Guerrilla Techniques – Does inexpensive research have to be ‘quick & dirty’?

I’m really interested to hear what guerrilla style techniques you’re using to do User Research when there’s not a lot of budget or if you don’t have the traditional research facilities or infrastructure?

I imagine there’s some pretty interesting stuff going on out there, what with all the new and often free web based tools that we have available that should make observational research more and more accessible to all of us.

More and more of us are using a combination of camera phones and sites like Flickr in place of traditional ‘diary studies’, and some of us have investigated using tools like Twitter for this purpose as well (has anyone actually done a contextual research study using Twitter yet? I’d love to hear about it).

I also hear great stories of more and more people getting out into Starbucks and other public places (although, for some reason, it often seems to be Starbucks – wifi I guess) and doing some usability testing with unsuspecting members of the public.

Do you have strategies for inexpensive and rapid recruitment techniques that actually allow you to recruit to a profile? (Or multiple profiles). Could social networking tools like FaceBook or Twitter (again) play a role here perhaps? (Insert concerns re: bias in audience sample)

Has anyone come up with a video set up that allows for both screen capture and a video of the user without needing two computers? (I have a webcam built into my MacBook… surely it’s feasible!)

What other wild and wacky – but most of all inexpensive and accessible – techniques and tools are you using to find out more about the people who use (or might use) whatever it is you’re designing?

Are we getting to the point where, perhaps, we can do better research outside of the lab than inside it?

That’s a whole lotta questions. What say you?

links for 28 June 2007 – people who think they know more