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Posted: - Modified: | ibm, research, writing

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,

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

<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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On the way home after a late night

| ibm, research

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

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

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| ibm, research

I was panicking all morning because I didn’t have the teleconference
details for something at noon, but fortunately I remembered that I
could e-mail a friend in IBM and ask him to send a message to the
teleconference organizer. I then used Skype
to call in for free. Hooray for Skype! Voice quality is a bit
variable, but it does the job, and it’s saved me from getting another
phone line…

I’m so excited about the tagging panel. It looks like such an
interesting lineup!

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Too hot, too cold, just right

| research

I sent Mark a draft of my paper, summarizing a number of research
papers on innovation diffusion and technology diffusion and reading
them in the context of blogging and social bookmarking. He sent me
back a polite but firm reminder that this is for a conference and I
don’t have to burden my paper with too much of a review of related
literature. I should focus on my results. I was so worried about that
because the paper was originally supposed to have been my reading
course paper, and the objective for _that_ would have been to
demonstrate that I’d actually read the stuff I’m supposed to have
read. Mark says I should focus on discussing the results, though. I’m
not sure how interesting the results are, but maybe it’ll be clearer
after a 20-minute nap…

Well, third version’s the charm, and I’m lucky to have a supervisor
who makes tons of helpful comments.

Okay, I need to head over to IBM tomorrow and get more data.

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Up early

| research

I’m up at 6 on the last day of a long weekend, _and_ I’m reading
research papers. =) I hope Mark’s happy. You know, this waking up
early thing is actually kinda fun…

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Bestest research lab evar

| research

My research supervisor and my labmates are totally awesome. They
listened to me freak out about impending doom and told me that I can
figure things out somehow. =)

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I am so dead

| research, sad

My mind’s just blanking out. There’s no way I’m going to finish a
credible draft of this paper within the next 20 minutes. I’ve been
thinking about it all day, but… this just isn’t what I had done my
initial reading for, and the lack of background is really biting me.

My technology diffusion visualizations were born out of an afternoon
of play, a direction I took during a random walk. For some reason,
Mark liked it. Now I find myself scrambling madly to learn about
innovation diffusion theory. (Hooray, Everett Rogers!)

My reading notes are all about bookmarking and its personal and social
benefits. Maybe I can still work that in somewhere, but bookmarking
isn’t the main focus of the paper, and I need to fill in a lot more
back story.

Should I have skipped all the afterparties and focused on this? My
sense is that in the long run, that networking will be of much use.
(Although perhaps I could’ve skipped mush…) Now if only it didn’t
take me so long to get back on track.

If Mark was looking over my shoulder, he’d probably tell me to stop
blogging and concentrate on writing my paper instead. Unless I manage
to unblock my mind, though, it’s going to be pretty hard for me to
make sense of the papers and write a coherent submission.

My problem is that I’ve been giving him all of these half-papers:
teams, personal benefits for social bookmarking, etc. – but we keep
changing my topic after I pass them. I’m sure all of these paper
fragments lying around the place will be useful someday, but it’s
incredibly frustrating having to keep branching out.

I feel like such a research failure…

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