You too can collect “big data”! How to combine quant and qual data to create a holistic picture of your users.


Statements like “data is the new oil” abound. Companies have become obsessed with the ability to track what customers do and predict what they might do next. As we all know, quantitative data gives us the WHAT while qualitative data (e.g., ethnographic research) gives us the WHY. We need both to develop a holistic understanding of our target users.

EPIC 2013 offered several papers and a salon focused on Big Data demonstrating a great interest in the topic; however, it was clear that many attendees were unsure how to combine their rich (or “thick,” as Tricia Wang noted) ethnographic data with large scale quantitative data. There are many ways to collect this type of data and in this workshop, we will offer one, which does not require a computer science degree: ESM via PACO.

Experiential Sampling Methodology (ESM) is a type of longitudinal diary study that allows one to understand a person’s experience in the moment. Using a free, open-source mobile app called the “PACO (Personal Analytics COmpanion),” we can conduct large scale ESM studies with users anywhere in the world. These studies can be conducted after ethnographic studies to ascertain how broadly your observations apply to your user population or they can be done in advance to identify insights you want to study in-person, in-depth. By combining these methodologies, you create a more holistic understanding of your users.

In this three-hour workshop, we will introduce attendees to ESM, discuss ways we have used this methodology at Google, help attendees create their own ESM study, and discuss data analysis. The goal is for every attendee to leave the session equipped with the knowledge to design and create their own ESM study, analyze the data, and make actionable recommendations. Attendance will be capped at 25 attendees to ensure 1:1 attention and good group discussions.