I got an email last week asking if I would participate in a focus group about the transportation website for the U of Wisconsin. Although I’m trained in qualitative research, in fact I’d never actually been a participant in a focus group, so I decided to sign up even though I had other things I probably should have been doing. There was a bit of homework — we had to actually look at the site in advance so I came up with some things to look up and spent some time using the website. Then they asked would I bring a laptop if I had one, so that I could see the site during the discussion. So I did all this, brought my laptop into work, went to another building up to the 14th floor with a lovely view of the frozen lake, and spent 2 whole hours with a group of 7 participants and 2 facilitators, doing a focus group about improving a transportation web site. We looked at other school’s transportation website and talked about how we used it. There were a couple people who were major complainers. I had the feeling that they would be able to find something negative to say about virtually anything. They were examples of the chronically dissatisfied. But most of the participants were fairly cheerful.
I went back to my office, and the next day…. I actually filled out an evaluation form online about the focus group experience. I took time fill in open text boxes with commentary, and answer structured questions. The day’s gonna come when I just stop participating in research; stop answering surveys; stop evaluating things I do; in general, stop responding to anything and everything. Some days I think that spending a whole week without having to interact with anyone would be refreshing. Might have to arrange that.