Posts from: December, 2008

Quite Quiet

Monday, December 29th, 2008
A quiet day at the office

A quiet day at the office

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year. Most of the office is away on holiday, so it’s very quiet today. We missed out on a white Christmas (beyond a few fitful flakes), but the weather seems to turned colder over the last couple of days. It would be nice to get some snow sometime in the coming week.

I took a couple of days off last week, but today I’m back at my desk. There’s really only one job for me to concentrate on; my thesis revisions. I’m going to focus my efforts towards presenting something at my research group meeting next Monday. Having small doable short-term goal is probably a good way in to this big scary task.

Danish Grading Scale

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Image Credit: Rasmus Larsen

I’m teaching in the Danish university system, where there is a rather confusing 7-point grading scale (though not as confusing as the previous 13-point scale). The seven possible grades are (from lowest to highest) -3, 00, 02, 4, 7, 10 and 12. One could think of these as analogues to the Australian scale (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) or American (Fx, F, E, D, C, B, A) …but not quite.

Each grade has a description for the level of work required to achieve that grade. Reading these descriptions gives a better idea of what the various grades mean in terms of the quality of the work.

-3 is given for a presentation that is unacceptable in all respects.

00 is given for a presentation not meeting the minimum requirements for acceptance.

02 is given for a presentation meeting only the minimum requirements for acceptance.

4 is given for a fair presentation that demonstrates some command of the relevant material but containing some major weaknesses.

7 is given for a good presentation that demonstrates good command of the relevant material but containing some weaknesses.

10 is given for a very good presentation that demonstrates a high level of command of most aspects of the relevant material and containing only minor weaknesses.

12 is given for an excellent presentation that demonstrates a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and containing no or only few minor weaknesses.

Gathering, Showing, Reflecting

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Workers on the waterfront of Alsund

Workers on the waterfront of Alsund

A still grey day today. Across the water, workmen are slowly moving. Seemingly, their work requires a boat, a front-end loader and a flat-deck truck. I have no idea what they are doing.

Its a busy week for the students of User Experience Design; Their final week. There’s an exhibition today (Tuesday), an exam on Thursday and on Friday we will hold a course reflection session. Everyone has remained focused over the last week, so they simply need to put in a final effort now to gather all the threads of their project into a coherent story.

The purpose of the reflection session on Friday is to look back at what we did in the course, highlight the things that worked well, and suggest changes that we could make to the course for next year. I hope for a positive and constructive dialog with the students.

Otherwise, work continues in other areas:

  • On Monday, Wendy and I met to hash out a rough structure for an edited volume of research papers that are emerging from the SPIRE centre.
  • On Wednesday, Trine, Carsten and I will meet with Lars Bo and other representatives from FOCON to discuss progress on a Delphi Survey we are running as part of the Tracker project.
  • Today, I’ll set up a wordpress blog for the SPIRE centre so we can start writing about who we are.
  • …and the thesis revisions.

Winding Down, Winding Back Up

Monday, December 8th, 2008

It was snowing here last week. The days are getting shorter and darker. There seems less time in each day than the one before.

Last week, on Friday we went to visit Thomas at Bagsværd Sø. The students put a lot of work in to making sure that their prototypes all worked and could be tested with Thomas and the rowers. After an intensive week like that, the tendency is sometimes to relax and recover a bit. I hope the students don’t do this, because next week is the final week for the course and there simply isn’t time to rest right now. What I need to help them do this week is very quickly transform their experiences and feedback from the visit into an improvement on their design that they can implement in time for next week’s exhibition and exam.

Now that User Experience Design is (like the year) drawing to a close, other projects are rumbling and grumbling back to life. The edited volume with Wendy needs to be given an initial shape, and the Delphi survey with Trine and Carsten (and soon Tamim) requires a push through to completion. And somewhere deep down (growling, howling) is the thesis. It needs to be brought back to an everyday-work-routine.

Convert .pptx files to .ppt on OSX

Monday, December 8th, 2008
Microsoft office open xml converter

Microsoft office open xml converter

If you’re still using Office 2004 on OSX and receive .pptx files from colleagues, you won’t we able to open them directly. Instead, download the (snappily titled) Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter and you’ll have a drag/drop interface for converting these, and other of the new office file formats.

Animated Gesture Data Plots

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
3D plot of gesture data

3D plot of gesture data

I was going through some old files today and found some 3D plots I’d made of acceleration data recorded from gestures as part of my PhD work. I used gnuplot to create a series of plots from lots of different angles so I could join them together into a movie that would show the cloud of data rotating in space. Unfortunately, the movies didn’t work very well on my computer when I tried to open them today. Quicktime complained about requiring additional components to watch them, but then gave me no clue as to which component I needed.

I was a little disappointed until I realized that I could take the series of original image files and replicate the effect fairly simply in JavaScript and even add some interactivity (I’ve only tested it in Firefox).

I don’t really know what the use of these plots is, but they’re somehow intriguing. If I can find the original image files for the other gestures I recorded, I’ll put some of them up too. It’s very interesting to see how the gestures have different patterns of acceleration.

Two Visitors From Finland

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Salu Ylirisku and Jussi Mikkonan

Salu Ylirisku and Jussi Mikkonan

We had some interesting visitors recently, Salu Ylirisku and Jussi Mikkonen from the School of Design at The University of Art and Design in Finland. Salu and Jussi are currently building a new curriculum on Interaction Design and are planning on employing the Arduino platform in the education. I’m currently teaching a course here at MCI called User Experience Design with a similar emphasis on prototyping. It was nice to share experiences and ideas.

I was especially interested to hear about Salu and Jussi’s recent trip to visit the Interactive Telecommunications Program at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Tom Igoe teaches a really interesting sounding physical computing course there. Salu and Jussi had lots of inspiring pictures and stories about the workspace and culture. I was especially impressed with what seemed like a very collaborative, performative approach to teaching programming and the use of tools such as wikis to collect, share and improve code snippets.