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This year’s 3Dcamp

This is the 5th year of 3Dcamp – when did time fly?

When we started back in 2008, there were a number of similar events running in various cities. There was a podcamp in Kilkenny, a barcamp in Cork,  and in 2008 we had a webcamp in Cork before the BlogTalk conference.

When we started discussing the idea of a barcamp at UL, James put forward the idea of branding it as 3Dcamp. It was a time when 3D representations were seen as the coolest thing after sliced bread, Second Life and other virtual worlds were just surfacing. Google Earth and Sketchup were trendy, and everybody was interested in wii hacks. I didn’t know much about 3D technologies at the time, but I was definitely ready to learn!

This year, we discussed about how  appropriate the 3D name is for what we are planning to include. Not very appropriate, but myself and James decided to keep it for this year, as it is a sort of brand by now.

So, for this year we encourage speakers to focus on:

  • Mobile applications
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented Reality
  • Maker/hacker-spaces
  • Open Data, Open Culture
  • Gestural Interfaces (Kinect)
  • 3D visualizations (Blender, Sketchup),
  • Virtual worlds & gaming (Second Life, the Metaverse)
  • Mapping mashups, GPS, geotagging, geocaching
  • Location-based Services (LBSs)
  • Urban games,  location-based mobile games
  • Robotics
  • Haptics and augmented toys (eg. Wiimote hacks),
  • Interactive art installations

Please keep an eye on the 3Dcamp website, our Twitter and Facebook page for news and updates. Speaker names and topics  will be added closer to the date.

The hashtag for 3Dcamp 2012 across all social media will be #3Dcamp12


March 18 2012 | Events and Uncategorized and unconferences | 1 Comment »

Supporting the digital lives of Limerick communities

My poor blog looks really abandoned! I guess I should talk about what’s keeping me so busy these days.

The Connected Limerick initiative started back in 2010 with an event organised as part of the tweak festival. Another event followed last year, and Connected Limerick developed into a real project, focusing on the interplay between the way both locals and visitors are navigating the city and the digital overlay that informs and influences these journeys. And of course, there’s an associated Facebook page.

I’m one of the founding members of miLKlabs, the Limerick hackerspace. I post there and on the miLKlabs Facebook page every now and again.

In November last year, I joined the Limerick Local Heroes initiative group and helped organising the townhall meeting and the Ideas Summit. I set up their first website, later transferred to an own domain. Taking care of the Facebook page and Twitter account together with other people was a very interesting experience. Collaborative work felt a bit like magic: posts simply appeared one after the other without any need for formal coordination. I am still marginally involved in the Community Pillar, which is preparing its Action Summit at the moment.

I was really drawn to Helen O’Donnell’s idea of entering Limerick in the Tidy Towns competition, and I offered to give a hand.

I also joined Transition Limerick last year, a group encouraging reflection on sustainable development.

Together with Miriam Lohan, we started an action group called  “We love Plassey Riverbank”, in order to reach out to people interested in the conservation of the canal and river Shannon banks. We had two successful clean-ups and we are in the process of planning further actions.

I am still running the IxDA local chapter – that’s a group I would really need help with! We had a couple of excellent meet-ups this year, and there’s a Design Jam in the make– the first of its kind in Ireland!

I am also involved in the Limerick OpenCoffee Club, and from time to time I manage to go to the Limerick Open Source Meetup. I don’t manage to write about that, except for the odd picture or tweet every now and again.

And there’s 3Dcamp as well. But that’s a story for another post!


March 15 2012 | Research and Uncategorized | No Comments »

My first week in Siegen

I started looking for an apartment in Siegen right after I found out my grant application was approved by DAAD. The people at the international office of the university there were really nice and helpful. I was looking for a student room, because most of the Irish universities are renting out their student accommodation during the summer. In Germany though, the spring semester is still in full swing in July, and the students are still there. I was offered a small one-bedroom apartment, and I turned it down because it didn’t come with an Internet connection. After looking and looking, and getting assistance from my German colleagues, I realised that I was asking for an impossible thing. Apparently there’s a law preventing people to pass Internet connections to their tenants – the tenants have to apply for these themselves. This showed me once more how blinded we are by assumptions we make, and how we project our own environment on sites we are supposed to visit. I emailed the lady in the international office asking if the little apartment in Siegen-Weidenau was still available – and it was! It proved to be a wonderful solution: the landlords were extremely nice. They picked me up at the train station, brought me to the apartment, showed me around and volunteered to take me out if I ever felt lonely!

I learnt about the bus routes and used Google on my phone for finding the nearest O2 shop. I got there 30 min before closing time and managed to get a mobile internet “surfstick” with a prepaid account for one month. Although in the possession of a shiny HTC Desire (that was supposed to come SIM free, but didn’t!), I kept my old Nokia phone for daily usage. The prepaid surfstick and a 30 days voucher for TMobile hot spots kept me reasonably happy for the whole month I spent in Germany. Still, couldn’t do Skype voice on any of these!

The next morning I took the bus to the university, together with tens of students living in a student residence nearby. My plans to walk to and from the university, or to buy a bike faded away when I saw the steep hills Siegen is located on and the temperature reached 37 degrees Celsius. The bus was the best solution! The aprtment was located on the top of one hill, and the university on the top of another, on the other side of the valley. Three buildings, all very modern, a huge mensa(canteen), a big library, several smaller ones – everything looked quite impressive. The cable internet connection in the office really rocked, while eduroam was poor and only accessible in a few locations.

A colleague took me to administrative headquarters of the university in the city centre, were I got my stipend. I did a quick tour of the shops and returned to the apartment I got to like more and more.

The week was extremely stressful: I had brought unfinished work with me, I was still getting problems to solve from Limerick, while I was struggling to arrange my visits for the following weeks, plan the work I had envisaged to do with my colleagues in Siegen, and the temperature was getting closer and closer to 40 degrees. AC in German trains was failing, with people being taken to hospital after barely surviving locked in trains at 52 degrees Celsius. I knew it was going to be hot, but I didn’t expected it to get that bad.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was invited to a seminar were Stephan Lukosch from TU Delft presented his work in the area of Knowledge Management and Storytelling. It was a great opportunity to met Stephan in person (he had a paper together with Till Schuemmer from Fernuniversitat Hagen in a workshop I organised back in 2007), and to meet some of the other members of the Information Systems and New Media group that was hosting me at the University of Siegen.

On Friday, I discovered the joys of working from home. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the valley, sipping coffee and working away on my laptop while the birds were chirping in the nearby trees was fantastic!

My daughter, who joined me on Wednesday, took a few walks in the neighbourhood and discovered we were 7 minutes away from the woods and the footpaths that connect the whole area. We started taking walks in the evenings, which were one of the delights of being in Siegen.

Today we went to see a young friend of mine who had recently started a job at a hospital in Olpe, not far from Siegen. Sebastian was one of my online students in the e-portfolio course I ran back in 2005. At the time, he was a brilliant undergraduate student in a medical school, looking for an opportunity to continue with postgraduate studies abroad. We had met briefly in Bucharest that year, and we kept in touch the whole time after that. The day was really hot, but a nice boat trip on Biggesee and  a quick dip in the lake made the day much more bearable.

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July 11 2010 | Research and travel and Uncategorized | No Comments »

3Dcamp – a note on FabLabs

My intention was to give a presentation about FabLabs at 3Dcamp. But being in the middle of 1000 other things, I postponed putting my name forward until no slot was left unoccupied. Well, I guess you don’t need to hear me talking – you can read it by yourselves.

FabLab (or Fabrication Laboratory) is a concept originating at MIT as part of the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA). If you’re looking for a short explanation, it is the realistic version of the Star Trek replicator.

3D printing is just one side of it. There are mills, cutters, molding and casting and electronic circuits involved.

I first heard from FabLabs from my Dutch friends Elmine Wijnia and Ton Zijlstra. Here’s a documentary about FabLabs made by Elmine:

This is a FabLab wiki based in Afghanistan.

The whole idea is about sharing designs globally, while making things locally.

There are 41 FabLabs around in the world at the moment, in US as well as in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands in Europe, in Afghanistan and in rural India.  The concept seems to have captured the imagination of many, and inventors, artists, teachers and students can get access to top technology to experiment making things without too much need for training.

Will the day come when we’ll produce all we need in our own kitchen? The plates, the mugs, the tea towels, but also the washing machine and the family car? Will the day come when machines will be able to replicate themselves?

May 28 2010 | Events and Uncategorized and unconferences | No Comments »

Women in technology I admire…

Ada LovelaceLast year on Ada Lovelace‘s day, I wrote a post about someone I admire. I prepared a lot for that post, but I got very sick on that very day, so I had to crawl out of bed with fever to actually edit the post and publish it.

Call me superstitious, but I postponed taking the pledge this year, thinking that it would be safer to do it if and when I can, than dreading that I can’t do it. I don’t get to spend a lot of time on my blog these days and my sense of guilt is kind of going through the roof by now.

So for today, I would like to thank to some fellow bloggers from whom I’ve learned a lot during the years and who have been inspiration for me for many years now. The list is probably incomplete, and I’ll remember some more names when I’ll go to bed tonight, but here we go:

Nancy White(@nancywhite): although I have never had the chance to meet Nancy face-to-face, her work on online facilitation had a profound impact on everything I studied, wrote and did in both my professional and my social life. I attended her Online Facilitation workshop back in 2006, and I went back as a mentor in 2007. Nancy has a special gift of making everybody feel comfortable and important when participating in an online event,  she is amazingly creative and open to new perspectives. She lives in Seattle and when she’s not on the road, manages to work from home. She is also a well-known chocoholic:)

Stephanie Booth (@stephtara): I met Steph for the first time at Blogtalk 2 in Vienna, in 2004. She and Suw where like twins – always together! I always wanted to go to LIFT and to the Going Solo events she organised, but never made it. She came to Cork for Blogtalk 2008, and so we met again. Her blog is my special Sunday morning treat, many times when I read her posts I feel like someone is putting a mirror in front of me and makes me see things I usually avoid seeing! I learn a lot from her GTD endeavours and I am following on her steps trying out new tools on occasion. She lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, blogs in both English and French and I’m happy I can read in both. She started a coworking space last year and has a beautiful cat.

Suw Charman-Anderson(@suw). Suw is a prolific blogger- she blogs herehere and here. She’s based in London, is married to @kevglobal and has two lovely cats who tweet: @Grabbity and @SirMewton.

We only met once – in Vienna in 2004. Reading Suw is a delight – she’s interested in the same things, but she can put things in writing so much better than I could ever do! In November last year, she began to write to write on Computer Weekly’s Social Enterprise blog, covering various aspects of social technology in business. That was like my best Christmas present ever! Her hobby is making jewelry. She’s actually the one who initiated the whole Finding Ada movement.

Lilia Efimova (@mathemagenic) Lilia is a person I admire a lot. We were both interested in Knowledge Management, but at a time when Social Software was in its infancy (and somehow despised), she had the guts to embark on PhD research that put blogging practices at the centre of developing a knowledge-based ecosystem. She actually gave me the courage to go against the flow and consider what we call today Social Media as a research topic back in 2004!

How we first met: I missed Blogwalk1 because I was just out of hospital after surgery, but went to Blogwalk2 in Nuremberg in May 2004 and met Lilia and Elmine on that occasion. I remember that day very well: I was after a week of teaching at CNAM in Paris and I had to move from Germany to Luxembourg on that very Sunday, but I spent the Saturday in Nuremberg speaking and walking along with all these people whose blogs I was reading, and I was so happy I could be there!
Last summer, I had the honour to  be there when Lilia defended her thesis in Utrecht. Lilia lives in Enschede,  Netherlands.

Elmine Wijnia (@elmine) Elmine is a wise person who asks a lot of thought provoking questions. She’s always on a quest for what could help us live up to our values. The workshop she facilitated together with Ton Zijlstra at reboot9 in Copenhagen was one of those moments when you feel surrounded by creative and intelligent people, the ideas burst from all directions, and sky is the limit! Elmine and Ton live in Enschede, Netherlands, and I’m really looking forward to visit them this summer!

Carmen Holotescu (@cami13) – Carmen is teaching Software Engineering in a renowned Romanian Technical University in my hometown, Timisoara. But she’s also building fantastic apps., a sort of Romanian version of Twitter, but with far more capabilities built in, made her known worldwide. To me, she is the one who gave the Romanian blogosphere the much needed self-awareness, by putting together and maintaining a list of Romanian bloggers at a time when blogging started to take off in Romania back in 2005-2006.

Sabrina Dent (@sabrinadent)  Sabrina is a web designer extraordinaire living in Cork, Ireland with a dog and a husband;)  Although she’s working insanely too many hours, every now and again we get the chance to listen to her witty and thought-provoking presentations at various barcamp-style events across Ireland. Sabrina’s blog is a sort of focal point for many people involved in digital media here in Ireland, and on many occasions I’ve sent my students to have a look at her work and read her blog instead of reading yet another academic paper.  Sabrina is a real treasure and imho we are very lucky to have her here in Ireland!

Alexia Golez(@lexia) – Alexia is originally from Limerick and currently works for Microsoft in Dublin, Ireland. She blogs about everything from current affairs and technology to music and cultural events. And her Red Links are a delight to follow!  She’s part of the fantastic team that organizes the Irish Blog Awards every year – a great opportunity to meet face-to-face hundreds of bloggers from all the ways of life. I had the honour to have Alexia in my class last semester, giving a talk to my 4th year students, and I had the feeling that her insights about her work at Microsoft and the social media landscape in Ireland were extremely valuable for them!

Ina O’Murchu (@Ina) Ina lives in Galway, Ireland. She’s a brilliant community facilitator and a passionate promoter of the semantic web technologies.  She’s always up-to-date with the latest technologies and is very active organising Social Media events in her area.  She was the first blogger I met after I moved to Ireland – I found her blog by accident and then we organised to meet in person when I travelled to Galway. She was the one who introduced me to the Irish blogging scene.

So, on Ada Lovelace’s Day, thank you, ladies, for sharing your knowledge, reflections and enthusiasm day-by-day through your blogs, and for being such a great inspiration for me and for others!

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March 24 2010 | iHCI and Ireland and Life and people and Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

There’s a crack, a crack in everything…

… that’s how the life gets in!

On Wednesday evening, I took my daughter to the O2 to see Leonard Cohen. Other mothers (in the movies) might make more expensive gifts to their daughters at graduation, like a car, or a shopping trip to NY, but I’m not in that position…so this seemed to me the perfect gift, that none of us will ever forget!

It was a fantastic night – words cannot describe the atmosphere in the O2! Cohen is a great singer, poet and human being – his generosity and spirit were overwhelming.

I remember very well that the first time I heard him singing (on a tape) – it was on New Year’s Eve ’76, and the song was Suzanne. One of our friends had emmigrated with his family to Germany, and now he was back for Christmas holidays, and he brought this tape with him. For days, “Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water” kept on playing in my head.

And then nothing, for years and years. Censorship never allowed Cohen songs to be played on the radio  in Romania before 1989.

In 1998, on a trip to Germany, I bought my first Cohen CD.

I never imagined I’m going to see him live, although last year when he played in Dublin I made an attempt. The only other famous person I’ve seen live was Billy Joel in Croke Park in 2006. And it was a major disappointment – the way he treated the audience was simply outrageous. Maybe it was part of the show-his show. Cohen was a completely different experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

There were many astonishing moments – but one of the highlights was definitely “So long, Marianne”. Here’s a recording made on Sunday night.

He sang most of his famous songs. He recited “A thousand kisses deep“. He sang a few songs I’ve never heard before as well. He spoiled us with solos of the members of his band. He was on his knees in front of us very often, but he also danced like a young man.

It was a great night that none of us will easily forget!

July 24 2009 | Events and Life and Uncategorized | Comments Off on There’s a crack, a crack in everything…

An IBM presentation at 3Dcamp

At the end of April, I attended an event organised by the IBM Ireland Innovation Centre in Dublin. Together with colleagues from several other Irish universities, we listened to some excellent presentations about the IBM Academic Initiative and the ongoing projects at the Dublin Software Lab. During the break, we had the chance to network and have a look at 3 remarkable demos. The presentations are now available for download.You’ll probably have to sign up for a developerWorks account first, but it is well worth it!

This is when I first heard about INNOV8 – “an interactive, 3-D business simulator designed to teach the fundamentals of business process management and bridge the gap in understanding between business leaders and IT teams in an organization.”

I invited Joanne Stanley from the Dublin IBM Innovation Centre to give a presentation on it at 3Dcamp, and I got a positive answer yesterday. Joanne wrote that if she can’t make it to Limerick, either her or Kevin Farrar, the IBM Academic Initiative Programme Leader for the UK and Ireland, will participate remotely and give a presentation on Innov8.

A short excerpt from the press release on the latest version of Innov8:

Building on the success of the original INNOV8 in the academic community, INNOV8 v.2 will be available at no cost to businesses and academic institutions for simulations and training. The new version features puzzles and tasks that challenge players to tackle real-world challenges. INNOV8 v.2 delivers a complete redesign of the game, with a new global collaboration feature for players to work with virtual teammates to progress to the next level of the game. In addition, three new game scenarios reflect a new level of intelligence required for future, high-value job opportunities:

You can access here the Press release for 8.2. You can also check the developers’ blog, and follow them  on Twitter. They even have a page on Facebook!

May 27 2009 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Every day is a great day

I took the pledge initiated by Suw Charman-Anderson to write a blog post about a woman in technology on Ada Lovelace’s day a few months ago. The following day I started thinking about who would be that woman. I know a lot of remarkable women among bloggers, researchers, software engineers, entrepreneurs, freelancers – I could probably fill a good few pages with names only! And then the choice came naturally: I will honour someone who is an authority in my field of research, and at the same time a fellow country woman.

Daniela Damian In June 2005, I had just started my work on a Global Software Development project at the University of Limerick when I heard her name mentioned: Dr. Daniela Damian, at the time Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, Canada was the organiser of an International Workshop on Distributed Software Development collocated with the IEEE Requirements Engineering conference – to take place in Paris in August. Some names have such a specific Romanian resonance that you know with certainty when you hear them… I was so glad to find out that a Romanian, and especially a woman  was working in my new field of research!

A few months after, I wrote to her about the idea of creating a collaboration platform for the Global Software Engineering community.  She accepted my suggestions, but  was already a few steps ahead, and the platform became reality soon after that. We stayed in touch, my group invited her to Limerick, but unfortunately she couldn’t make it- her second baby was on the way. The first time we met face to face was at the second international conference on Global Software Engineering – ICGSE’07 in Munich – but it felt like we knew each other for a long, long time.

The ICGSE series of conferences are the continuation of a series of workshops organised or co-organised by Daniela since 2002 that had the role of bringing together a pretty diverse community of academics, researchers and practitioners interested in the field. We have the honour of hosting it here in Limerick this year, and I’m involved in the organisation.

Daniela studied Computer Science in Romania, where she graduated in 1995. She went on to do a masters, and then a PhD in Computer Science/Software Engineering at the University of Calgary in Canada. She finished both her MSc and PhD in 5 years in total, a very short time (5 years is the usual time for a PhD only). Daniela got her PhD in 2001. After one year spent as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia and working with Unisys,  she returned to Canada and joined the University of Victoria as an Assistant Professor. In 2007, she became an Associate Professor. She is the initiator and the head of the Software Engineering Global interAction Lab – SEGAL at UVic.

This academic year, Daniela is on sabbatical. She spent the first half in Europe and now she’s in Australia. Her husband and two kids are accompanying her. With all her hectic schedule, she was kind enough to answer to a few questions I asked in preparation for this blog post.

I wanted to know what made her choose Computer Science/Software Engineering in the first place, and what attracted her to academia. Here is her answer:

I was very good in math. I was one of the very few young girls competing in national math competitions along with my good male colleagues in middle and high school. A turning point happened in my life when I was discussing with my mom about university… it became clear that I was made to pursue impact in my life, and chose Informatics as a university major because i could apply my strong math skills in the domain of computer science. The specialization in Software Engineering was the result of further inclination for practical application — learning about software development and the challenge of translating customers’ needs into a workable product was just the right for me.Academia also came as a natural choice given my enthusiasm in teaching young minds to be good software engineers themselves. A post-doc in an industrial environment (Unisys) made me be sure that I wished to pursue an academic environment in which to teach students about and how to address the real world software problems, as well as to mentor students become researchers in Software Engineering themselves.

Next thing I wanted to know was if the fact of being a woman working in a technological domain has made any difference:

I think so. Having trained and competed with my boy classmates in math competitions, I always had to convince myself that I could do as well as anybody else. Perhaps that gave me the extra energy to do well. Later on, as a teacher, researcher, supervisor AND a mother in recent years has really been a great challenge but also an opportunity to realize how much women raise to the expectations around them, how well they figure out how to prioritize things in their lives, and how great they are BECAUSE they have this opportunity and experience.

My final question was about something that intrigued me ever since I heard about Daniela:

What is the secret of your fantastic energy? You’re involved in so many things, you have a family and kids at the same time, and you’re following your students very closely. How in the world can one cover all this?

And here is her answer:

I just love what I do :). Or perhaps I just do what I love. I have great mentors, and I listen to them. I surround myself with people that enjoy life and what they do. I take energy from positive people, and I try to empower and inspire others with same positive energy. I have become more humble every year recently, and I try to learn as much as I can from others everyday. As such, every day is a great day because the world around me is what and how I decide to see it. The students I collaborate with are a great source of energy for me themselves, teaching me how to stay sharp so I can help them become who they want to be.

Daniela was very generous sharing “her secret” with every one. We all have our ups and downs. If every one of us could remember that “every day is a great day” and it all depends on what we decide to make of it, this would be a better world!

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March 24 2009 | people and Research and Software engineering and Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Excursions Festival in Limerick…

..or how I managed to get dead frozen selling Romanian language lessons on Bedford Row on Saturday;)

A year ago, I found out about the existence of an organisation meant to bring together the Romanians living in Limerick. I started going to their monthly meetings whenever I could find the time, and I met very interesting people from all the paths of life there. At the first IRCBA meeting this year- I heard about the Excursions Performance festival and the “Sell your language” happening organised by Ania Bas as part of it. Me and my colleague Daniela Butan decided to give it a try.

We found Ania (who is Polish) and Helena Zelesakova (Slovakian) on Bedford Row, and we joined them. I must say that the “would you like to buy a language?” approach didn’t suit me, so I kind of turned it into “would you like to buy a language lesson?”. Daniela and I offered 5 min Romanian language lessons for 1 eur – a rather competitive price, taking into account that Slovak and Polish lessons cost 1.50 and 2 euros!

A lot of bypassers didn’t pay any attention to us, but quite a few asked for more detail, and a few accepted our offer.  It was interesting to see how perfect Romanian pronounciation someone can achieve in just 5 minutes!

I didn’t make any money on the day, but I managed to learn some Irish in exchange!Daniela and I

I would have loved to see a lot more people involved in teaching their own language – the mix of languages offered was exclusively East European, while there’s such a variety of people coming from different corners of the world living in Limerick!

January 25 2009 | Events and Limerick and Uncategorized | No Comments »

Magic sky

Venus occultation

A frosty afternoon… Nowadays I have to leave the university shortly before 5pm, otherwise it’s too dark to cycle by the Shannon

When I got into town, it was 5:10 – the exact time indicated by one of our colleagues for watching the sky and see Venus and Jupiter next to the New Moon.

The lights of the city and my own clumsiness in using the camera didn’t let me get a perfect picture of what I saw – but this one is nice enough – you can see Venus very clearly on the right bottom part of the Moon! Jupiter was there as well

An explanation of the phenomenon can be found here. I must say I had tears in my eyes because of the cold and I kept wondering if it wasn’t a simple illusion…

December 01 2008 | Events and Life and Limerick and Uncategorized | No Comments »

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