Category Archives: ibm

On this page:
  • On the way home after a late night
  • Blah
  • Think! Friday
  • Focus
  • Buskerfest and other fun things
  • Networking party in New York that I really, really want to go to

On the way home after a late night

I’m starving and my hands are a little bit weak. I’ve had nothing but
hot chocolate since lunch, too pressed for time to even raid the
vending machines near the cafeteria. The data I needed for my paper
only came in today, and with deadlines for both the CASCON paper and
my article on social bookmarking for the lab newspaper, today was…
well… challenging. =)

It didn’t help that I spent most of the morning puttering about the
blogosphere, welcoming people in and updating my blog. I knew I was
supposed to work on the social bookmarking article and I had bits and
pieces of what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t quite sit down and do
it. On Monday, I think I’ll get that out of the way before I even
start catching up with the blogosphere.

Yes, yes, way too much hacking. Along the way, I’d installed a few
more extensions for my browser, including one that made it easier for
me to paste some boilerplate into textareas (good for blog newbie
tutorials). I wanted to chat with other IBM student bloggers at lunch,
so I wrote a quick and dirty Ruby script that generated an OPML file
given a set of e-mail addresses so that I could import that OPML file
into my blog reader. I turned up only three bloggers, though: me,
Pranam, and Kevin. Oh well. We’ll get there eventually…

Even the fresh data I received distracted me. I couldn’t wait to slice
and dice it in interesting ways! It was a good thing that Mark
scheduled a 3:00 phone call in order to check up on me. (Yay fantastic
research supervisor!) He reminded me about the CASCON deadline, but
also reassured me that it was doable and that he was around to help. =)

David also called me up to talk about some complications in the data
set. We figured out how to deal with some missing data, and I think
the workaround we came up with was okay. Then I went back to 1panicking.
Fortunately my editor moved the deadline for my social bookmarking
article to Monday so I could concentrate on my research.

So all I had to do was code the visualizations. I felt myself
performing a bit more sluggishly than I’m comfortable with – too
little sleep, not enough food – but I slogged through it anyway.
Fortunately I knew enough Ruby to squish the data into a form I could
easily work with, and I had learned enough about the Prefuse
visualization library to add filters to the dataset, allowing me to
get snapshots of the data. Yay.

So that worked out. My timing was perfect, too. I dumped screeshots
into (gasp) a Microsoft Word document, blogged a couple of interesting
things on my internal blog, and ran to catch the bus. I waited around
five minutes for the bus – ompletely anxious, of course, as those
buses run only once an hour!

So now I’m on a bus – the second on this trip – a little bit weak – I
really should always bring emergency food in my backpack – but I’ll be
fine.

The coding was almost fun, even, playing around with Ruby for text
processing and Java for visualization…

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Random Japanese sentence: この種の猫にはしっぽがない。 The tail is absent in this type of cat.

Blah

One of the things I need to learn is how to write when I don’t feel
like it. Today was a pretty blah day. I fixed the bug in my
visualizations, took a couple of screenshots, and sent the results to
my research supervisor. I met someone for lunch. I puttered around a
bit with some drafts for an article that I’ve been meaning to write
for a few months now. Argh.

I can understand why the article’s so important, but I’m gettig
paralyzed by the thought of my words being in print! Uneditable! Gasp,
gasp.

I really should just whack myself over the head and tell myself that
as long as I get _something_ in, that’s better than nothing. This is
not alwys true, of course, but it generally is.

Life is about showing up.

I need to break that article down into even smaller things. Lots of
little blog posts on my internal blog, if I have to.

As long as I get it done.

The other trick I need to learn is keeping a whole bunch of ideas that
I love writing about. I breezed through the ten speeches for the
Competent Communicator certification because I had so many things I’d
been wanting to talk about. If I have a file with all sorts of things
I can write longer pieces on, then I can almost always write about
something I’m passionate about – whatever that passion is at the
moment.

<wry grin> I know! Maybe I need to stop looking for interesting
people and start surrounding myself with the most uninteresting people
instead. ;) That way, I’ll be sure to be the first person in the lab
each morning and the last to leave it each night.

Right. <laugh>

Must learn how to hack this. I need to be more in the mood to write,
and I need to have the discipline to write even when I’m not quite in
the mood to do so.

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Random Japanese sentence: A spot of shut−eye は、また猫のいねむりともいわれている。猫は1度に2〜3分しか寝ない癖があるからだ。 “A spot of shut-eye” is also called a cat nap because a cat is in the habit of sleeping only a few minutes at a time.

Think! Friday

One of the things I like about IBM is the Think! Friday initiative,
which encourages people to use their Friday afternoons to learn about
something new.

My job is to think all the time—ah, the life of a grad student!—and
Think!Friday gives me that additional impetus to go out there and do
something.

A few Think!Fridays ago was Hack Day, an ad-hoc 5-hour hackathon
across IBM. I built a social discovery web application that took a
list of e-mail addresses, names, Lotus Notes mail IDs and even
community IDs. Given a list of people, the tool displayed the latest
three blog headlines and bookmarks for people who used the internal
blogging and bookmarking services. I’d been meaning to build it for a
few weeks, and thanks to the enthusiastic Hack Day vibe, I finally
made the time to hack it all together.

Fast forward to today. IBMers voted on their favorite Hack Day hacks.
Mine won Best Mashup! That made me ridiculously happy. It was a simple
hack—most of the time was spent writing libraries to interact with
IBM’s services and figuring out how to resolve different kinds of
names—but it turned out to be quite useful for finding people.
Throwing it all together in Ruby was a lot of fun, too. Ruby makes my
brain happy.

Hack Day was a terrific way for me to meet a lot of other early
adopters and geeks within IBM. We presented our hacks in two
teleconferences, and that was awesome.

Today, I decided to deal with some of the other little projects I’d
been meaning to do. I set up RSS2Email (Python) and made it easier for
people to have comments on their blog e-mailed to them. Again, a
simple hack (took me a leisurely hour or so)—but I think it will have
a lot of benefit. I also wrote a little Ruby script that summarized my
bookmarks in bloggable form. Happy!

I like days like this a lot. I like sensing the need for a little tool
and writing that tool. I like being in the zone, trying things out,
geeking out, creating something useful…

Happy girl. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: この鼠は私の猫に殺されました。 This mouse was killed by my cat.

Focus

My research manager told me that I’ve been conditionally approved for
VPN access, which would allow me to access IBM resources without
having to go all the way up to Markham (1-1.5 hour commute one way).
This access will be revoked if they feel that I’m getting distracted
by all the cool things I can do within IBM, such as organizing CASCON
2006. They asked me to promise to use the VPN only for things that are
directly related to my work.

Sounds good to me. =) In fact, it sounds like exactly what I need. For
the next few weeks—months, even—I’ll be in heads-down single-tasking
mode when it comes to IBM. I’ll keep a research plan somewhere
(possibly a password-protected page on this wiki) and post regular
updates on my internal blog, and at all times my research managers
will know what my next action is and what I’m waiting for.

I might need to give up a few things as part of scaling back my
involvement in IBM. I have a lot of opportunities to help define IBM
2.0 and move it forward, but the IBM Center for Advanced Studies pays
for my graduate studies, and so they have dibs on my IBM mindshare. I
can think of my research as almost a contract. If they’re happy with
my proposal, then I can scope it, schedule it, do it, and be done.

I’m not too worried about missing out on opportunities. Evangelizing
social software within IBM, supporting networking at CASCON, improving
the experience of social computing: these all point to goals that I
can achieve through other means at other times. When I’m ready to take
advantage of these opportunities again, they’ll reappear.

In the meantime, focusing on my work and treating it as a
time-sensitive contract allows me to separate it and free up
brainspace for a few other things I’d like to do, like writing and
establishing an external reputation. This is better for me in the long
run, too. That way, I finish my graduate studies ready to take on
problems at different scales: from 300k-person enterprises to smaller
gigs.

A minor downside is that I won’t be able to claim a living allowance:
it certainly adds up, particularly if you think about compounded
interest over a long period of time. If I manage my time wisely,
though, I might be able to make it worth it in the long run. For
example, if I can convert three hours of sleepy commuting or relaxed
RSS reading into three hours of focused writing time each day, that
can lead to a lot of opportunities in the future. Getting rid of time
constraints can also mean that I’ll eat better (hello, breakfast!) and
cheaper (hello, kitchen!). The opportunity to schedule coffee breaks
with people here will also help me plug further into the local tech
scene. I’m trading money for flexibility, and I think I can make it
worth it.

As for IBM networking: I can do that through the Greater IBM
initiative. They’re externally hosted, so I don’t need to use the VPN
for that. What about the internal networking, the real-time
collaboration I enjoyed and occasionally found useful? I’ll just have
to trust that people have a good enough sense of what I’m interested
in and that I’m discoverable by people who might be interested in my
research. Personal referrals will probably do the trick.

What might I miss out on? The IBM CAS experience, I suppose: chalk
talks, lunches with random people, cups and cups of hot chocolate… I
won’t be one of their face-to-face Connectors, but that’s okay;
someone else can take that role. Most of the people I connect with are
scattered around the world, so VPN won’t make much of a difference. I
can promise not to initiate conversations that aren’t directly related
to my research, and try to minimize unrelated conversations initiated
by others.

VPN access might also include the expectation of greater availability,
the way many people assume that cellphones make other people always
reachable. To help assure my research manager that I won’t get too
distracted, I’ll check my e-mail once a day and I’ll resist the
temptation to do anything unless I can explicity justify it.
Sure, it’s less value than I can provide IBM as a whole, but it
protects the value I offer to CAS.

I could very well do most of my work downtown even now, although I’d
still like VPN so that I can share my progress internally. I don’t
think I’m allowed to blog even my research proposal externally, so
unfortunately I’ll have to stay dark about it here. I’ll try to write
about other things I’m learning, though. If I omit IBM-specific
information, I might be able to stay out of trouble. =)

My personal blog is my call, and as long as I follow my proposal and
submit my deliverables, things should be good. I should be able to
blog about cooking or tango or DemoCamp without my developer
sponsor freaking out. =)

Sounds like a plan.

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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
happen.

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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Networking party in New York that I really, really want to go to

The Greater IBM Initiative is having its first party in New York City on Thursday, Sept 21. I really, really want to go and meet all these people in person. Why? Because I can do really really well face-to-face, and because I’d love to make those deeper connections. How can I make it happen?

First, let’s set that up as a deal I make with myself. After I finish
five articles about networking that I can post on the Greater IBM
blog, I’ll give myself permission to go on this trip.

In the meantime, I need to plan ahead. How can I keep my costs down?

  • Transportation: I’ll keep an eye out on rush flight ticket prices. Can I hitch with anyone driving down from Toronto?
  • Accommodation: Maybe one of the IBMers at Corporate HQ will let me crash on their couch.
  • Party: How can I make the most of the event? Is there a program that I can get onto?
  • Events: What other events should I hit at that time?

How can I raise money for this? (Hah. Maybe a donation jar at the event!) Ideas?

Let’s make this happen!

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