Headlines for Monday:



1. A weekend with a friend: 00:24

My good deed for the weekend was spending time with Alice. Saturday, I attended the birthday party for her 2-year-old daughter and managed to blend in despite being nowhere near stressed enough to fit among the parents there and nowhere near short enough to fit under the table with the kids. Yes, I _can_ actually be taller than someone. It may come as a surprise to some, but there are actually people (okay, kids) who look up to me--physically, if nothing else. I think I will enjoy the few years I have before they outstrip me.

I had an animated conversation with Ken, my research supervisor's 6-month old son. This conversation mainly consisted of Ken going "Baaaa... Baaaa" at me, and my exercising my superior listening skills and going "Mmm hmmm" at the right moments. I tried getting him to say "Blog", but I don't think he's quite ready for it yet.

It was certainly an unusual experience for me. For the most part I felt very much like my 22 years of age, although I'm somewhat proud of the way I managed to quell the urge to run to the nearest library. ;) Kidding. It wasn't bad. It was just unusual.

I stayed afterwards to help clean up. I was glad to have the opportunity to chat with Alice over the dishes.

I took her out for a much-needed girl day on Sunday. We wandered along Yonge looking for a place to get an inexpensive massage, and spotted this tiny one called New Moon Spa at 678 Yonge Street. It's open from 11 AM to 9 PM, and you can get a basic shiatsu massage for CAD 10. There was only one table and one masseuse, and Alice insisted I go first. Totally small-time operation that's only been there for two months. I tipped the masseuse almost 100% for good service and for encouragement, and I probably made her day too. =)

I remember massages as a simple luxury my mom also enjoyed. I'd like to learn how to help people relax, and one way to do that is to experience it myself. <laugh> It was nice spoiling a friend. I'll take her out next month, or maybe even sooner.

Then we went to Second Cup and had large cups of hot chocolate. It was very much a hot chocolate day for Alice, and I'm glad to have shared it with her. I wish I had answers, but I don't. I'm just here to listen and maybe help people gain a little bit more clarity.

Ayayayayay... If only a hug could make the world all right!

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2. Business development: 03:34

Stayed up late chatting with Jijo Sevilla of QSR, a Philippine-based Linux solutions company. Simon Rowland had mentioned an interest in offshore development, so I'm hooking them up.

I think it'll be a terrific fit, and I look forward to helping bridge the two worlds.

3. Focus: 17:30

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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4. Planning: 18:04

Here's what I need to do:

I need to come up with a list of calls for papers for conferences related to my research area. This provides me with an incentive to write.

I need to sit down with Mark Chignell, my research supervisor, to review my research plan and the calls for papers and to break my plan down into smaller milestones. This gives me a concrete action plan. Then I can schedule next actions.

If I can break it down into really small milestones in the beginning, then I'll get a better sense of how much work I can accomplish. I would like to be done with my research before Christmas, so that I can relax without having to coordinate with IBM. Ideally I would also have it all practically written up, just waiting to be translated into "scholarly writing". I can use my internal blog and podcast to think things through.

So here's a coarse sketch of a potential schedule:

Ideally, I'd like to commit the equivalent of two to three days of focused work each week for the rest of August, which leaves me time to prepare for the future and build other competencies. I remember that a former roommate of mine concentrated on her research and studies, and ended up without job offers because she hadn't done enough networking or exploration. I'd like to finish my master's with a good background in research into social computing, but I also want to be ready to be useful to small or large businesses.

I'll take classes from September to December. I'm planning to take two courses and audit a few more to expand my mind. I need to take one more MIE course, and the CS course on requirements engineering has been highly recommended. October or November can be my main data gathering month.

So: August is for reading papers, gathering background information, and learning as much as I can about the theoretical framework and how to measure the effects of an intervention. September is for analyzing the collaboration technologies against the framework chosen, and selecting a factor to modify. I may need to code a fair bit--the actual intervention plus the instrumentation I need to measure the change, so I'll probably use October to set up the experiment. I'll run the experiment in November, and work on polishing my writing in December.

My Christmas break will be a *real* break. I don't want to do IBM-related things then, aside from perhaps an evangelism talk or two at IBM Philippines. ;) I want to reconnect with family and friends, make new friends, and develop business opportunities.

Then I can come back to Canada, finish writing up my paper, have my committee review it (although I hope they'll be involved at each step), and revise it as needed. Once I finish that, there might not be that much point in going for an internship instead of a proper job, so I'll probably start looking for leads in January and aim to finish in April. Although I'd like to be able to bridge worlds and that probably means finding a good place to work in North America, it won't be a huge tragedy if I don't manage to get a good job offer lined up. There's much for me to do in the Philippines, and I might come back and join Exist or QSR or something like that. Besides, the Philippines has its perks. ;)

Yes, I could've done this earlier, but it was also important for me to immerse myself in the culture and to form ties with people who can help me find out how to go about doing this. =)

Yup, definitely sounds like a plan.

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E-mail sent

  1. Simon Rowland: =)
  2. info gsu: Cancelling Athletic Centre?
  3. Brian Wilson: Re: lunch tomorrow
  4. Brian Wilson: Re: next GHC meeting
  5. Mark Chignell: Let's meet tomorrow!
  6. Mike C. Fletcher: Re: WiMax technical Q&A at Linux Caffe
  7. Peppy Salita: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.31
  8. J. Angelo Racoma: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.27
  9. vonjobi: Re: wikimania
  10. Paul Lussier: Re: Emacs BBDB magic: Greeting people with nicknames
  11. Paul Lussier: Re: Think! Friday
  12. Jackie Achonu: Re: Toastmasters
  13. Greg Wilson: Re: CASCON / social computing / getting together
  14. Stephen Perelgut: Scaling back my involvement in IBM
  15. clair ching: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.30, Re: Fwd: The Simon Rowland New Year's Update...
  16. Simon Rowland: Re: I'm thinking about you...
  17. Taorist: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.27
  18. Aadisht Khanna: Re: The W-Files #515: StanChart, Staying Alive, Salacious Stories and Socialising