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More often than not, UX Architects are called upon to conduct stakeholder interviews for the purpose of gathering individual thoughts regarding a particular project. And, more often than not, these interviews are recorded to augment and support any notes taken during the interview. The question then becomes, what do you do with a recorded interview when the stakeholder unexpectedly passes away?

We all know in our personal lives we’ll eventually have to deal with the death of our friends, loved-ones (people and pets, in my case). Depending on the nature of our grief and sadness, we hold on to mementos that represent the soul we’ve lost – notes, letters, drawings, photos, (and more recently texts, Facebook pages, blogs). Sometimes those mementos include a voicemail (message or greeting) or a video, where we can hear the voice of our friend or loved one in an everyday moment.

But in our professional lives we rarely give death of a colleague or acquaintance a second thought, as in it will happen at all. Sadly, as I just recently experienced, this does happen – a stakeholder passed away suddenly one weekend. Oddly enough, of all the stakeholders I interviewed, hers is not recorded; I can’t recall why, and I did go back and review the recordings, just to be certain.  Regardless, when I heard the news, I immediately thought of the interviews I’d conducted and what would I do with hers (if it existed)? It would only be an interview, q/a – nothing that I thought could be uniquely interesting or personal. But it would have been her voice – the one thing that tends to fade the quickest in our memories but is one the most recognizable aspects of our individual self.

Ultimately, I decided that if I had the recording, I would have deleted it. Principally because it felt eerie and somewhat wrong (but not disrespectful) to have it at all. It’s hard to explain and/or rationalize. Right decision? Wrong decision? I guess until it happens (God forbid) it’s hard to say. But, because we all react to and deal with death in our own personal way, it’s the only decision I know I could make.