User Testing

I sat in my regular neighborhood bar, in my regular bar stool, on my regular night.  I sipped my regular drink, and listened to an irregular pair of women.  They were talking about boys, the Mets, thongs, times they were arrested, times they should’ve been arrested.  And I sat next to them, laughed to the point of including myself into the conversation.  Once it was established that I was a regular and knew the bartender, I was ok in their book and it was acceptable for me to laugh at them, not just with them.  When it came time for the “so what do you do” round of questions, I was ready.  I wasn’t ready for their response.

Usually when I tell people that I’m finishing a degree in a program that I made up there’s a bit of confusion and speculation, and I’ve figured out ways to distill it over the years.  Usually when I say I’m working on a text message based platform designed to connect local government and communities, I have to give examples.  This was the first time I was able to not need to do any of that, and just show them.  I said, here, text this number.  What do I text it?  Whatever you want.  They both texted “hi”.  Then they got their responses.  One went “wow!” the other went “love gov!  Do you see!  It says love gov!”  The one put her phone away and continued to focus on her drink.  The other read the prompt.

“Tell me your idea.  But what if I don’t have any ideas?” It can be any idea you have, I said.  But I don’t know anything, she said.  Sure you do, what’s important to you?  She paused and then said, “can I say I don’t like charter schools?”  She had no idea that charter schools is and has been the exact example that I used to say when talking about this.  She had no idea that I was given the advice by many people to use this as a platform specifically for education, or that schools came up over and over again in conversations I had about the prioritization of issues.  “If that’s what’s important to you,” I told her.

We talked a little more about the project, about the scope, about the idea, then went back to the Mets, thongs, boys, times I was in the back of a cop car.  The next morning when I checked the database, I saw a text: “please don’t open any more charter schools let’s support our public schools!”

So far so good on the testing front.

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