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Much done

Posted: - Modified: | research

Also done with practically all of the data gathering for my thesis. It
went surprisingly well! I don’t know what I was so afraid of. I have
maybe one or two more data points on Monday, but I already have enough
data to make my research supervisor comfortable.

I will celebrate with a nice long bath and a good weekend. That’s
it… Besides, I need to decompress before all of my job-related

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| research

I showed my thesis prototype to three other researchers at the IBM
Toronto Center for Advanced Studies. They all thought it was a cool
idea! =) I’m going to do my pilot usability test tomorrow. I spent
today typing in my notes from various books… More tomorrow, too!

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The tension between research and research

Posted: - Modified: | research

I’m starting to feel that my thesis is actually doable. I’ve applied
for the ethics review of my experimental protocol. The prototype needs
some tweaking based on the feedback from my IBM mentor, but it’s
coming along nicely. I’m learning to push back, too: “That’s out of
scope.” “Let’s keep it simple.” “I want to finish by June, mind you.”

I want to finish by June. And you know what, it’s starting to look
possible. I’m not as happy with my thesis as I hoped I would be,
because the practical applications for it are less obvious and less
immediate than I thought. Most people would already be happy with
using tools that exist if they only knew about those tools. I’m
sketching an idea a little further down the line, but people have to
learn how to make the most of the intermediate steps before we can get
to the point where what I’m building makes sense. That’s okay;
research is a beginning, not an end.

I just want to finish by June, leaving me some time to take care of

During our weekly update, my IBM mentor said something that intrigued
me. Stephen said, “Don’t forget, there’s a difference between doing
research and working on your thesis, and sometimes those two goals
come into conflict.”

I must have looked at him blankly. Research? Thesis? Wasn’t my thesis
supposed to be the only reason for my existence for the next few
months? Weren’t the two the same thing?

Stephen reminded me that my job in research is to wonder and be
curious—to explore. I should keep doing that. I told him about the
community work I’d been doing for LG (which is still hush hush),
which I’m really curious about.

I really appreciate having a mentor who points out all the various
forces and conflicts and will help me see them. It’s really quite
interesting how we talk about politics…

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Upon further reflection, I don’t hate my thesis after all

Posted: - Modified: | research

I am officially out of my I-hate-my-thesis phase. It was easy to give
in to frustration and think that hating it would make me finish it
faster. But why should I subject myself to that much unnecessary
stress? After all, if it’s going to be a big part of my life for the
next few months, I may as well focus on the positive.

And I *do* really like it. I love the feeling of working on something
new. I can’t wait to try these ideas out. I’m looking forward to
talking to IBMers and thinking of how we can make these ideas real.
And the people I’m working with are actually pretty cool, too.

Also, I’m finally able to download papers from the ACM Digital Library
again. Being able to *see* examples of good research certainly helps.
Knowing that we’re working to a higher standard than some of the
published papers also boosts my morale! ;)

I updated my schedule again, and was pleasantly surprised that despite
the Internet problems, despite my occasional grumbles and frustrated
arggghs, I’m actually ahead of schedule.

This is a nice feeling. I think I’ll keep it. Sometimes I really just
have to remind myself to focus on what’s going well…

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Big, hairy, audacious goal

Posted: - Modified: | research

2My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal for the next eight months is to help
huge companies imagine how they can help people connect by prototyping
my research idea, figuring out how it can be improved and made into a
product, and writing up my thesis.

A thesis is a pretty big goal. Just ask all the people who finish
everything but their thesis. Even really smart people. Even my

And I’m pushing even further than that. I want my thesis to be
practical *and* research-worthy. I want to take it into the business

I’m going to need help making this happen, and I’m going to need a lot
of personal strength, too.

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Progess report

| ibm, research

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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Collaborative lit review

| research

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?


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