Interview framework + Template for requesting an interview via email

Note: We’ve written this for everyone to follow so we can develop a certain degree of consistency, but it’s also obviously open to improvisation. If you have any advice for an effective interview, please add to the bullet points below.

1. Interview Format

  • upt to Max 60 minute minute audio recordings plus interview transcript
  • In each, asking the same set of questions.
  • Each audio should also contain an additional 5-10 minutes free form conversation led by the interviewee.

2. Guide to achieving a good interview

In order to achieve the best outcome from an interviewee it’s important to familiarise yourself with the work of the person you’re interviewing before hand, at very least read the about section on their website.

  1. Spend 5-15 minutes at least talking with the person you’re going to interview before the interview starts, so you’re comfortable with one another and they can respond in a relaxed way on camera.
  2. It is essential to have a clean recording of the voice with minimum background noise. (@johncoate can you give some technical advice for how to do with well when doing video chat interviews/remote interviews?)
  3. Make sure they’re aware that the audio and transcript is going to be put online and shared within the Edgeryders network and further afield, so that they know the scope of their audience in advance, (fairly specialised but with the desire to share further).
  4. Give them a sense of the questions you’re going to be asking before hand so they can think ahead - but also familiarise them with the intended output of the video so they can be conscious of it when responding to the questions (this will make editing easier later). Explain that specifically for these videos we intend to chop up some of the footage as well as producing a standalone video of them - we plan to create a combination video of individuals responding to the question “What does the concept of Stewardship mean to you?”
  5. Upon asking the initial question “Tell me about your project and work”, if they stop short use the other questions “How did you get started”, “What are the core objectives” to bulk out the response, hopefully though individuals will understand the need to give a good 2-3 minute overview of their work.
  6. Allow 5 second breaks between questions, continued conversation makes it difficult to edit later.
  7. Try to phrase your questions in a way that the interviewee needs to include the context in their response, which will make it much more useful when editing. i.e. the question “Why did you choose radioactive monkeys as a subject for your experiments?” might elicit the response “because I like the way they glow” which is not a very informative sentence without the context of the question. However, this question is better: “I’d like to know what led to you working with radioactive monkeys - can you tell me about some of the reasons behind this decision?” Here the interviewee cannot begin their sentence with a ‘because’ and they’re less likely to use a pronoun to talk about the monkeys, because I mentioned them too far back in my question.

3. Interview questions

The standard questions:

  • Tell me about your project/work?
  • How you got started.
  • Who’s involved.
  • What your main objectives are.
  • What does the concept of (…Add topic relevant to their work/the event here) mean to you?
  • What do you believe are the most important projects internationally that related to ( topic relevant to their work and the context/event ) a in this moment?

Potential additional questions:

  • What question did I not ask that you think is important and you’d like to respond to?
  • What do you think will be the greatest challenge for the human race over the next 100 years?
  • Who is responsible for the future?
  • What does (key big theme we are exploring) mean in this moment?
  • What are the fundamental lessons from the past that we can learn from now?
  • What is an example of a heroic act in this moment?

Email template text for explaining the process and why it makes sense to do this:

Subject: Following up on our exchange on (twitter, linked in , fb etc) re: interviewing you about (their topic/topic of session)

Do you have time at some point between now and november 1st for a remote interview, followed by a q&A in the form of responding to a few questions in comments from other participants ahead of the workshop in a moderated thread on our online forum?Realistically it would be something like 2.5 hrs in total.

What we/I do is finding find people who are doing work we believe is important and have aligned values. Cut down the investment of time and effort for them to discover and understand one another’s work. To make it easy we do an in depth interview that is more in conversation form. Then transcribe and do a first edit into a skeleton post for the interviewee to edit till they are happy, and when they are ready they post it under their own name.

Then our community managers draw the attention of others who have complimentary interests, needs, skills and or access to people who might: and the other way around. People read one another and post questions and answers through comments. Our community managers and research team reads/processes the conversations that develop, to find common ground between people having many separate conversations happening in parallel. We also have hired staff to scouting relevant opportunities to support people’s work. These includes proposing joint applications to specific research grants or building financially viable projects to support long term work on issues. For methodology: see here (ignore “course fee”: community and activists have free access).

We have been doing this work since 2013. At present the community of people who are connecting this way on and offline is around 5000 people in +80 countries. It is an open, self-selecting network of people and diverse in the true sense of the word - but people who participate tend to be bright, curious, friendly and committed to the common good.

If you are up for this, let me know when might work for you?

Kind regards,
Your name and affiliation with Edgeryders

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For the platform use Zoom. It works well, records and gives you both a video/audio file and an audio file, I think in .wav format (windows native). This audio file is the one you want if you are going to get a transcript made or want to make a podcast.

Podcasts are only viable if they are edited with a good quality editing program. I use Adobe Audition, which I acquired in my radio days. It allows me to do pretty much anything with the file. I only know a fraction of what it can do, but I use it to get rid of the “um” and “you know” (we all do it!), false starts to a sentence, get rid of loud background noises if possible, and I also use it to raise or lower the volume in any given stretch. And I can make the audio speed up or slow down if needed. This stuff is time consuming with a good program. With a basic app, not realistic - takes forever.

That that makes it even more critical to get a good take on the first and likely only try.

The following applies to all participants in a recorded conversation:
Find a room with good wifi that is away from street noise and other people talking, pets, all the usual stuff. If those noises happen while your guest is talking, you can’t get rid of it. So choose the setting carefully.

Headsets with decent mics work well enough. The better the set, naturally the better the sound. But even the white Apple headphone mic/sets are much better than using a laptop or phone mic. Always use mics that can get close to your mouth. Forget that your laptop or phone even has a mic.

If you are using a mic on a stand, keep your voice within 1-2 hand widths away and don’t talk straight into the mic, talk just above it so the "P"s don’t puff and other breathy attributes. Uniform volume is important.

The advice above about being prepared is excellent and essential. If prepared you won’t have long gaps where you grope around for something to say.

Even when the conversation get energetic, don’t talk over each other. Let the other person finish. If you are using Zoom you can agree on hand signals saying “I want to talk” or “I’m done talking”

Don’t talk too fast, enunciate clearly, and don’t finish a sentence by either speeding up or tapering off in volume. This is more common than you might think.

I have been using the otter.ai service for transcribing. It’s free and easy to use and does a surprisingly decent job. But unless editing is a fun activity to you, the cleaner the copy the less time you will spend fixing the stuff the machine got wrong. And the machine will put every “you know” in there, which you will have to remove, but the ums don’t usually get transcribed. I guess they know to listen for it. Good thing too.

The transcription also gives you a chance to clean up the copy for readers. Writing usually can be spoken and recorded “as is” and make reasonable sense, or even perfect sense if the wrting is good enough.

But talking converted into writing is more problematic. Often someone starts to make a point or gets halfway through a sentence and then decides to either start over or change course mid-sentence. To a listener this can be disconcerting, and ultimately tiring, if the speaker does it a lot. If one reads a verbatim transcript of a lot of such talk patterns, it just won’t make enough sense to plow through it. Another good reason to talk with the person ahead of time is to get a feeling for the other person’s style and habits of talking and try to adjust for them.

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