During the month of February, our fellows literally hit the streets interviewing block watch captains, neighborhood leaders, mayors, IT staff, stakeholders, city department heads, community organization leaders and developers. Over 28 days, 20 fellows interviewed 440 people in 279 interview sessions, which equated to about 10 a day.
Why interview? Why not just code? Part of the Code for America ‘playbook’ is engaging city staff and citizens in a process of communication, buyin and collective idea generation about the problems our cities face. We want to engage developers and a wide swath city staff and citizens early on in the process to recruit for alpha testing, advice and open source contributions. If we just start coding, we risk missing out on interesting trends, important problems, domain expertise and user-generated existing strategies for dealing with complex issues.
To prepare for February, each team created a set of questions, using guides and advice from Cooper staff (http://www.cooper.com). They then identified and interviewed key groups in their cities, taking notes along the way to share with their team and city contacts. We created a shared resource rails app (open sourced) called Secret Sauce to tag, search and collectively theme our notes. Finally, Cooper staff revisited to help us hone in on key themes to generate user personas. This week, we’re zeroing in on key user personas to keep users front and center during our product ideation and development cycles.
Over the next few months, we’ll continue to perform tons of analysis on this information, seeing how best we can help our city partners, and we’ve started by running some ngram analysis on the text to develop themes and tags.
As we continue in this process, we’re looking forward to sharing not only our findings but our approach and tools along the way, so stay tuned!