December 15, 2005

Bulk view

ARGH! I hate forms

So the application form for the Delta Kappa Gamma scholarship was a
password-protected Microsoft Word document that included precise
instructions to type everything using 10pt font. Which would have been
nice, if the bloody password-protected file allowed you to actually
_do_ any of that instead of limiting you to size 8 all-caps. The thing
missed a couple of fields, too.

An hour after I submitted it, I decided to try the somewhat shady DOC
- RTF – DOC-and-unprotect trick. That worked, and I finally got to
edit the document.

Of course, I didn’t have a copy of my application data any more.
Didn’t get saved in the bloody Microsoft Word document. ARGH. And I
didn’t think of printing off another copy for my records. Lesson
learned: always print applications twice.

I’m planning to wander over to the admissions office early tomorrow
morning and ask if I could photocopy my application for my records.
I’ll mention the problem I had with the font size on the document. If
they think it might be a big thing, then I can spend the rest of the
morning feverishly retyping the form, getting rid of all the fields and
making sure the font size is just right.

I should also go and ask my supervisor to fax a copy of his reference
letter.

Right, that sounds like a Plan.

Today: lots of checking.

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Feedburner rocks

Feedburner just added interactivity to
RSS feeds. People reading my RSS feed
through Feedburner can now easily e-mail things or add them to
del.icio.us. I should add similar links to my regular blog.

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I’ve figured out why I’m here! =)

I love application essays. They make me think about what I’m doing
with my life. Sure, I could probably just make something up or use my
StatementOfPurpose from last time, but I actually like having to stop
and think.

And I’ve figured out a little bit more about how my project with Mark
Chignell fits into the grand scheme of things!

You see, I’d like to make it easy for people to collect and share
Internet resources that they’ve found useful. For example, consultants
in large software companies should be able to find out which documents
other consultants in their group found useful. They should be able to
find experts on a given topic, and they should be able to explore
other people’s interests too.

Although several web-based services allow social search and discovery,
they haven’t yet been widely adopted. My thesis will give me time to
think about what we can to do make these systems easier to use. My
human-computer interaction coursework will teach me how to measure the
effects of the changes we make to the interface. My background in
programming and computer science will allow me to quickly prototype
new interface designs.

And the grand scheme of things?

I think it would be fantastic if teachers could have that kind of
network. Imagine if I could filter my search for programming exercise
ideas according to what other introductory computer science teachers
found useful, or if I could explore what other people found useful.

Imagine if teachers could choose a set of useful webpages and make it
easy for students to prioritize those pages when searching. Imagine if
students could contribute their own hyperlinks. I think that would be
really cool.

But the interface needs to be much simpler, and it needs to be robust
and accessible. We can’t rely on constant high-speed Internet
connections. Consultants use laptops and teachers in the provinces
might connect only once in a while. Both sets of people are Really
Busy and don’t have the time or patience to muck about with
complicated interfaces. It needs to be simple and distributed, and it
needs to pack a lot of value.

Right.

That sounds like a great challenge. That’s what I want to do, and I
can see how it might be useful. If only because I would _love_ to know
what other teachers bookmark, and I want to have a quick and easy way
to tell people about interesting websites without flooding their
mailbox…

Mmkay. I’ll formalize this after I wake up, but I think I’m onto
something here.

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