves full of parts and components and just pick stuff out- something couldn’t even fathom as a kid. In a way though, building a gaming PC and getting all my games as digital downloads took away the challenge of getting a game to work and the weird sense of joy and accomplishment that came with it. This is why, when I started encountering the choppy and unresponsive software, and I could hear my computer’s cries for help as it struggled to render 1080p video, I was transported back through all of these memories- memories of a uniquely Indian PC Experience.
That’s the end of this video- let me know what you thought about my PC Gaming memories, chime in with your experiences in the comments. Thanks for watching, and remember-
There is no I in “team”- but there is an I, in “profit”.
I haven’t been uploading any new videos of late because I haven’t been in the mental state to create things. My creativity was blocked because there were a lot of things on my mind, a lot of suspended particulate matter that makes everything hazy and unclear. I just needed something to go my way, anything at all.
That breakthrough came in the form of me finally getting my driver’s license for the state of Tennessee after 5 months of moving to the state. After 5 months of being stuck in red tape and having no choice but to wait, I can finally officially say that I’m a resident of this new state that I reside in. I talked about how car ownership and how the ability to drive is at the core of the American experience in a blog post I wrote a while ago. I can finally say that I’ve settled into my new place of residence, even though I have been living here for over 5 months now. I can finally say that the new chapter of my life has begun in earnest.
This saga got me thinking about the long and short of settling into a new place, a new chapter of life. It took 2 days to set up my living space. But it took over 5 months to get my Driver’s License- the key proof of residence, the key to mobility in this car-first ecosystem where pedestrians are an afterthought, and foreign passports are somehow unacceptable as proofs of identity nearly everywhere.
In the interim, my mind was full of thoughts about all the plans, wishes, and fantasies that have gone unfulfilled so far. You see, ever since I moved to the US in my early 20s, I heard the usual off-hand comments that implied I was on borrowed time, and that there was an eventuality waiting for me as I grew older. There were these unwritten deadlines written by society, by ancestors decades or centuries ago. These forces pulling me in some direction because it’s “what’s best for me”.
Living in the USA as a financially independent 20-something, I have the most agency I have ever had in my life, and yet, I am powerless in many aspects. I mean, think about it- I am living in the US on a work visa right now, and I have a long way to go when it comes to really settling here, owing to a bunch of factors beyond my control.
The lyrics to Riders on the Storm come to mind:
“Into this house we’re born, into this world we’re thrown”.
That concept of being thrown into this world, born into conditions beyond our control. These conditions affect how we live and experience the rest of our lives.
I couldn’t control where I was born, and how I was raised. When I moved to the US, I looked at it as an opportunity to start afresh, to make mistakes and learn from them on my own accord, without judgemental eyes stalking my every move. Moving halfway across the world brought its own challenges with it though- having to deal with red-tape all by myself was one of them.
As I saw myself being trapped in this red tape, I began to see all the other ways in which I hadn’t really escaped the circumstances in which I was born and raised. I began seeing those deadlines again. I began seeing those existential dead ends that society has ordained to be the ideal conditions, the happily ever afters that you aren’t supposed to question. You know what I mean- having a wife and kids, living in a house encircled by a fence and a back yard, having cordial relations with neighbors and some kind of social group that you’re a part of only to satiate your social needs and sense of community, a group that runs purely on quid pro quo but tries to convince itself that it’s formed on some deep connection.
Is that really all there is to life? Wife, Kids, Social Groups? Well, yes, that really is all there is. There comes a time where you come to terms with the inherent absurdity of the universe, and everyone’s silence on the matter. It is at that point where you either take refuge in the belief system of your choice, or you accept a nihilistic approach. Or, you decide to rebel against all of it- against both the absurdity of the universe and the world’s silence on the matter. To decide to live the way you want to live, and to give in to neither ends of this problem, just because you can.
That’s the sense of agency that I want to exercise through the videos that I make. To exercise the right to talk about whatever I want to talk about, instead of simply talking about things that people want to hear, or the algorithm wants to push, or anything else will make this video go viral- whatever that may be.
In the end, with my driver’s license finally approved, I want to revel in this sense of closure. Of finally feeling like I’ve embarked on a new chapter in my life. Maybe I’m still hurtling towards some eventuality, or maybe it’s all unknowable and absurd, but I feel like I bought myself some time, and regained a sense of agency and control in my surroundings.
I had these thoughts circling in my head for a while now and I needed to talk about them before I went about with the regularly scheduled programming. Life is weird in general these days, and my ruins with bureaucracy and subsequent intrusive thoughts only serve as a microcosm of life: the fact that this small thing was resolved but so many questions still remain is in and of itself what life is all about. About how you decide to live it, given the things you can’t change. About the journey, and not the destination.
Thanks for watching. Like this video if you liked it, share it with someone if you think they’d like it and remember:
“The difference between marketing and propaganda is ______”
Video Script with some additions and sans some ad libbed parts:
Ever since I started making videos there’s one thing that has always bothered me. I’ve talked about this before, and that’s this graph of user retention. It shows that people tend to watch my videos till about 2-3 minutes in and there’s a steep decline in the number of people who watch my videos till the end.
I’ve been listening to the feedback that people have for me and I’ve been making changes in every video that I make, but there’s still that statistic, that low engagement with the video that sticks with me as something I need to improve on.
With that in mind, I began looking at the usual tips and tutorials online on how to be a more effective communicator, but that felt like I was just scratching the surface. So, I decided to read up about media theory. The first thing that came up was the well-known work of Marshall McLuhan who famously said “The medium is the message”.
What he meant was that the medium of communication shapes how the message is perceived, which in turn also shapes behaviors and has an effect on society as a whole. He divided history into four epochs: Oral, where information was communicated solely through the spoken word, then there was the literary epoch, with the invention of writing and the creation of manuscripts. The third was the print epoch which came to be after the invention of the printing press and movable type, and the fourth is the electronic epoch, which is today’s society.
As mankind moved through these epochs, the invention of new communication mediums changed how we thought and remembered things, and also changed how societies were structured.
I want to talk about an aspect of McLuhan’s theory, the concept of Hot versus Cool media. Contrary to what you’d expect, he described hot media as the one you passively accept, and cool media as the one you actively participate in. To explain further, hot media engages one sense in a high definition way and has a low level of audience participation. Radio or printed books are examples of this. Radio engages the auditory sense while books engage the visual. Cool media, on the other hand, involves the use of multiple senses at once and involves “filling in the gaps” with your own thinking and cognition. An example of cool media would be watching TV, where you have to absorb the visual as well as the auditory information at the same time, while also forming thoughts and opinions on what’s being talked about.
I looked at the two things I usually create- blog posts and videos- and tried looking at them through this lens of hot or cool media. I realized soon that this binary classification wasn’t quite enough to fully understand how people engage with these things. You could oversimplify and say that blogs are mainly text-based and more “hot” media and videos are more “cool” because of the audiovisual information. Here’s the thing though- blogs are not plain text like printed books, they are purely digital and you can add pictures and other forms of media into them. You can also allow people to comment and share them. Also, I make videos, but the platform I use for them is youtube, which has its own design features and caveats. When you think of a youtube video or a YouTuber, you think of a particular archetype of person, a particular style of delivery, and a particular set of calls to action (like share and subscribe!). Not to mention all sorts of other “tropes” that have emerged- making things appear organic and less “high production”, building a sense of community, and the often mentioned parasocial relationships… the list goes on. Link in the description for a playlist of the videos I watched, as well as some articles I read.
I remember when I started making youtube videos a lot of people told me I was softspoken- they sounded surprised about it like it was different from what they expected. It was as if there’s some unwritten rule about how you present yourself that says you have to be loud and boisterous and “always turned up to 11”. As if there are unwritten rules of how to engage with the audience on this platform. Again- youtube isn’t just a video viewing platform, it’s a video delivery platform: there’s an algorithm to suggest videos to you, a comments section, a whole bunch of communities and followings- it’s an ecosystem unto itself.
Another way the Hot/Cool dichotomy breaks down is to think about it from the perspective of a viewer. I watched a video where there’s a discussion of how what’s hot for one person may be cool for another person- just because of how they interact with or consume the media. For example, I may listen to a podcast attentively, or I may just have it on as some background ambient sound while I do something else. Also, people may “heat up” or “cool down” based on the media type, the platform they are on, and a whole bunch of other factors.
So when it comes to the original question of engagement, it looks like I’m back to square one. Not quite- I did learn a lot about media theory and this exploration got me thinking a lot about how people engage with media. The most important lesson was the true meaning behind the words “the medium is the message”.
This does raise a few questions though- should I start using these tropes? Should I start having a high energy boisterous presentation with the goal of forming a parasocial relationship with my currently unnamed “fanbase”? Or should I continue doing what I’m doing and hope that youtube’s algorithm decides to bless me one day? For now, it’s the latter. But I am open to suggestions and feedback, and who knows, maybe I’ll stumble upon something that both engages the audience and gives me creative fulfillment.
This is the end of the video, so I’d like to thank you all for watching, I’m very close to 100 subscribers which is a milestone (for me at least) and I’m very grateful for all the support. Be sure to like this video, subscribe and hit the bell icon if you want more of this content, let me know what you think about this video in the comments, and remember:
“Anyone who claims to know all the answers has lied to you once already.”
Today I want to talk about giving and receiving feedback. When I first set out to make this video I wanted to talk about a couple of life experiences and what they taught me about giving and receiving feedback, but I soon realized that the subject of feedback has a lot of nuances that I couldn’t do justice from my own experiences alone. So I decided to get some, well, FEEDBACK from a few people, and I got a lot of different perspectives from them.
First off I realized I have to define the scope of what I’m about to say. I want to talk about giving and receiving feedback on someone’s creative expression. I’m not talking about getting feedback in a work environment. I’ll tell a story about it- I wrote a blog post about something I learned in grad school called self-determination theory and sent the first draft of it to the professor who taught it to me. I was expecting some criticism of what I’d written, but in the email, he sent me he started off with the sentence “Your writing needs work”. He then proceeded to completely eviscerate my writing. I mean I hadn’t seen that many red lines since I was in elementary school. He did, however, say that he really appreciated the amount of thought I’d put into the piece.
I’d like to pause the story here to talk about some lessons that I took from that experience. The first lesson, keep in mind the relationship between the feedback giver and the receiver. In this case, It was between my college professor (giver) and his former student (receiver). Second, context is key – he was giving me feedback from an academic perspective, thinking from the mindset of writing a paper or academic piece, while I was writing from a personal perspective. With that in mind, we discussed it over a few emails and hashed it out.
But I remember being very shaken by that experience. For the next several months I felt terrible about it. I’d created a sense of self-worth around being a writer and that was my self-identification, and it was all shattered by four words – your writing needs work. I introspected and realized that maybe I really wasn’t looking for feedback; maybe, I was looking for validation. That’s what really happens these days- you post something online, you wait for the validation from social media- you have the words “feedback welcome” in your post but you really just want people to encourage you, and when someone does the opposite, you entrench yourself further into your own mindset and try to find things that support it (Confirmation Bias). The important thing is to understand this impulse and curtail it.
How I got out of that negativity was by trying to improve myself- I began working on my public speaking skills through Toastmasters, and I found a club that gave me feedback but also gave me a whole lot of encouragement. It also opened my mind up to different avenues of expressing myself. Maybe if it weren’t for that email my professor sent, I wouldn’t have been here making videos!
Speaking of videos, I also realized that it’s important to have a thick skin when you put yourself out there on the internet and to anticipate and prepare for situations where people are being especially mean or hateful.
I’d like to talk about another story that happened recently, where I had a completely different experience with getting feedback. I made a new banner for my social media and posted it online mentioning that it was my first attempt at creating one. Check out my website, my twitter page, and subscribe to my youtube channel while I’m on this topic. I got some feedback from my peers in the User Experience biz, telling me about things like the contrast ratio, font size, and other things about the visual design that I could tweak to make it a more effective banner.
I felt the impulse of retorting, of defending my design, but I realized I’d been in this place before. I decided to look at their feedback objectively. I thought about the goal of a social media banner; it’s about spreading the word, making sure people get the information on it as quickly as possible. I realized that if peers in the User Experience business are giving me feedback about a design I’ve made, they’re taking time out of their day to look at what I’ve created and suggested ways in which I can achieve the goals of the design in a better way, then that’s a good thing.
So I took their advice, made some tweaks, and thanked them for their feedback. To my surprise, someone told me that it was a pleasant surprise for them, and that people tend to stick to their guns and be very defensive about things, and that it was a breath of fresh air to see someone being receptive.
This whole thing was a complete 180 from the time I felt a shattered sense of self from four words by a professor.
All in all, these were two life experiences and two completely different approaches to receiving feedback. I feel like I grew as a person in the interim of the first experience which was a few years ago, and the second experience which was just a few days back.
Here’s a transcript (sort of) to go with this video, where I explain why I haven’t uploaded any new videos in a little over two months. In a way it also explains why I haven’t posted anything to my blog in a while, but my blog posting frequency has been sporadic at best, so I digress.
Video Transcript (Paraphrased):
Hi! Welcome to Shriviews. It’s been a while since I made a video and I wanted to talk about that before making any other videos. It’s been over two months and a lot has happened since then.
I tried recording this video a week ago and I decided to re-record- it’s like I’d forgotten everything about speaking to a camera. It was a lot of starting over, a lot of pauses, a lot of looking away from the camera… but I just had to get in front of a camera and go through the motions for it to come back to me. It helped shake off the cobwebs. Almost like riding a bicycle.
Anyway, the main reason is that I moved to a new city in a new state for work. It took a little while to set up my new place and get settled in. I even have this new backdrop that I thought would look cool for videos- let me know what you think about it in the comments.
Another important reason is, as I’ve mentioned in previous videos, that with all that’s going in in the world, especially in the past few weeks, it’s difficult to bring yourself to create something. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be quiet, to listen, and to learn.
So that’s what I’ve been doing this past couple of months. I have a few ideas for videos and blog posts that I’m thinking about at the moment. Let me know what you’d like to see me talk about in the comments.
Until next time, take care, stay safe, and remember: for every action, there’s an equal and opposite distraction. Goodbye!
We live in unique and interesting times. One of the effects of the times we live in is the need for working from home. While it looks pretty straightforward on a surface level, there are certain implications on productivity and creativity, that need to be discussed.
I talk about these issues in my latest video. To summarize it briefly:
Since there is no spatial separation between the home and the office (they are both in the same place), there needs to be a temporal separation (you need to separate work and non-work hours)
It’s perfectly fine not to be able to be creative in times like these. The current times are on everyone’s minds, and there’s an innate expectation in a lot of people, that staying at home will usher in a creative renaissance, an expectation that isn’t coming to fruition, which leads to frustration
The key is to know to give yourself time. Staying at home gives you the illusion of having more time for yourself and your pwn personal endeavors than you really have. So go easy on yourself, and cut yourself some slack
If you liked this video, make sure to hit like, and subscribe to my channel.