Blaming the tools, Chrissi?


So pleased I organised that mock interview and we experienced problems. Learning from mistakes and when things go wrong? Yes. But I was also lucky that the individual who volunteered to participate in this mock interview was patient, had put time aside for this (at least it felt like this) and also knew me. Things will  be very different with the real interviews and I need to make sure that the process is efficient and the experience positive. I don’t want to upset anybody or make them feel uncomfortable to fully participate and share their reflections.

The plan was to use Adobe Connect and a link to the room had been shared in advance. We both had used this tool before and were both familiar with it. However, we both experienced problems with the audio and after trying to resolve these for 30 minutes we decided to connect via Skype. Actually even before the 30 minutes past we connected via Skype and could hear each other clearly.

While we were experiencing the problems with Adobe, I was thinking of my future interviewees who might not be familiar with this tool, might be less patient and don’t know me… How would they react? I think there was a potential to turn these interviews into nightmares, upset people and not get the data needed. I definitely don’t want that! How can I avoid this?

The sound quality was so much better on Skype. Also most people will be familiar with this tool. An added bonus!!! It is easy to use as well even if not used before so I wanted to give it a go. A few years ago I had used Skype for Phenomenographical interviews when I was collecting data for my MSc dissertation. It did work well and I managed to record the audio then. Yesterday I couldn’t make the audio recorder work I had installed on my laptop and used then. This was so frustrating, extremely frustrating but I have to admit that I did not think that we had to switch tools for this and didn’t test it in advance. I had some problems with my Laptop not so long again and it had to go to the doctor… perhaps some bits from the installation were removed then? I have no idea. I am sure this is all my fault. I should have a plan  B!!! After loosing a few minutes on trying to make the recorder work, I gave up. Yes, I did.

I still wanted to capture as much as I could from the interview and thought of keeping notes in Google doc. I shared an empty doc with my test interviewee but I would be the one writing in there. The interviewee was happy with it so we went ahead with this approach. What had seen each other briefly in Adobe Connect before we abandoned it. In Skype we just used the audio connection, perhaps because we were didn’t want to reduce the sound quality? I don’t know, it just happened. Then I was going to write in Google doc. Thinking now, if it would be better to also have the video connection. After the mock interview I went to Twitter and ask for help to identify an audio recorder. Among the responses was a link to a very insightful blog post about the use of Skype for research interviews and I am including it here and need to read very carefully. It was really nice that I got responses from the wider community. Thank you so much everybody.

Ok, we finally were ready to make a start with the interview. I explained at the start that the data will NOT be shared with anybody and NOT be used for the PhD research project and that the purpose of this mock interview was purely to test the questions, the process and get some feedback so that I can fine tune in readiness for my first interview on Friday.

The atmosphere was warm, I could sense, even without seeing the interviewee, that the person wasn’t upset about the delay (but I was concerned!!!), in contrary they were very understanding and patient. Perhaps because they knew me? The interview part went very smoothly. I got really rich responses and didn’t have to do too much talking. This was very important for me as this is designed to be a semi-structured interview. I skipped a few questions as the answers were already included in responses to other questions and there was a natural flow, which I liked. I was pleased that I actually managed really well to type at the same time. I thought if I will be able to do this during the interview. If I decide to type during the interview it would help me when transcribing the interviews from the audio files. Would this reduce the time needed to transcribe? I think it will. Don’t think this will be distractive to the interviewee, especially if the keyboard is soft and it doesn’t create un-natural breaks. But I am not sure if I would focus more on what I was writing that was I was listening and the most important thing during the interview is active listening. So not sure and I need to decide soon. It is important to me that the interview is more like a dialogue or conversation. Wouldn’t be good to say, one moment, just need to complete this sentence..

At the end of the interview I asked the interviewee about the experience. I got the reply ‘perfect’. Well, it definitely wasn’t perfect as we experienced tech problems at the start but I think what was meant that the part of the interview went well. I was very pleased about this. Comments were made about some of the questions. It was felt that some of them were perhaps too open? I have to say that I was pleased about this as this was the main reason they were formulated like this. To enable the interviewee to open up and reflect deeper on specific aspects of the experience. In some cases, I did ask further questions where I felt, I need more specific information about something the interviewee mentioned and that worked really well. So overall, the questions and the process seem to have worked, at least in this case. I realised that I won’t need to ask all the questions but do need to listen carefully so that I don’t ask questions that have been answered already.

I now need to find a/the audio recorder for Skype. Decided not to go back to Adobe Connect, won’t use it as a tool to capture the interviews. It just seems to be too complex and so many things can go wrong. Let’s just use a tool people are familiar with and that seems to be more reliable, if I dare to say. I asked for help on Twitter to find an audio recorder and will start exploring some of the options. I must also check again if I can get the one that I have will work! Perhaps I was too stressed and was running out of time the other day when I trying to make it work, so I might not have pushed the right button??? Happened to me before… so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case this time also. Will add the audio recorder I am going to use, when I am sure that it works properly.

Any advice on the above thoughts would be very welcome. My first proper interview is this Friday!

ps. Am I blaming the tools? Or are some tools just better for certain things and a bit more bendy???


One thought on “Blaming the tools, Chrissi?

  1. Chrissi, how frustrating it is when technology doesn’t work for you!!

    However, I think it’s a shame you have decided to use skype after Adobe connect hasn’t worked out for you.

    The reason I say this is because we have found Adobe connect to be an excellent service & we use it for a range of activities, including PHD interviews, job interviews, personal tutoring meetings, staff meetings, online conferences & project meetings.

    With regards to the PHD interviews we have found that the integration of features allows for a “one stop shop” experience where we can record audio, video, chat and all the other interactions such as screen sharing, document sharing & poll data. Also doesn’t require the participant to have an account with the service (unlike Skype).

    I would be more than happy to take a look at your hardware setups and/or network infrastructure to see if we can get Adobe connect to work for you. Our research staff have found significant time saving benefits using Adobe connect rather than using lots of seperate services. Also for PHD discussions with your supervisor you can easily share recordings.

    Let me know if I can help in any way………..don’t give up yet as I really think longer term it will save you lots of time!

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