KS&R Blogs


I am not sure that I like "ask me anything" websites. I am not sure that I dislike them, either.

I have seen these websites accomplish wonderful things - like helping a cancer patient replace his laptop, stolen from his home while he was in the hospital. I have also seen them mercilessly make fun of an overweight teenager posing in her prom dress.

A number of "ask me anything" (AMA) websites have cropped up in the last couple of years. The idea is incredibly simple: you invite people to ask you any question they want; decide which ones you want to answer; and delete the ones you don't. The result is a stream of questions and answers essentially an IDI (In-Depth Interview) where you are both the moderator and respondent.

One of the most interesting AMA websites is www.reddit.com, where community members vote the submission "up" or "down", which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the website's pages. Redditors can also "friend" one another which provides quick access to posting and comments of their friend list.

Many celebrities have taken to Reddit's AMA live chat , including Jimmy Kimmel, Zach Braff, and Stephen Colbert. When President Obama ("Hi, I'm Barack Obama, President of the United States") took questions from the Reddit community on August 29 of this year, the website crashed due to high traffic.

I recently decided to jump on the Reddit bandwagon ("I am a market researcher, ask me anything!"). And while Reddit has one of the toughest crowds on the net, I got some great questions. Here's a few:

Do you have any tips for conducting market research with kids?

Keep in mind that children are quite literal; don't expect them to evaluate concepts or ad copy -- they do much better with prototypes and models. And since children can't think abstractly, don't ask them about their behavior. Instead, focus on drawing out their memories and discuss them.

True or false you can't successfully use projective techniques with physicians.

False! Yes, doctors are trained to make logical, rational decisions based on data and reality, but they welcome the opportunity to use their "right brain" and be creative. I've seen doctors who were at first resistant to the idea of "wear another hat" get very animated and involved with drawing ads, thought balloons ("two views"), and mindmaps. Keep in mind that just like with consumers and other B2B respondents, it's important to be prepared with a number of techniques so in case one doesn't work, you can try another one.

Can you recommend an ice breaker for extended sessions, like workshops of a day or more?

Find the matching puzzle piece: Purchase a jigsaw puzzle or create one of your own (it's a plus if the puzzle is somehow related to your topic). Mail out pieces to participants in advance of the session, or put them in a bowl in the meeting room. Ask participants to take a piece at random and then try to put the puzzle together. This activity is a lot of fun and promotes a great deal of interaction.

Is there a creative exercise to help respondents communicate complex feelings?

Draw a symbol, then and now. I was impressed with this powerful technique in a project we did with owners of dogs with Lyme Disease. We asked them to draw a symbol illustrating their feelings when their dog was initially diagnosed, and a second symbol capturing the "now" that they are managing the Lyme Disease. The "thens" included a tiny figure lost in a forest, a jail cell, and other grim images. The "nows" featured sunshine, flowers, and a waterfall. The exercise provided rich insights into how respondents were managing their dog's Lyme Disease, as well as the drivers and barriers to trying a new product.

Have you taken any memorable photos while traveling on business?