Category Archives: cascon

Research report: The value of meetings

I had several very helpful meetings today. =)

The first was with Greg Wilson about a really interesting experiment in social bookmarking for software engineering. I wish I could have the brainspace to do it justice, but my research supervisor feels I should concentrate and get my primary research out the door first. Greg Wilson is way cool, though, and I should definitely share ideas with him. =)

I discussed my research plan with my supervisor, Mark Chignell. I described the waterfall-ish division of time that I blogged about yesterday, and was relieved when he suggested that instead of holing myself up in a library and reading everything that's ever been written about the topic, I should instead capitalize on my strength at prototyping things. I can build all these little systems and watch what people do with them. When I see something unusual, then that's the time for me to go and figure out a theoretical framework to use in order to explore and evaluate the situation. How nice it is to have a research supervisor who knows how much I like to hack—and how hard I sometimes find it to focus on something purely theoretical!

He also told me that he'd be happy if I could go for maybe one conference and one journal paper. That'll probably be CSCW, then. This means I don't have to worry too much about breaking my project into publishable things. Think simple master's thesis, not PhD dissertation.

My original plan was to be almost done by April of next year. He thinks that's doable but ambitious, and that we'd both be better off (read: less stressed) if I target June instead. From his experience, masters students generally take two months to finish writing - April and May. I need to have something reasonably promising by October in order to convince IBM to keep funding me. My nearest milestone is August 17, the intern day at the Cambridge lab: must have something cool to talk about then.

Mark also suggested that I take his statistics course ("Every educated person should know statistics"). Knowing my interest in business, he also suggested the course on the business of software. I wouldn't mind crossing over into Rotman for a business course, although it's also offered under CS.

The last meeting was with Steve Easterbrook, Greg Wilson and Mark Chignell. We talked about CASCON. I like Greg's suggestion of a Ruby on Rails + mashups hands-on session that leads naturally into a student-oriented Hack Night. That would be great! I'm excited again. =)

If all my meetings could be like the ones I had today... wow!

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IBM CASCON 2006: Social discovery and conferences

Another thing I want to build for IBM CASCON 2006 is an easy way to create an OPML file for conference registrants and session attendees. Imagine if you could associate your registration with a blog URL and then be able to:

  • import an OPML file of all the conference registrants so far
  • read an aggregation of all the conference registrants
  • do the same for all the people who have registered for a particular session

Certainly, speakers with blogs should have them all listed. Tomorrow I'll ask for permission to get in touch with all of the speakers and ask them for blog URLs. We'll put together a page, export some OPML, throw up an aggregator (maybe even just a public Bloglines), and boom! Happy happy happy.

Even more advanced stuff: imagine a small-scale tech.memeorandum running against the speakers, the conference registrants, or session attendees... Imagine doing that with bookmarks, too! Maybe I can convince Pranam Kolari to do something like that.

In the future, people might even want to associate multiple blog URLs with their profile. For example, if they write topic-focused blogs, they might want their business blog to be aggregated with all the other blogs for a marketing session, while their technical blog might be better for the programming sessions. I don't think we're quite at this point yet, but it should be easy enough to build.

Sounds like a terrific tool. I have one month to build this and all the other nifty things I want to make for IBM CASCON 2006! I wonder if my developer sponsor and my research supervisor mind if I do this...

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IBM CASCON 2006 and conference backchannels

I got so carried away making lunch that I nearly missed the planning conference call for IBM CASCON 2006's social computing workshops. I dropped in just in time to hear Stephen Perelgut and Steve Easterbrook talk about real-time collaborative note-taking, and I chimed in with my two cents about how wonderful it is to have backchannels during the conference.

A backchannel is an informal way for participants to talk to each other in the background while the speakers are talking. Backchannel chat is a great way to find out about other interesting sessions and meet other people who are into similar things. We've also used the backchannel to coordinate our attendance at sessions. ("I'm heading over to session A." "If you're blogging that, then I can go to session B...")

If the backchannels are logged, they can be the start of collaborative notetaking. We tried backchannel transcription at one session during Mesh. People were distracted because the backchannel was projected onto the main screen behind the panelists. Most people have a hard time keeping track of two or more streams of information, particularly as they were both verbal. In addition, the IRC channel used for the backchannel chat also included people in other sessions, which made it hard for many people to separate the messages that were related to the current session. Still, it was a good experiment, and that resulted in a number of side-conversations during the session.

I think one of the things that would be great to have for IBM CASCON 2006 is a backchannel that people can get to through IRC and the Web. I'd love to set up one of those, but it needs to be promoted somewhere so that everyone with wireless can hear about it.

An alternative would be to encourage everyone to liveblog it and to use Technorati or a similar web service to aggregate all the posts tagged, say, cascon2006 and the session's tag.

HEY! There's an idea! If we suggest tags for each session and a tag for the entire conference, then we make it easy for external bloggers to make their posts discoverable. And I can so totally modify the CASCON blog to make it easier for people to "BLOG THIS SESSION" - they can post their content on the session blog and then retrieve it for crossposting onto their blog... That _would_ be totally sweet.

Think!Friday's tomorrow. Let's make it happen!

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