It has been a while since I last posted anything.  July 2017, actually, seems to be the last time I wrote anything here.  I could say that I was busy, which would be true.  But, I certainly had the bits of time – here and there – that would have allowed me to post something had I wanted to do that.  But, thoughts that I wanted share just were not there.

The back half of last year has two large events that standout in my mind.  Both personal, but only one that I feel like sharing.

I graduated.  It is not like I am at the top of my field or anything like that.  I simply happy that I stuck through my graduate program and now I can say, I have a masters degree.

With this task now behind, I have been mulling over many-things-computer lately.  Marveling at how, in the early 1990s when I was I becoming interested in computers, I never really thought much about what exactly I wanted to do or be when I grew up.  I simply liked to tinker.  It was not until I was nearly finished with high school that I thought I would likely pursue computer science.  I really did not know what that was — likely computer programming, I had hoped.  I liked computer programming.  I had first been introduce to computer programming on Apple IIe computers when I was in elementary school, in an after school program for kids who liked math.  I was one of those kids who liked math.  I give much of credit to June Hendrickson for introducing myself and a small cohort of kids in the early 1990s in Hibbing.  I do not know how or whether that after school program influenced the others, but it certainly left an impression on me.

Miss Hendrickson introduced me to polynomial algebra and what was basically a gateway drug for me: Apple BASIC.   It was simple and seemed sort of elegant.  Start your program with 10 HOME and just work your way down the file.  Need to jump back to the beginning?  GOTO 10.  Programming clicked, and it would be the thing I did when I got home school, and it was often the thing I was doing before going to bed.

As it turned out, there was something more visual than just Apple BASIC or QBASIC.  Microsoft, in 1993, released Visual Basic 3.0.  An older friend, who was off at college, picked  me up a copy from the campus bookstore.  A graphic user interface with BASIC?  It was great.  I honestly didn’t realize that it was not great, and there were more powerful programming pieces of software available.  Nonetheless, I spent countless hours making small utilities and other bits of software.  The most memorable thing that I made was a piece of software that effectively calculated Riemann sums for assisting calculations related to curvature of a ballistic trajectory.  Like every 12 year old, I had a fascination with the mathematics of projectiles.  Unbeknownst to myself, I had stumbled upon some foundational concepts of calculus: calculating the area under a curve on a graph.

After Visual Basic, there was Borland C and Visual Studio.  I eventually obtained a shell account with the local internet service provider.  This was my first introduction to Unix and specifically SunOS.  Linux was also, at this point, a few years old.  Slackware was the thing to get.  The same friend who had purchased Visual Basic 3.0 for me, also introduced me to Linux.

There has been more since.  A lot more, and yet, I still have those old habits.  Things computers and things software are often the first thing I think about in the morning, and often the last thing I think about before falling asleep.  Even though my occupation is that of Software Engineer.  I still recreationally program, too.  I still tinker.  That screen shot of Visual Basic 3.0 (above) is from my modern day, current MacBook Pro laptop.  It’s Windows for Workgroups 3.11 running in a virtual machine.

Semester Done, School-year Done

Semester Done, School-year Done

recommender0The fall semester is in the books.  I am now about two-thirds thru the required credits for a master’s degree in computer science.  With chipping away at the degree in a part-time manner, when complete, it will have taken me around four and a half years to finish an otherwise two-year degree.

This year, the courses I took involved HCI – Human Computer Interaction.  For those who did not click on that Wikipedia link, HCI is an area of computer science that looks at (observes) how people use computers and associated technologies, as well as the creation (design) of technologies that let people computers in interesting ways.

For the spring semester, the course I took was titled, Collaborative & Social Computing.  It explored, from a fairly high-level, the many aspects of HCI.  We looked at Wikipedia, Zooniverse, Mechanical Turk, a host of dating sites, as well as Chris McKinlay’s gaming of OkCupid (there’s also a book on this, too).  The class ended with a two person project – my partner and I implemented a very crude Wikipedia-of-CompSci-course-work.  Think of this as a free and open platform to obtain questions and their answers for computer science coursework.  This was to be an instructor-centric platform where instructors could share with other instructors their courses’ questions.  We called it AssignmentHub.

This course was a bit of a gateway-drug for HCI.  Little samples – gets you hooked, gets you interested – convinces you that the next level, HCI & UI Technology, should be a great course.

The name, HCI & UI Technology, is a bit of a catch-all and does not clearly state what my fall semester’s primary course was about: research methods within the context of human-computer interaction.  What’s that I just said?  The gist of the course was look at a research paper from the HCI-world and look at the methods of research used.  Grounded theory method, surveying of individuals, was there a statistical process applied, and so on.  We read a lot.  Thirty-eight papers or chapters, likely many hundreds of pages.

Many of the papers and chapters have blended together in my mind.  Which ones were on Facebook?  Which ones used mturk?  Which ones were about designing technologies and which ones were about evaluating perceptions of technologies?

There is one paper that stands out a bit in my mind.  It is likely that it stands out because I had to co-present it to class.  The paper was Project Ernestine: Validating GOMS for predicting and explaining real-world task performance.  

It’s a 74-page paper, published in 1993, that chronicles the scientific effort to compare work-times of telephone operators using two different workstations at NYNEX.  Those with a keen mind for remembering late 1960s television might realize that Ernestine was the name of one of Lily Tomlin’s characters on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.  Ernestine was a sarcastic telephone operator.

The paper also draws on work from Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their efforts to measure worker performance and study motion in a more scientific manner.

After all the readings, the term was rounded out with co-authoring a research paper.  The paper was modeled after Understanding User Beliefs About Algorithmic Curation in the Facebook Newsfeed. Instead of Facebook, we looked at Reddit and people’s perceptions of Reddit’s Best algorithm.

And, that’s it.  Lots of reading, three research projects (including the research paper).  Social and Collaborative Computing was certainly gateway-drug to the more hardcore HCI & UI Technology (HCI Research Methods in disguise).  It was interesting to learn more about the inner-workings of a sub-area of computer science, but I have definitely had my fill for a while.

Below is a table of nearly all that we read this term.  Enjoy.

Paper or Chapter NameAuthor(s)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Surprise as Analytic Tools: Grounded Theory MethodMichael Muller
An older version of the Wikipedia talk page for Edina,
Excerpts from Old Edina, MN Wikipedia Talk
Is it really about me?: message content in social awareness streams.Naaman, Mor, Jeffrey Boase, and Chih-Hui Lai.
Hustling online: understanding consolidated facebook use in an informal settlement in Nairobi.Susan P. Wyche, Andrea Forte, and Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck
Understanding User Beliefs About Algorithmic Curation in the Facebook News Feed.Rader, Emilee, and Rebecca Gray
Mediated parent-child contact in work-separated families.Yarosh, Svetlana, and Gregory D. Abowd
Experimental Research in HCIGergle and Tan
Understanding User Behavior Through Log Data and AnalysisSusan Dumais, Robin Jeffries, Daniel M. Russell, Diane Tang, Jaime Teevan
Research Ethics and HCIAmy Bruckman
Effectiveness of shared leadership in online communities.Zhu, Haiyi, Robert Kraut, and Aniket Kittur
To stay or leave?: the relationship of emotional and informational support to commitment in online health support groupsYi-Chia Wang, Robert Kraut, and John M. Levine
Practical Statistics for Human-Computer InteractionJacob O. Wobbrock
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.Kramer, Adam DI, Jamie E. Guillory, and Jeffrey T. Hancock
Predicting tie strength with social mediaEric Gilbert and Karrie Karahalios
Survey Research in HCIMuller et al.
Concepts, Values, and Methods for Technical Human-Computer Interaction ResearchHudson and Mankoff
Research Through Design in HCIZimmerman and Forlizzi
Skinput: appropriating the body as an input surfaceChris Harrison, Desney Tan, and Dan Morris
The bubble cursor: enhancing target acquisition by dynamic resizing of the cursor’s activation areaTovi Grossman and Ravin Balakrishnan
Field trial of Tiramisu: crowd-sourcing bus arrival times to spur co-designJohn Zimmerman, Anthony Tomasic, Charles Garrod, Daisy Yoo, Chaya Hiruncharoenvate, Rafae Aziz, Nikhil Ravi Thiruvengadam, Yun Huang, and Aaron Steinfeld
Performance and User Experience of Touchscreen and Gesture Keyboards in a Lab Setting and in the WildShyam Reyal, Shumin Zhai, and Per Ola Kristensson
The drift table: designing for ludic engagementWilliam W. Gaver, John Bowers, Andrew Boucher, Hans Gellerson, Sarah Pennington, Albrecht Schmidt, Anthony Steed, Nicholas Villars, and Brendan Walker
Predicting human interruptibility with sensors: a Wizard of Oz feasibility studyScott Hudson, James Fogarty, Christopher Atkeson, Daniel Avrahami, Jodi Forlizzi, Sara Kiesler, Johnny Lee, and Jie Yang
Zensors: Adaptive, Rapidly Deployable, Human-Intelligent Sensor Feeds.Laput, Gierad, et al.
Beyond the Belmont Principles: Ethical challenges, practices, and beliefs in the online data research communityVitak, J., Shilton, K., & Ashktorab
Unequal Representation and Gender Stereotypes in Image Search Results for OccupationsKay, Matthew, Cynthia Matuszek, and Sean A. Munson
y do tngrs luv 2 txt msg?Grinter, Rebecca E., and Margery A. Eldridge
Becoming Wikipedian: transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia.Bryant, Susan L., Andrea Forte, and Amy Bruckman
Wikipedians are born, not made: a study of power editors on Wikipedia.Panciera, Katherine, Aaron Halfaker, and Loren Terveen
Agent-based Modeling to Inform the Design of Multi-User SystemsRen and Kraut
Project Ernestine: Validating a GOMS analysis for predicting and explaining real-world task performance.Gray, Wayne D., Bonnie E. John, and Michael E. Atwood
Cooperative inquiry: developing new technologies for children with children.Druin, Allison
Sabbath day home automation: it’s like mixing technology and religion.Woodruff, Allison, Sally Augustin, and Brooke Foucault
SpeechSkimmer: interactively skimming recorded speech.Arons, Barry
Sensing techniques for mobile interaction.Hinckley, Ken, et al.
A touring machine: Prototyping 3D mobile augmented reality systems for exploring the urban environment.Feiner, Steven, et al.
"I regretted the minute I pressed share":
A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook
Wang, Yang, et al.