1.) The practice of creating personas I found enjoyable. I think 4 people is too small of a sample size to create a fully fleshed out persona, but the exercise itself was fun as a combination of all our collective imaginations. In the end we created two pretty similar personas.
2.) I’m not 100% certain of this. As a way to elicit and define user requirements personas have great utility, but as a means of “generating” empathy I would find that description problematic; shouldn’t empathy be just a basic social skill regardless of it’s applicability to the design process? The other concern I have with personas (and I imagine this is something that becomes easier with experience) is how, in the creation of a persona, do you divorce all your preconceptions and existing biases from that stage of the design process and not make a persona that’s ultimately self-interested in support of your (even however nascent it is) design solution?