Personas are a tool that is becoming ever more central to the UX experience.
The utility in identifying representative users, their challenges, their needs, their context, etc... is fairly clear to even the most UX- skeptical of audiences.
One area which has less obvious benefits in personas however are the personal aspects.
That Jane is a call centre manager who has to deal with a high employee turnover, an antiquated computer system and customers who are annoyed at the constant 30 minute waits is all well and good. But why does it matter that she is a mother of two who enjoys horse riding when she gets free time?
The argument here is of course that it fleshes out the persona into more of a real person. Something more than just a list of challenges and goals. The whole reason we want to fix those challenges to give Jane more peace of mind so on the weekends so she feels relaxed enough to get away from the kids and go ride horses!
However....how does one come to these personal aspects of a persona? How much effort should go into researching there vs. getting at the 'meat of the problem?' How detailed should they go? How does one get the right balance between the aspects of a person's life that are relevant and irrelevant to the challenge at hand?