Category Archives: research

Progess report

I’ve been with the IBM Toronto Center for Advanced Studies since
February, and it’s time to make a progress report. What have I done in
the past eight months to create value for them and work on my

My work seemed pretty random in the beginning. I spent a fair bit of
time just getting the feel of IBM, learning about the different
services on IBM’s intranet and making sense of the blogosphere. I had
to be told to concentrate several times! ;)

The funny thing is that this random casting-about is probably *just*
what I needed to do. My blog helped me meet other people working in
the space, and I learned about visualizations and resources that I
wouldn’t have come across on my own.

The prototype that I made for kicks might be an interesting tool. The
researchers I talked to found it novel…

What’s next?

I need to sit down and just build the darn tool. I think it’ll take me
two, three weeks for the search engine, maybe another week for the
aggregator. I already have most of the code. November will be my
intensive hacking month, so don’t expect to hear much from me externally.

Then I need to test the tool with people so that I have data that I
can write up during my vacation. Early December?

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Random Emacs symbol: w3m-url-authinfo – Function: Return a user name and a password to authenticate URL.

Collaborative lit review

Sunir Shah has gone and built a wonderful
collaborative wiki with features for lit reviews. The one for our
class is at . He will be
moving the main site to sometime in

I can’t wait to play around with it. He’s even put up the readings…
Isn’t that so cool?


Random Emacs symbol: utf-8-pre-write-conversion – Function: Prepare for `utf-translate-cjk-mode’ to encode text between BEG and END.

Buskerfest and other fun things

Catch amazing street performers at the Toronto
BuskerFest, which runs from Aug 24
(Thursday) to Aug 27 (Friday). I went to the one last year and I was
impressed by people’s skill and flair.

I love watching street performers. Every time I watch one, I learn
more about stage presence, drama and suspense, comedy and patter, even
how to invite audience participation. I see many tricks again and
again: juggling random dangerous objects, riding a unicycle, juggling
random dangerous objects while riding a unicycle. Each performer
brings a certain spin to things, though, and I enjoy their
achievements just as much as the rest of the audience does.

The 2006 BuskerFest starts tomorrow—and the strange thing is, I
feel more excited about going to IBM. I know that BuskerFest will
delight and amaze me, but I don’t want to just be delighted and
amazed. I want to participate, to push the edge, to make things

Somewhere in the sunlight, I know there will be kids laughing at the
jugglers’ demos and ooh-ing and aah-ing at the acrobats’ antics. No
one will miss me there; no one would even notice if I went. But in
IBM, I can do something cool, learn tons of stuff, and be appreciated
for it. Given a choice between watching a show and being part of
one—you know what I’d choose.

I’ll sleep early tonight. I don’t want to feel tired tomorrow. I want
to be wide awake and bursting with energy! There are so many cool
things to do, so many people to reach out to. =)

What a terrific feeling!

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Research report: Met with Mark

Met with my research supervisor, Mark Chignell. Told him about the cool stuff I’d seen at IBM Cambridge’s InternFest last week, and revised my research plan to include fewer interviews and more numbercrunching. Whee!

I like coding. I might as well play to that strength.

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Research report: Schedule

I like these one-on-one meetings. I find myself in the zone, asking
questions and figuring things out. I had another good meeting with
Mark Chignell, my research supervisor. This
time, we worked on my research plan. I’m happy with the result, and I
think IBM will be happy as well. We’ll do a historical
pseudo-experiment looking at factors that may have affected the
adoption of social computing across subgroups within IBM. I’ll see how
I can visualize the data.

Some considerations:

Mark will be in Japan from January to mid-March, and again from April
to June. Options for masteral exam:

I’ll be able to make it to June convocation, and I might have a few months of vacation before real work.
I’ll be under stress because of the tight schedule, and I probably couldn’t take spring classes.
Less stress from schedule, can take additional courses in spring, more time around tech scene here.
Need to renew my visa, which is not a bad thing. I’ll miss the June convocation, and will need to make it to November convocation instead. If I find myself working in Canada, then I can still probably graduate with pomp and circumstance. ;) My parents won’t like winter, though, but hey… If I’m not working in Canada, then no pictures or ceremony. Oh well, s’okay. Must check fellowship.

Here’s the March schedule:

August Resume my commute to IBM. (Waah!) Find as many sources of data as I can.
September Data analysis. Start applying theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
October CASCON. Start on subpopulation analysis.
November Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
December Write up research.
January Vacation in the Philippines!
February Write up research.
March Possible date for exam because Mark will be in town?
April Pass thesis just in time for June Convocation
June Graduate
July Vacation
August Vacation
September Work

Here’s the August schedule:

August Resume my commute to IBM. (Waah!) Find as many sources of data as I can.
September Data analysis. Start applying theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
October CASCON. Apply theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
November Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
December Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
January Vacation in the Philippines!
February Write up research.
March Write up research. Paper 1 (thesis).
April Study #2: case study of Dogear
June Study dogear adoption.
July Write up research.
August Write up research. Paper 2 (dogear case study).
September Review papers. Exam.
October Something happens.
November Graduate
December Work?

Whichever schedule we choose, my next action is to hunt for as many
data sources as I can and figure out how to mash them up. I need to
decide which schedule to follow before I go on my Christmas vacation,
because I’ll probably renew my US visa then. (That is, unless I can
renew my visa from Canada.)

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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

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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