Category Archives: research

Text messaging

My preliminary goal for the research project is to develop services for text messaging, drawing inspiration from successful initiatives in the Philippines while adapting to the Canadian context.

Text messaging is extremely popular in the Philippines because of its convenience and low cost. Availability of low-cost prepaid units and inefficiency of landline providers result in high market penetration for the cellphone. Ringtones, games and screensavers provide significant revenue and plentiful advertising opportunities for telecom companies and content providers. Value-added services through text messaging are also popular, and our infrastructure makes it easy for content providers to make a new service available.

WAP and GPRS are also increasingly popular. Just today, my friends and I browsed a prominent news site for breaking news about the latest political scandal. (Various groups are calling for the president to resign, etc.) Specialized feeds provide news on shopping, sports, and other popular topics. These services are advertised in mainstream media.

Of course, the primary use of texting is still communicating with other people. Jokes, quotes, ASCII art teddy bears and even mock-animated figures are passed around and carefully stored for future forwarding. Text makes it easier for many people to communicate despite noise, shyness or disability. Indeed, one of the first ads promoting text messaging showed a couple communicating through text. When they finally met, they used sign language.

A number of foreigners who've gotten used to texting in the Philippines wonder why it hasn't really caught on in other countries. If it fits the research group's goals, I can work on:

  • tracking the changing attitudes and abilities of a group of users as they start using cellphones to text each other
  • prototyping value-added services available through text messaging (push: announcements, quotes, reminders, etc.; pull: queries; interaction)

(On the other hand, if everyone wants to focus on blogs, I can do that too. =) Blogs and communities are lots of fun.)

洋子はコンピューターを買えない。 Yoko is unable to buy a computer.

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CiteULike: Social bookmarking for scientists and researchers

Following on the heels of popular social bookmarking services such as del.icio.us and Furl is CiteULike, a service specifically geared toward scientists and researchers. It's perfect for keeping track of pages you've read and will read, and it can even import and export BibTeX records for easy use with your document typesetting system. Way, way cool. Thanks to Alvin Chin for telling me about this!

(See, talking to your research labmates is a Good Idea.)

私はパソコンを修理させました。 I had my personal computer repaired.

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Notes from software customization talk

I caught the subway and the bus for the first time on my way to the IBM Center for Advanced Studies. Mark and I arrived too early for the lecture, so Pierre Duez showed me around IBM. (I owe him a thank-you note.) It's a great building, with beautiful themed spaces (Asian, English cottage, etc.) and game rooms (billiards, air hockey, table tennis, computer games, gaming consoles). Neato.

The talks started at 11:00. Both presentations came out of term projects in the requirements engineering course under U of T professor Steve Easterbrook.

The first presentation was about cognitive anchoring bias in project estimation, which is when our estimates are affected by the starting number. High starting numbers result in high estimates, low numbers result in low estimates.

The second presentation, though, raised goosebumps. This-is-what-I-want-to-do goosebumps. Sotirios Liaskos talked about goal-oriented software customization, using Mozilla Thunderbird as an example of an option-laden program that's hard to customize. I was blown away by graphs of people's goals and how those goals are affected by the different options.

I found another name for what I want to do! =) Soft goal analysis.

I want to do that for tasks. I want to analyze the different strategies people use and _why_ they use them. For example, why people keep track of contexts, why people use dated or undated tasks... I want to write something that will profile a person's task-management preferences and suggest software support. When people want to modify their task management strategy, I want to suggest step-by-step ways to achieve their goals.

So basically, I'm looking at:

  1. software support recommendations for task management strategies
  2. support for changing task strategies
  3. customization of task management software using soft goals (harder)

I need to learn how to do things like cognitive work analysis and soft goal analysis while I'm here. I need to find other people who are analyzing similar domains so that I can bounce ideas off them.

Here's what I should read next. I'll grab the URLs when I connect back to the Net.

  • http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~sme/ - readings in requirements engineering
  • Triggers and barriers to customizing software
  • User customization of a word processor
  • An evaluation of a multiple interface design solution for bloated software
  • Reasoning with goal models
  • Simple and minimum-cost satisfiability for goal models

People met today:

  • Ryan from the lab
  • Sotirios Liaskos, who gave the talk on software customization
  • Pierre Duez, person who showed me around
  • Leah, working on software customization of Rational software
  • Steve Easterbrook, professor who taught requirements engg and is now doing experimental methods for software engg
  • Jen, research manager for Pierre(?)

People heard about:

  • Eric Yu, in charge of the mailing lists
  • Alexei, who's looking at goal models for business processes

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Five lessons learned from last week

  • Research groups are good. The lively exchange of ideas will inspire and support me, and besides, group meetings often have food. It's worth postponing my individual interest in personal information management if I can't find other people who are working on the same area.
  • I'm good at networking and relating to people quickly. I'm still a little shy, but I'm starting to be good at remembering names and faces, and people here don't mind helping someone get settled in.
  • A personal organizer makes me feel more on top of things. If I can find a ring-bound paper organizer with the same structure as my current planner, I'll switch to it. I really appreciate having weekly and daily goals, and might prepare my own templates if I can't find an organizer that normally does that.
  • I can write 800 words easily once I get going. I prefer writing in one go instead of filling out an outline because the former feels more like writing e-mail to someone, and I can get pretty long-winded in e-mail.
  • My writing style seems to be matter-of-fact and conversational. Dominique thinks I've found my voice.

近年では、電子コンピュータがますます重要になってきた。 In recent years electronic computers have become increasingly important.

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Bubblegum and string

I finished my first hack for Melody's indie music review blog. She's thrilled by the fact that the sidebars automatically pick up her reviewed music. We're moving the blog to a new Linux server next week. I'll probably redo the hack so that I can make it more elegant. Right now it's just bubblegum and string...

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