Digital Diary

A Digital Sprint Diary for a Silver Service


The following posts have been created between 2013-14 to log the agile process of a digital R&D project from the perspectives of a research lead.

Taken from weekly sprints these blog posts will summarise research development, time creep and the countless other challenges that emerge. The sprints were written to the core digital R&D team every week as an email. As blog posts they have been shortened and encapsulated with the digital R&D community in mind. These short excerpts will open up, explore and summarise what happens when during an R&D project.

The challenges of R&D are heightened due to the speed at which digital R&D takes place. As a researcher of digital R&D these challenges can take the form of the many hats we have to wear. This diary aims to reveal how the project moves on – highlighting the various roles a researcher takes at various times of the project.

Most of the challenges faced tend to be small and incremental which only come to light when understanding how a project changes week-by-week. These are a summary of my weekly sprints.


19th October- Sprint 29 – Events, Publicity, Data Crunching, Interviewing and more…

2014-08-14 09.19.53

This week has been a packed week with more juggling. I’ve been prepping and disseminating invitations for the Inside Out Event. This has meant getting the Panel together, inviting people, writing the schedule of events.

I’ve also had a chance to look at the sample for the interviews which is looking slightly skewed in terms of interviewing more men than women.

I’ve been prepping up a final report that will include the final set of interview schedules but that has also meant commissioning legal contracts for transcriptions, as well as analysing demo testing on site. This has also meant more time away from home, this time staying over again in Warwick.

Nearly all the interviews in Lakes, London and WAC have been completed. The analysis of all the interviews for the app are almost complete but not for the questionnaire data.

This has seen myself and my co-researcher going back over the questionnaire data in some more detail.

Keywords: Accessibility, Questionnaires, Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

10th October- Sprint 28 – Presenting Key Findings and Juggling Schedules

2014-08-15 10.45.39

This time I get to present key findings and app development to the R&D community putting the notes together from Round 1 of app testing.

I’m also juggling more scheduling for the 2nd phase of interviews with those aged over 65.

Keywords: Accessibility, Events, Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

27th September- Sprint 27 – Invitations to Research Interviews

2014-10-02 10.55.58

This week is a busy one with the scheduling of the 2nd phase of interviews with those aged 65+.

I’m scheduling over 3 field sites and also interviewing group leaders so a lot to coordinate over a short period of time and across all three field sites. I’m also having some tech issues with demoing the second version of the app.

Keywords: Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

16th September- Sprint 26 – From Questionnaires back to Interviews 


Round 2 of the interviews with those arts attenders and non-attenders that are over the age of 65. These were scheduled in with some warm and welcoming emails going back and forth.

I’m also back from my travels. Finance payments have been updated. Prize winners for the questionnaire are announced and the questionnaire is officially closed after we get 942 back!

Keywords: Accessibility, Financial, Events, Questionnaires, Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

23rd August – Sprint 25b – Update from Argentina

2014-08-23 15.48.46

I’m juggling presenting a paper on my complex visualisation work at a conference and analysing the eight interviews I conducted before I left. I have finally managed to give the initial analysis to the tech partner to implement which I did on the flight over and a couple of late nights. Not quite the working practice I had in mind but I can’t slow down the tech build whilst I’m away.

Keywords: Events, Life-Work, Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

16th August – Sprint 25 – Tech Meetings & Presenting the Questionnaire Data

2014-08-14 09.00.43

The focus has shifted to the tech team developing a tech specification. My role in our joint meetings has been to make vocal the opinions of the over 65s so as not to lose sight of why  and who we are building a tool for in the first place. I’m also trying to encapsulate what might be the USP of the tool, as we all get caught up in the details of both the research findings and the tech functionality. There were some quick wins in the research reports for our arts partner which could be made to the existing responsive site. These are some of the insights we found along the way that don’t specifically relate to the creating of a new tool but improving the existing website.

I started the interviews with those aged over 65+ and demoing the prototype kick off in London just in time before I leave for a conference in Buenos Aires. The analysis of which is done on the flight over there and in between giving a conference paper. Not quite what I had in mind!

The research reports I’ve been compiling have now been collated into one document. All 4 reports (72 paged document) from the tech meetings have been sent to our funders  on the 14th August. These are for internal consumption at the moment. And finally, three of us present at a Nesta Learning Event to new R&D award holders.

Keywords: Events, Meet-Ups, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

31st July – Sprint 24 – Tech Meetings & Presenting the Questionnaire Data

photo 1

There are 926 questionnaires now back to us and it really boosts the team! It has been hard work and very physically demanding. Lots of travel and logistical things to sort out. Recruitment is still to be boosted by getting Facebook and Twitter groups to widen the net of recruiters. I thought I would be less hands-on at this stage, and able to spend more time looking through the earlier interview research but that’s not going to happen.

The tech meetings are throwing up lots of questions between us including the practicalities of sustaining a tool and who will look after the tool once it is built? I devised a proto-persona with artsdepot’s marketing team to help think through these decisions. This is to help bridge the gap between the personas of the over 65s and the person maintaining the digital tool. This is deeply thinking through the sustainability of our tool.

Together myself and the co-researcher start by creating a sample for the first set of interviews to happen in London. These interviews with those aged 65 and over will help to contextualise the questionnaire data but also test any design tool developed. All paper-based questionnaires at being uploaded by artsdepot. We presented data in the tech team as a snapshot because the data is still very much still in-action.

Keywords: Meet-Ups, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

21st July – Sprint 23 – Agile Really Gets Going


By the 15th July, Brewery Arts Centre gets near to hitting their target of 250 questionnaires. This is a small celebration for us. Warwick Arts Centre is not far off it either. We have a bigger sample in London and there is a bit more recruiting to do.

The first tech meeting took place with me presenting the stakeholder interview research which is more curated content than in-depth analysis. Three more tech meetings are scheduled.

I develop the work-in-progress personas, key solutions to direction of tech suggested and other findings report on a working definition of ageing, and possible solutions via a digital R&D tool that stakeholders suggested.

Keywords: Meet-Ups, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

16th July – Sprint 22 – Hotspots, Accessibility, Handovers and Event Planning


More AgeUK and disability hotspots work is done across the field sites by the recruiters with myself and my co-researcher spending time calling up seeking permissions, making considered adjustments and getting some lovely support from StageText. They help to get better response rates for us by promoting our questionnaire on their website, by their mail-outs and by Tweeting for us.

Phase 3 the interview phase of research hits the sprint updates. I am begrudgingly planning ahead again. There will be 24 interviews with those aged over 65+. This means more scheduling and more logistics to overcome across 3 field sites. I have an added complication of conference seasons starting up for me next month.

Planning with the tech team begins with tech meetings beginning on the 23rd July. The questionnaire data is not ready but we choose to meet to have the interview data to discuss. I had only just finished analysing this enough to create directions in the questionnaire design, not yet ready for dissemination.

At college I started planning with colleagues at LCC for the Cultural Exchange Event at LCC – Inside Out Festival with a press release going out on 16th July and approved by funders. Artsdepot begins planning for their 10th anniversary too. The two links become a major deadline for the project.

Academic conference season approaches and deadlines are adjusted. Also plans are made for the entire project team to take summer holidays as progress turns to the tech team.

Keywords: Events, Questionnaires, Working Agile

19th July – Double Sprint Update 21 – Glitches, Training and First Results

2014-08-14 09.18.46

The week starts with tedious technical glitches. The postcards for the project on a re-print are re-cut which takes time. There are more Freepost glitches turning up.

In the meantime, we have a total of 417 questionnaires being returned online in the first few days. We start door-to-door recruitment training is started for non-low attenders. Hotspots are added to the method of recruiting respondents as stage 1 not stage 2 when realising that the door-to-door method is both rigorous and robust but not garnering as many responses back as anticipated.

Keywords:  Questionnaires

8th July – Double Sprint Update 20 – Summer Leave and Icelandic Virus


I take a chance to steal a moment and go on holiday as the questionnaire can tick over with the recruiters doing their bit! The holiday was planned back in January, a bit of a risk but just fitting into the schedule.

When I get back I’m straight up to the Lakes again but I get a virus for a week. Not brilliant timing. My co-researcher endeavours to plug away and we are up to 575 questionnaires returned online!

More door-to-door time is added for recruiters across all three fieldsites and further hotspot addresses and contacts added to pursue. The Freepost issues takes hold and it means taking envelopes by hand to each venue. There has been a lot more travelling than expected by both myself and my co-researcher. With my holiday thrown in and a virus I am starting to tire with all the travelling. Some serious rethinking needs to be done on travel and what is physically possible!

Keywords: Meet-Ups, Questionnaires, Life-Work, Working Agile

5th June – Sprint 19 – Recruitment and Milestones


The first tech meetings are scheduled into everyone’s diaries. This is where the research gets to input into the digital tool.

We also begin the recruitment of respondents at box offices and to go out door-to-door to garner responses from those that do not or might never attend arts and cultural events at multi-arts venues. This was staggered between artsdepot, then BAC then WAC. I have two insights ready to go to Nesta and artsdepot and I sort out the next set of financial milestones. Our online questionnaires are launched and my co-researcher starts ‘temperature testing’ daily to check the return-rate at each field site. All emails go out by the 3rd June. There are some technical glitches with Survey Monkey and a late Friday night working to get it right from both researchers.

Keywords: Questionnaires, Working Agile

13-20th May – Sprint 17-18 –
Sorting Freepost | Chasing Approval | Designing Postcards


Getting feedback on the questionnaire pilot took 6 more days than planned. Giving extra time to get approval back, estimated this at 15th May. In the meantime the postcard for garnering respondents has been designed. 1,500 have been printed at LCC specific for all 3 venues. I begin to schedule the training of the recruiters at all 3 field sites. It looks like there are some Freepost envelopes issues that artsdepot is working through. The online questionnaire is due to launch on the 30th June. Let’s see if we hit that time?

Keywords: Questionnaires, Working Agile

6th May – Sprint 16 – Getting Approval


There is a lot of progress to report on gaining approval, consent and recruitment for the questionnaire phase. There is a bit of excitement amongst the team regarding the kinds of questions and results we can get back from the questionnaire data. There is a particular question around genre causing issues. The space for each section is fighting with more and more questions to add and so a sit-down face-to-face meeting is the best way to get going. Email isn’t really resolving the issues and is more timely than a face-to-face meeting.

The questionnaire undergoes a thorough 6 more edits with artsdepot and AgeUK. The questionnaire is then formatted and designed to follow RNIB’s accessibility guidelines and that of NIH (See: The questionnaire design also meets the Market Research Society’s standards for questionnaire design too. The pilot goes out to the wider stakeholders in Warwick and the South Lakelands.  We begin to pilot and proof the Survey Monkey online questionnaires too.

I gave three sets of timings for approval and starting phase 2 of the research project. It looks likely that we are in plan B in terms of timings but with a tweak. Both researchers are travelling to Warwick to make sure that there are no unforeseen repercussions and to do some training with the recruiters. This now clashes with my planned visit to BAC but I’m sure when we know what we’re doing this can be rejigged. The biggest priorities are getting the funder’s approval on the questionnaire and getting the recruiters in place, especially for WAC. I grossly underestimated the time it would take to seek so many levels of approval on the questionnaire. Getting WAC and BAC kicked off with recruiters was scheduled to take place at the end of  by 26th April. Further ethics were to be completed by the 1st May, and the rest of the approvals stretch from 1st May to the 9th May.

Keywords: Meet-Ups, Questionnaires, Working Agile

15th April – Sprint 15 – Contract, Procure and Pilot

2014-03-07 17.08.45

By the end of this week the questionnaire were piloted and I garnered all of the stakeholder feedback on the questionnaire too. Blog writing and insight posting was put on hold to get the analysis done and the questionnaire design completed.

Software and hardware is now bought and invoiced. This time procurement via our communications department rather than through IT and tech for Survey Monkey.

All legal contracts for transcriptions were completed, signed and scanned. I still want to be only thinking about the stakeholder interviews but the preparation of the questionnaire is taking up more and more time. Transitioning between phase 2 and 3 of the project is not that easy.

Keywords: Financial, Legal, Piloting, Procurement, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

8th April – Sprint 14 – Transcription, Approval, Coding and Analysis

2014-03-07 17.08.14

A very late in the day stakeholder interview came up. Whilst the last of the audio data was being transcribed I also got on with coding and analysing the video, card sorts.

The roles of conducting research and leading research are really colliding. I need to start planning the next phase but I’m really into the stakeholder interview right now.

I’ve been getting feedback and approval on the questionnaire process would take time, but how would this happen, seek feedback all in one go or one bit at a time? Of course, all in one go to keep things going! There was also some discussions and considerations of how the online questionnaires will be disseminated via the marketing teams at all three venues. Reluctantly I plan the timings for the next 2 months ahead.

Keywords: Piloting, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

2nd April – Sprint 13 – Writing for Two Audiences


Transcriptions are back and I spend my time cleaning up the gaps in the written transcriptions from the audio files.  The last of the transcriptions are due back on the 8th April. There is a delay in transcriptions due to having them redone.

I began to identify key stakeholder quotes, key documents that stakeholders mentioned and creating a list of comparative tools that they also identified. Together myself and my co-researcher add to a basic hotspot lists of key locations noted by the stakeholders for each field site. This means putting the details – the names and addresses to places stakeholders mentioned. I also add the hotspots I frequented at the weekend in Warwick and time spent in South Lakeland.

Keywords: Accessibility, Stakeholder Interviews

25th March – Sprint 12 – Talks and Transcripts


The last of the transcriptions are being completed after a slight blip and a hiring of a professional transcriber which have been both costly and timely.

Along with my co-researcher, we will give a quick talk together on the project at LCC’s internal research Fair for fellow academics. It’s taken me quite a bit of time to get both the slides together and reduce the time of the talk as this was a pecha kucha. A shorter presentation is not always quicker to prepare.

Keywords: Events, Legal, Procurement, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

14th March – Sprint 11 – Exploring Warwickshire

2014-03-08 17.08.34

I spent time staying up at the weekend at Warwick to write project insights and get to know the field site I know the least. I stayed near Kenilworth and explored in and around the area.

The second lot of stakeholder interviews are underway to encompass wider stakeholders than those in the arts such as interviewing Justin Stanton, Digital Strategist at Fred Olson. I also went back to the compiled literatures and added more on ageing from recommendations from our AgeUK’s Research Manager, Marcus Green.

On the mundane side of things, I procured some tech software – SPSS – which took forever! Payments are made and SPSS is on it’s way.

The last revisions of the data strategy are made, this got left behind whilst the interviews took precedence.

Keywords: Life-Work, Procurement, Stakeholder Interviews, Working Agile

10th March – Sprint 10 –  Stakeholder Interviews Underway

2014-03-06 08.23.52

The stakeholder interviews have now been completed in South Lakeland, Warwick and London. These were visits to our three arts venues at Brewery Arts Centre, Warwick Arts Centre and artsdepot. I’m still trying to confirm some of the wider stakeholder interviews which were scheduled for this week too. I’ve been briefing the transcribers – two UAL doctoral candidates and have their contracts drafted and signed.

Tim Burley at artsdepot sets the pace and gets the first project insights posted on the R&D Fund’s digital magazine ‘Native’ discussing the legal processes.

Keywords: Accessibility, Card Sorting, Ethics, Financial, Events, Legal, Life-Work, Meet-Ups, News, Piloting, Procurement, Questionnaires, Stakeholder Interviews, Interviews+Testing, Working Agile

28th February – Sprint 9 – Piloting Stakeholder Interviews


It took another week for the final legal contracts to be scanned and signed.
Whilst that was being done, piloting of the stakeholder interviews with artsdepot and one external stakeholder were undertaken. This included demoing the card sorting processes. Open-ended interview questions were finalised.

Keywords: Accessibility, Card Sorting, Legal, Piloting, Stakeholder Interviews

21st February – Sprint 8 –  Getting the Go-Ahead


Liability and IP provisions are all finally agreed. Not much more to say than that! We can get started. The schedule for stakeholder interviews can begin.

Keywords: Legal, Stakeholder Interviews

17th February – Sprint 7 – Meeting Michele at Soapbox

More on IP and liability – more plumbing on the set-up and more legal negotiations.

To keep me excited on the content of our project I met with Michele Furier and we talked about her project called Soapbox, – a programme based at the Tate Britain and Tate Modern which helps engage those harder to reach older arts attenders.

Keywords: Meet-ups, Legal

7th February – Sprint 6 – What is Future Proofing?


This week I’m wondering what does ‘future proofing’ really mean in relation to our R&D project? Thinking over the data strategy has led me to try and think upfront about the potential to create new business models but I’m skeptical right now about how much we could envisage ahead of time. So, in response to not having the answers I thought I’d ask the R&D community at our funder’s learning event within in a facilitated session.

This week I got many ideas of which I prepped into some notes for the project team to think over together.

Keywords: Events, Financial, Meet-ups, Working Agile

4th February – Sprint 5 – More Project Plumbing

This week has been more of what I would call project plumbing. Some learning, some reading, and quite a bit of deciphering terminoology in the legal negotiations. We seem to be stuck into more on IP and liability. More of the same but this week sees IP and liability explored in more detail.

To keep myself inspired I’m prepping for the learning event and compiling more literatures to read. I’m also working on a journal article from a previous project and coordinating another press release for an older project.

Keywords: Events, Financial, Legal, News

24th January – Sprint 4 – In at the Deep End with Invoices, IP and Liability


Today was the day I became the legal contracts manager by proxy! I always have mixed feelings when I have to meet up to discuss legal issues. It is always nice to see the our legal team face-to-face but I never know quite how the meeting will take shape.

On a mundane note, I’m prepping financial invoices and looking at key milestones.

Our data strategy is proving tricky around the impacts we might make in terms of new  business models. I’m finding it difficult to think about this so soon but know putting it off is not the answer either. I suggested a topic for the learning day calling it ‘future proofing news innovative business models’. I want to know what the R&D community think future proofing really is? Someone open up the black box?

On another note I created my first blogging schedule but then got to grips with our funder’s magazine called Native where we post our project insights. I’m hoping that the two things become the same thing.

I’m hankering after some academic work in all this project set-up stuff so got stuck into compiling the literature reviews to pull together some reading. I’m trying to read more and swim more. My Life-Work New Year’s resolutions for the year!

I also set up an initial meeting with Michele Fuirer at Soapbox Tate to share best practice. Looking forward to it!

Keywords: Events, Financial, Meet-ups, Working Agile

17th January – Sprint 3 – Contracts, Consent and Confidentiality


This week like last sees me wearing multiple hats so to speak – juggling legal, financial, ethical and data strategy work at the moment.

More contracts work is a process of going back and forth between partners. This is a case of thinking around legal, financial, ethical issues from a number of standpoints, from the point of each partner. This jars with the urge to just get going and wanting to rush to the starting line. The pace of this phase of the project set-up feels like the opposite.

I start to unpick the VAT implications over with our finance team because this is a funded, public/private partnership of sorts. All sorted, found our funder’s helpful notes on it!

The confidentiality and consent forms for interviewing are also now ready to go much quicker than I had expected.

And finally, our Data Strategy document has come back with comments from our funder’s to edit.

Keywords: Events, Financial, Meet-ups, Working Agile

2nd January – Sprint 2 – Negotiating Contracts


Back after the christmas break.  This week sees me doing both operational and strategic things from the setting up of financial accounts to more work on the legal – contractual negotiations. This phase feels like it’s taking forever but at the same time it’s a great moment to take stock of the project and get everything ready a little bit ahead. I can feel the start time beginning to make impacts onto my own plans to go to conferences next year and working out my co-researcher’s timetable and the impacts of conducting research during an academic year. A small portion of the team also signs up for our first learning event at Nesta and meets the R&D community.

Keywords: Events, Financial, Meet-ups, Working Agile

1 December  – Sprint 1 – Getting Started


December starts the legal agreement process between all of the partners with the University of the Arts coordinating the legal process. The main project agreement with the funders is signed with just the other partners to negotiate later in January. The ethics forms have been approved this week by the college committee. A press release has been coordinated and written, ready to go out at college. The first draft of the data strategy is written which helps to outline the research from the beginning all the way through to the end.

Keywords: Working Agile

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