21 March 2009

Getting on the bus

Meet with Chad at 9am to talk about the interview protocol for the study he, Rebecca, and Aidai are conducting. Discussion of sampling methods, recruitment, etc. 

Team meets with local researchers at 10, and now approved for interviews with Russian documents, we set out to talk to some bus riders around town. We meet with the local team, and establish a sampling methodology. We choose three neighborhoods, one largely in the center, one on the southern edge of the city, and one on the northern edge near a major bazaar called Dordoi. We mark the spots on Erica's map, then discuss timing for the interviews. We decide on morning commute time, midday, and evening commute time.  

Then a conversation about recruitment for our different usability tests and how to schedule them. 

A couple hours later, Mirgul and Indira head to the university. Aidai heads home to take care of some errands. The rest of us head to lunch. 

After lunch, Odina, Ruth and I meet up with Indira to begin interviewing bus riders. We stop into an Internet cafe to print off the consent and information forms. It's a cafe that's part of the local chain, Shmel (honeybee). There is, curiously enough, a little gambling casino which seems to be part of the business, primarily slot machines, but a gaming table or two as well.  On the way to meet Indira, we get lost. Call Indira. She says, I am at a bus stop on Moscovska and Bolkambaeva. We look around, also at a bus stop on Moscovska and Bolkambaeva. We ask yet another person whether we are at Bolkambaeva, and indeed we are. We start describing to each other what we see around us. Eventually we realize we are standing on Pravda, not Moscovska. So we trek a couple large Soviet blocks further west, and eventually we find her at an even larger bus stop. Definitely a good choice for our interviews.  

Rebecca and Chad head off to meet with Aidai and start their interview study. First stop: Internet cafe. 

Meanwhile, Erica and Waylon have headed back to the hotel so they can look at pictures on the Internet of capacitors. Mirgul has texted me with the name of a store that carries electronic components, and Waylon is at the point where the problem with the starboxes has been narrowed down to two: either a power draw associated with differential transmitter protocols for different carriers (so he's going to try a sim card from a third GSM carrier) or it's ultimately a problem with power on the box which will mean some soldering and changing the capacitance of the boxes. So Erica is off to reconnoiter to see if the store has what Waylon will need if the last possible other explanation fails to fix things. I've already forgotten the word for capacitor in Russian.

While she's out, Erica also picks up some stickers for our computer keyboards to overlay the letters with the cyrillic alphabet to (a) make life for our translators easier, and (b) make the keyboards accessible for our usability participants. She also gets a recharge card for our phones since we're using a brand new carrier and all the kiosks we've tried outside of major stores don't yet carry recharge cards for that company. 

Cynthia spends the afternoon at the hotel working on her prototype, Anthony works on language stuff on the server and updating the server version so it's current, and Waylon continues to troubleshoot with the boxes.

After three interviews with bus riders, Indira, Odina, Ruth and I head back to the hotel to type up notes and see how the interviews went, and talk about whether we are getting the richness of data we need. On the way back, we take a bunch of pictures, and someone sees a little shop (essentially housed in a temporary shelter-turned store) called Babushkas Incorporated. Someone snaps a picture, and we are amused by the sign. Let's go in! It's a small room, filled with crocheted, knitted, and felted items -- lots of booties and slippers, socks and hats. We ask the woman at the counter about the shop. She explains that it's a cooperative of about 300 retired older women -- babushkas -- who knit and crochet and set up this shop together to supplement their pensions. I've got lots of Russian blood in me, and I really kind of already look like a babushka, so how can I help but be delighted and proceed to drop a bunch of cash on behalf of the babushkas. 

Back to the hotel. Odina and Indira write up interview notes. Erica comes back around the same time. More meetings. Then we review the notes. We talk about effectiveness of the prompts. Three changes suggested. Chad, Rebecca and Aidai are still in the field. 

I have a 6pm meeting scheduled at Beta stores cafe with brand manager for one of the newer mobile companies and a friend of his who works for what essentially seems to be a consulting/vc firm. Cynthia and Ruth are both going to come to talk about the applications we're testing. Ruth gets detailed info from Waylon about the technical problems to see if we can get any relevant information from these folks that might help with the troubleshooting. Erica is going to meet with Mirgul at 7 to do some rider interviews. Odina and Indira are going to do more interviews as well. But at the last minute we swap locations and Odina and Indira head to the neighborhood south of the center. Erica suggests that Mirgul has had a long day, and perhaps we should just do the rider interviews tomorrow. 

So three of us head to Beta, two more off doing interviews, the rest at hotel working on various tasks. Cynthia, Ruth and I have a fantastic conversation with Bolot and his friend. We talk for well over an hour and a half and only finally say goodbye when repeated phone calls from the rest of the group pull us away. They are both really interested in starbus and its possibilities, and we have a terrific chat about limitations of the current tech, possible models for sustainability, and other mobile applications that might find a good home in Kyrgyzstan. 

Dinner happens around 7.30ish, at Chaihona Jalalabad, traditional food, and a restaurant where, during the summer, you can sit up on traditional platforms covered with pillows. Those are outside, though, and it's a little cold for that right now. Rebecca is a bit tired since she just arrived, so she and Chad have dinner closer to the hotel at Steinbrau, and the rest of us have some soup, different salads, very tasty shashlik, and too much nan. Green tea. Back to the hotel. There is a party in the central meeting room where we have been hanging out working. Older couples and individuals dancing to a mix of Central Asian and remixed western music. I think I hear an Abba remix as I head up to my room. 

Saturday: an 8.30 breakfast meeting to share schedules for the day. Local researchers showing up 9 and 9.30. 

Cynthia, Ruth and I have a fantastic conversation with Bolot and his friend. We talk for over an hour and half and only finally say goodbye when repeated phone calls from the rest of the group pull us away. They are both really interested in starbus and it's possibilities, and we have a terrific chat about limitations of current tech, possible 

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