Archive for the 'conferences' Category

The iHCI conference 2009

The series of iHCI conferences started two years ago – my colleague Luigina Ciolfi organised the 2007 event, hosted by the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick.

The 2009 event is hosted by Trinity College Dublin and it was organised by Aaron Quigley and Gavin Doherty. The first day was dedicated to workshops and tutorials.

I chose to attend the IxDA industry talks this morning – and I was really impressed by the great speakers line-up! Kudos to Ben Arent for the organisation and for telling us more about the IxDA Dublin and the upcoming Design Week!

Niamh Phelan (IQ Content) spoke about Google Analytics and how to harness its power when researching usability matters. She pointed the audience to the IQContent blog for useful tips on tracking multiple domains and I was really impressed by their openness to share useful solutions.

Henry Poskitt and Frank Long from Frontend spoke about OOBE (oh, how I recognised myself in the picture of the frustrated user!) and working with personas in design.

The talk of Des Traynor (Contrast) focused on designing for mobile context and made our imagination fly by talking about e-ink and application integration!

I enjoyed the morning session a lot and I’ll do my best to convince these fantastic guys to come to Limerick and talk to the students in the near future.

The afternoon was dedicated to a tutorial on Inclusive Design for Older and Disabled Users offered by Prof.Helen Petrie from the University of York, UK. The tutorial was a real mind opener on what it means to design for and with people with various disabilities. The conclusion was that even if the needs of these groups might be very diverse, the solutions are not that diverse, and by including these concerns in the design process from the very beginning, mainstream technologies (and not only the assistive ones) could benefit a lot. Prof. Petrie mentioned quite a lot the Utopia project and the work of Alan Newell from Dundee University who is using theatre as an intermediary between users and designers.

The workshop included a practical exercise that required us to wear 3 pairs of latex gloves and glasses exemplifying various sight disabilities while trying to perform a simple task on a phone or laptop that didn’t belong to us. Here I am wearing the glasses:) (thanks to @aquigley!)

The first day ended with a social event at the Bagott Inn. More about iHCI tomorrow!

September 17 2009 | conferences and Events and iHCI and Ireland | No Comments »

Academia 2.0 workshop at ECSCW’09

At ECSCW’07, I was running a workshop on GSD and couldn’t attend the one organised by Michael Koch and Wolfgang Prinz on Web 2.0. As this workshop took place next door from ours, I couldn’t avoid noticing the enthusiasm and the fun the participants had.

For the current edition- ECSCW’09 in Vienna, Michael Koch and Isa Jahnke proposed the workshop Academia 2.0 and beyond – How Social Software changes research and education in academia, and it was one of the workshops that generated a lot of interest.

The organisers put together a wiki page and a  blog was created to allow the participants to publish their own position papers and to get acquainted to the others’.

The workshop was structured in two parts: the morning was dedicated to the applications of web 2.0 tools in education, while in the afternoon we spoke about the applications of the same tools in research.

During the morning session, I was scheduled to fill the first slot. I had prepared slides, but it seemed to me that things were very relaxed and I decided to speak from my place instead, with no visuals. All I had to share were stories about tools I’ve used in both education and research, their adoption(or rejection!) by various groups, the feedback I got and what I’ve learned from these. My position paper can be accessed here. The discussion flew from there – there were a lot of interesting contributions, stories and solutions shared. Here are some of the things we spoke about:

  • different student groups have different needs – one size doesn’t fit all!
  • the use of social media tools almost always generate more work for the students, and more work for the teachers as well. But:
  • most of the students love the feeling of having created content that becomes public and can be seen as a meaningful contribution;
  • the first cohort of students using a specific tool seem to have the hardest time; once  examples are out there, and a precedent was created, things seem to work better.
  • the introduction of social media tools tends to add more problems, as these tools are brought in to support an old paradigm.
  • the use of social media tools is challenging  academics and students to update their own teaching/learning style.

A number of interesting questions came up – here are just a few of the ones I jotted down:

  • do students like social media tools?
  • do social media tools really support learning?
  • do these tools make learning more attractive?
  • are teaching institutions interested in supporting this adoption?
  • what is the impact of social media adoption on the position of the teacher? Is he still the expert, or his role is shifting more toward facilitating knowledge sharing?

The afternoon was dedicated to social software applications in research: e-science, research collaboratories. I heard a lot of interesting things about various communities using web 2.0 tools, and also about various initiatives and projects meant to facilitate collaboration at distance, serendipity and open sharing.

September 12 2009 | conferences and Events | No Comments »

Lero Industry Day on Global Software Development

Every now and then, Lero- The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre organises industry days, where  researchers talk about their work with Irish practitioners. The one we had today happened in Dublin, and was hosted by Enterprise Ireland in its East Point premises in Dublin. It was organised in connection with the conference we are hosting this summer at UL – the International Conference on Global Software Engineering, for which I happen to be the local organisation chair.

(Photos by Jack Downey, the Lero Industry officer whose organisation efforts made the event possible.)

The event included 3 talks and time for networking and discussions; there were approx 30 attendees.The detailed programme can be found here.

Dr.Ita Richardson spoke about the need for extending standards like CMMI and ISO15504 to include guidelines for Global Software Development and regulated industries such as medical devices.

My talk was a reflection on the role of collaborative practices such as informal communication, socialisation and cultural mediation. I introduced the socGSD project. I spoke a bit about my field sites and the use of ethnographic methods. I shared  with the audience a number of stories on things as banal as using instant messaging, Skype and social networking applications in day-to-day collaboration between distributed team members. No matter how banal they look like, a lot of managers don’t seem to understand yet their role as the glue that brings people together and allows them to create rapport. I concluded with a few recommendations, emphasizing the role of direct and frequent communication between sites, flexibility in organisational practices and cultural mediation. I got very positive feedback after the talk – several participants came to me to tell me how they resonated with the things I spoke about.

The third speaker was Vikas Sahni of Softedge Systems and it was great to hear from a practitioner how some of the things I touched upon in my talk were seen from the other side. One point where Vikas disagreed with me was cultural mediation and the role of people who can bridge different cultures. He gave the example of an Indian project manager based in Ireland who had difficulties in syncronising with his developers in India, while an Irish project manager was getting excellent results with an Indian team. In my view, this proves the danger of generalisation and of talking about “good practices”.

What works in one case can fail in another, because software is developed by people, and most problems are not connected to technology, but to people, to paraphrase Tom DeMarco. Not everyone can be a cultural mediator – it is a matter of people skills and personality.  Next week, my colleague Alexander Boden will present our joint paper and poster on the topic of cultural mediation at the CHASE workshop collocated with ICSE’09 in Vancouver.

It was a wonderful sunny day, so after contemplating the idea of seeing the Bodies exhibition, I followed an impulse I had since the day I first arrived in Dublin – to get on an open bus and do the tourist tour.

I hoped off in Stephen’s Green and sat on the grass for a while, and then hopped back on. I was planning to see a film at the IFI, but because the bus got stuck in traffic, I got off in Heuston and returned to Limerick.

May 11 2009 | conferences and Events | No Comments »

On my way to ICSE

One more hour to spend in Dublin airport before my flight to Germany. I’m going to ICSE, the most important conference for the field of software engineering. I’ll attend two workshops:
STC – Socio-Technical Congruence – on Saturday, and
CHASE – Cooperative and Human Aspects of Software Engineering – on Tuesday.

I’ll also present our work at CHASE, and I’m pretty excited by the format suggested by the organisers, which will give us the chance to interact with the other participants. It looks like this workshop attracted 60 participants and it’s one of the biggest this year.

The main conference will happen from Wednesday until Friday.
I’m looking forward to the event and excited to visit the place where my favourite baroque composer has spent a good part of his life!

May 09 2008 | conferences and Software engineering and travel | No Comments »