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

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;

(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 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.

  • – 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
  • 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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