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B|P Intern Tells All!

Posted on Apr 4th, 2008 by Tony Tulathimutte
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The raw, uncut dirt on Bolt|Peters from our intern-for-a-day, UCSD Cog Sci student Jason van Merle. Enjoy! -Tony

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So over spring break I decided to skip the margaritas and take my sliver of free time to visit with Bolt | Peters in San Francisco. Last spring, Nate Bolt and Mike Towber had given a presentation to my cognitive engineering class about B|P and the remote usability testing work they do. After spending so much time studying cognitive ethnography, which emphasizes getting your hands dirty and observing users in context, I got curious how one might observe user interaction without being able to actually view the user! They have an impressive client list, and I found their presentation very interesting, so I thought I’d fly up to San Francisco and check them out. They were kind enough to let me intern for the day.

Walking into the B|P office, I was immediately impressed by the nice blend of work and play. Townie bikes shared space with drum sets, game consoles, and workstations. Plants and decorations livened up the concrete walls, giving it an inviting, urban loft appeal. It could have easily doubled as a café where you’ d meet friends at for a drink.

I was able to spend time with the entire team, and everyone was incredibly helpful, showing me the ins and outs of conducting remote usability testing. It’s always encouraging when you see people enthusiastic about their work, and the B|P team clearly enjoys what they are doing. There was that same energy you felt during the dot-com glory days where you knew you were doing something special. (I’m a bit older than the average undergrad.)

It was a great experience, and well worth the trip. After seeing how their process works, it became evident just how much valuable data you can gather remotely, and what kind of impact you can have on a site’s development. A big shout goes out to everyone at B|P, especially Nate, Cyd, Mike, Tony, Kate, Frances, Jon, and Chris, oh, and Sela, of course. I hope they continue working with students in the future, as time allows. It’s a great way to gain real experience for anybody considering usability as a career.

-Jason van Marle, UCSD

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