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Multimedia:Ethnographic interviews

From Wikimedia Usability Initiative

Ethnographic interviews are part of the Preliminary user research. They consist of field observations and interviews.

Things we want to know

  • What are the users' goals?
  • What is the mental model of the users? How do they think the product works?
  • What do they like about the product?
  • What are their typical tasks and activities to achieve these goals? (=> scenarios / use cases)
  • Do they edit a lot? Upload a lot?
  • What is the context of use? (work, home? Place in a workflow? Environmental constraints (free license))
  • What knowledge is required to achieve these goals? (not to actually use the product; e.g. free works)
  • How easy / difficult is it for a newcomer to participate?
  • What are the major hinderances to contributing media content to Wikimedia?
  • What are the users' major frustrations with the current upload process?

Context & sequence

Contextual inquiries will be performed in the user's usual environment (field observation), in order to cause little disruption and to observe the user as they usually interact with Commons and the upload process. Each interview should not take more than 1 to 2 hours. If human and time resources are not sufficient to collect enough data, phone interviews will be conducted, preferably coupled to a webcam.

  • Discuss with the user to identify their goal(s).
  • Ask the user to show us the complete workflow from the creation to the completed upload (or the inclusion of the work to a Wikimedia wiki page if it's their goal).
  • Let them show us as if they were teaching us how to do what they do.
  • Ask them to show us precise tasks they perform regularly.
  • Ask them to show us tasks they perform less often, observe the changes

Persona hypothesis

The goal of the persona hypothesis is to identify key patterns and to make sure ethnographic interviews cover all these patterns. It is mostly based on preliminary research and existing knowledge about the users. It will be refined using the results of the initial survey. The interviews will help refine or revise the personas during the modeling phase.

Several considerations can help identify and distinguish patterns:

  • Roles: The extraordinary diversity of Wikimedians, and the absence of hierarchy or technical specialization make it difficult to identify clear roles, as opposed to those that would emerge in a business environment.
  • Behavioral variables: both for passive users (goal when using, way of navigating) and active participants ( frequency of upload, amount of uploads, type of media files uploaded, goal when uploading).
  • Expertise: technical expertise (computer literacy, Internet literacy, web 2.0, wikis) and domain expertise (free licenses, local policies of wikis: description/categories, Non-free content, etc.).
  • Environment: location, culture, language.

We can then propose a first set of hypothesized personas:

  • Agatha is an illustrator. She likes to contribute vector diagrams and maps on various subjects to Commons.
  • Audrey is an active English Wikipedian who works as a botanist. She writes many articles and occasionally adds pictures to Commons to illustrate her articles.
  • Albert is an active Wikipedian who works in IT. He mostly edits sci-fi articles on Wikipedia and uploads fair-use pictures from copyrighted movies and TV series. He almost never uses Commons.
  • Charles is an active editor at Wikisource. He scans old documents, uses OCR and proofreads them to provide plain text versions. He uses Commons as a storage place for his scans.
  • Edmond is a photographer who loves the idea of Commons, and wants to share his works with the rest of the world. He promotes Commons to his relatives and participates in digging up the best of Commons to make it more visible.
  • Julie is project manager for a middle-sized German museum. Her task is to upload 50.000 pictures of works of art to Commons to increase the visibility of her employer.
  • Hercule is a retired history teacher with a passion for the French revolution. He only speaks French and wants to illustrate Wikipedia articles with old documents found in archives and libraries.
  • Maurice is an OTRS volunteer. He knows a lot about free-works-related intellectual property laws and Commons policies. He often reviews permissions and deletes copyright violations.
  • Niles is a photographer and Commons enthusiast. He likes to take pictures of town halls, landscapes and buildings, and uploads them to Commons to illustrate the appropriate pages on Wikipedia.
  • Billie is a professional photographer. She contributes middle-resolution, high-quality pictures to Commons to increase her visibility as a photographer.
  • Nina is a Spanish middle-aged accountant. She can read some basic English and works on a computer. She knows Wikipedia but has never edited. However, she likes the idea of Commons and would like to participate.
  • Marilyn is an amateur photographer who uses other media sharing websites such as flickr. She doesn't use Commons yet but could be interested in sharing her works on Commons too.


A call for volunteers was sent on November 18 & 19 on the village pump of the French Wikipedia, guillom's personal blog and social networking / microblogging platforms (identi.ca, twitter, facebook). Wikimedia France offered to relay the call on their blog, as part of their article about the Meeting in Paris.

Interviews are planned for weeks 47 & 48 in Toulouse and Paris.