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One of the ideas for blog articles involves highlighting people whom we've helped. While there are multiple approaches to this, such as the contributor blogging him or herself about the experience, another approach involves interviewing the beneficiary and then writing a blog article with those questions in mind.

While we certainly want to give the blog author and beneficiary the freedom to talk about the points that they feel are most important, what are some basic questions we should cover or that may help get the ball rolling?

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Executive Summary

I think that the interview should cover 4 general topics:

  1. Background of the person
  2. Pre-Workplace Experience
  3. What brought them to The Workplace
  4. How The Workplace Helped

We should present someone the audience can relate to, explain where they were when they joined, cover why they joined, and explain how joining helped them. While the interview should go in that order (because people are better chronologically), if writing in a non-interview format it is probably better to tell a story based on what the answers are.

Background

My favorite interviews are the ones where the interviewee is shown first and foremost as a person I can relate to (or at least understand). Actions in a vacuum are boring and can sound contrived, so we should get a sense of who the person is first.

Some sample questions:

  • If you were going to explain what you do to an elementary school kid, how would you describe your job?
  • What did you study in school?
  • What made you want to study that?
  • When you were in elementary school, did you ever imagine you would be doing what you do now?
  • What generation do you identify with?
  • What is your passion outside of work (or is your work your passion)?

Generally speaking, get a brief idea of the person, who they are, what they want to be, and what makes them tick.

Pre-Workplace

Before explaining how the Workplace helped, we should understand where the interviewee was before joining the Workplace.

Some sample questions:

  • Where were you in your career (schooling) when you joined the Workplace?
  • What (if anything) were you doing to further your career (5-year plan, etc.)?
  • How long did you see yourself staying in that job?
  • If you had to describe your situation in one word, what would it be and why?

The Workplace could make people change their long-term plans, or look at their current job differently, or just keep everything the same save their attitude about their current situation. We should get an idea of where they were so we can see where they've changed.

Joining The Workplace

We should know how they found the site, how they use the site, and what they think we can do to make it even better.

Sample Questions:

  • When did you start participating in The Workplace?
  • What made you take the plunge?
  • What part of the Workplace has helped you the most (others' questions, others' answers, answering myself, asking myself, chat, etc.)?
  • After joining, what areas do you think the Workplace still has room to improve?

Post-Workplace

So now that they've participated, how did it actually help them?

Sample Questions:

  • How has the Workplace changed your perspective on your career?
  • What is your long-term plan now?
  • Do you think the Workplace has a role in helping you achieve those goals moving forward too?

Revisiting the same people in the future, and comparing what they thought with what they did would be interesting too. But for now let's just get an idea of where they plan to go, and how they plan to get there.

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One finds that the people that show up here are often in a state of crisis. One finds people watching their employer go bust, their project fold, their co-workers bailing out, their co-workers driving them crazy, etc. So the first sentence has to convey the 'motivator' - why someone came here with a request for help.

There is 'self-help' stuff all over the place. Since much of what goes on here is related to software development, this is 'developers talking to developers'. In that respect some advice is unique - it's also interesting in that in some professions there are people that would refuse to ask for help in public forums - medical practitioners being the most likely. They might find that the answers here help, even though we aren't putting it in their context. The points of materiality are relatively high incomes, various combinations of advanced training and years of experience, and complex situations - particularly those with ethical considerations.

It more or less goes without saying that many of the initial questions are badly composed. The feedback on this helps the poster explain what they want - good in itself - as well as lead them to a resolution. Thus a blog interview should invite the person to explain how the cycle of questions and answers shaped their thinking and understanding.

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    The goal of inviting the person to explain how the cycle of Q&A shaped their thinking and understanding could actually be great feedback for us. Understanding how folks think could tell us more about what works and what doesn't work, especially if that person doesn't have a Stack Exchange account or is new to Stack Exchange. – jmort253 Nov 9 '13 at 2:27

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