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I just sent this in an email to some very good students I'm working with at the Stanford, Peking University, and the Central Academy of Art + Design in Beijing. They had written to me about some early research they've done on families and long distance relationships, and had talked at the end of their document about their plans to identify business opportunities for Nokia. I felt it was a little bit early for that.

I thought some of you might appreciate it.

Two, very related, comments.

First, I’d encourage you to think not so much in terms of “market spaces” or “product opportunities” or whatnot, but more about trying to understand what the behaviors and values and ways in which we can help people express themselves in the ways that they want are. In many ways, that’s just a change in wording and not in what you’re doing, but we want to be open to a whole bunch of ideas. As soon as you start to use business-specific language like “market” or “opportunity map” or whatnot, you run the risk of shutting down options before they’re started: you start thinking “Oh, Nokia is a phone company, so we should only think about things that fit within that kind of company.” It means that you might miss, I don’t know, setting up plants that are synchronized across different time zones so that they grow together in different people’s houses, or goldfish that respond to changes in their tanks that are in some way linked to the distant activity of your loved one, or just both people in a couple deciding to have soup on the same night so they feel they’re doing something together or teenagers sneaking downstairs after lights out to talk to their girlfriend on the phone in the kitchen. So don’t shut down the things you’re thinking about.

In a second, related, note, get wilder about your inspirations. Interviews and empathy with consumers are good. But what about movies, books, plays, poetry? We’re talking about love here! We already have people in Nokia who analyze markets, and I’m sure they do a good job of it. But you are a widely mixed group at some of the most elite institutions in the world and you have the freedom to do something really, really exciting. Tell me about lovers playing World of Warcraft games played at a distance! Let’s get you finding families who build family histories by exchanging photo albums back and forth. I want to hear about people on Skype laughing till they wet themselves, and crying themselves to sleep because they miss the love of their life, and the wonderful feeling of being met at the airport by someone you haven’t seen for six months but have talked to every single night. I’ve had people tell me about how seeing the ultrasound picture of their first child was one of the most moving and amazing moments in their life, like all of a sudden it was real and they were going to have a real live human baby and it was theirs. Is that on an opportunity map? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it’s useful, yet, for it to be there. Sure, if at the end, the very end, you want to prioritize and identify areas of maximum opportunity for Nokia then that’s great, but do it at the end once you’ve gone out and found or built or expressed some really exciting, crazy, awesome behaviors or designs or ideas or concepts that will blow everyone’s minds when I tell people.

A glorious and wonderful Year of the Tiger to all of you.

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I wanted to understand the impact of the CHI Program Committee meeting on the final choice of papers. That is to say, there are 126 ACs listed on the website. So that's an average of about 2.4 papers accepted per AC and 8.3 papers rejected per AC, adding up to an average of 10.7 papers per AC.  What's the impact on the conference of flying all these people to Atlanta, putting them up a hotel for a few nights, and sitting in rooms together for a day and a half?

We could imagine an alternative might be to make decision based entirely on review scores.  What would that look like? Let's assume we would accept the same number of papers.  So to look at the impact of the meeting, let's make a prediction which would have the result of accepting the same numbers of papers (302), and compare that to reality.  Practically, this means taking a December 2 dump of the precision conference database (to avoid the changes made over the course of the meeting), sorting it by score and taking the first 302 papers. This is the same (to a level of accuracy of about 2 or 3 papers) to accepting all papers with a score >=3.42.  Comparing that to what really happened means:

no difference in 1226 out of 1342 papers
papers predicted as rejects (i.e. score <3.42) that were accepted: 56 
papers predicted as accepts (i.e. score>=3.42) that were rejected: 59
for a total number of changes as result of the meeting of 115
or, in other words, about 57 papers switched accept/reject decisions because of the meeting

Another way might be to look at the 1AC score. That would mean that ACs had more influence on the final decision of a paper than the reviewers.  So do we just accept the decisions of the ACs? Let's do the same math; it turns out that the top 302 papers have an 1AC score that is also (as it happens) >=3.42

no difference in 1199 out of 1342 papers
papers predicted as rejects that were accepted: 31(i.e. if the AC doesn't like it, it's pretty unlikely it'll get in)
papers predicted as accepts that were rejected: 111 (i.e. even if they do, it doesn't mean it will.)

So in conclusion a) the PC meeting, while elaborate and expensive, does make a substantial difference in the shape of the conference and b) ACs do not have excessive powers to make papers they are (at least somewhat) enthusiastic about get into the conference.

The second point I'd like to make involves ACs abilities to reject papers that are clearly unsuited for the conference without involving three reviewers in the process. There were 300 papers this year with an average score <= 2.00, and 100 papers <= 1.00. Or, in other words, that's 1200 reviews written for papers that had little chance of getting in and 400 reviews written for papers that had no chance of getting in. There's some debate about this, because there is a sense of obligation to new researchers who may be trying to enter the field for the first time. However, the amount of time that currently needs to be invested in these works seems to be out of proportion to the amount the authors do or will contribute to the field. In my experience, the short version of the advice to all such authors is "Go read some papers that have been accepted in the past. Now make your paper more like them." There may be some ways to extend this - suggesting two or three papers that are particularly relevant, or adding a few specific details ("Please pick only one topic that you are trying to talk about in the limited space available to you", or "Please have your paper edited by a native English speaker") but this seems like an opportunity to reduce overhead. (James makes a similar point here, I note.)
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"Punch Mission"

Similar to the infamous "Punch Buggy" game, in which one punches one's sister (or alternative) in the arm when one sees a Volkswagen Bug and says "Punch Buggy Blue" (or other appropriate color), in the "Punch Mission" game one punches one's girlfriend (or boyfriend) in the arm and says "Punch Mission San Fernando" (or, of course, as appropriate). Debate continues over whether you have to actually see the Mission in question, or whether those brown tourist signs are an adequate substitute.
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I've moved to Mountain View. That means my excellent house in Ithaca is on the market! Please buy it.
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I'm happy to see 'evaluation' and 'HCI' and 'design' and 'work' and 'experience-focused'. A bit surprised epistemology and epistemological aren't any bigger. And only a bit embarrassed to see how much I use 'approach' and 'approaches', and, to a lesser extent, 'However'. But that's how you know it's a dissertation, right? But it's not a bad keyword summary.
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I just put up an excellent recipe for cornbread and a very good one for sprouted lentil bread along with two other recipes over at Check it, yo.

Beer Swing

Jul. 27th, 2008 01:53 pm
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Some of you were wondering when I was going to put up an Instructable for the beer swing. I was too lame to actually do a full instructable, but here's a slide show with comments so you too can replicate beer swing awesomeness in your own back yard.
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I've finally got around to putting my Bike Cooler instructable. It's the first Instructable I've actually got around to doing. Check it, yo!


EDIT: ps. *And* it's on the front page! Thanks, [ profile] snowninja7!
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My friend Caitlin is currently travelling around Ireland. Because of this, I felt I should give her some advice on how to behave, and I thought that other readers might find this useful.

Ireland is becoming an increasingly common location for Americans to visit on holidays. Ireland is a land seeped in culture, and as such it's important to be aware of social norms as so not to offend. The following advice should improve the experience of any American visiting Ireland.

1. It is seen as very rude not to greet people you meet in the street before noon with "Top o' the morning to you!" It's also polite to tip your hat to people at the same time, or, if not wearing one, to gently pat your forehead as a substitute.

2. It is also very rude to leave a social gathering, such as being in a pub, without explaining why you're going. It is also appropriate to invite others to leave for the same reason at the same time. Of course, it's also important to use the right terms. The following are all acceptable reasons:
- Going for a nap, or "wank"
- Going out for a snack, or "a shag"
- Going for some fresh air, or "a snog"
So for example, you might say "Well, I'm going to pop around the corner for a shag. Back in five minutes. Anyone want to join me?"

3. The term "leprechaun" has come to mean "a real, true Irishman". As in "So you were born and bred in Dublin? You're a real leprechaun, eh?"

4. Ireland's nickname, "The Emerald Isle", is because of the large number of emeralds that are found in mountains and in streams across the land. It's perfectly acceptable and shows respect for Ireland's heritage to stop by any body of water and "look for emeralds", even briefly.

5. Ireland's growing economy became known as "The Celtic Tiger". To show your enthusiasm for Ireland's economy, you should respond "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" whenever anyone says that phrase.

6. Dubliners like to think of their city as being small and intimate, despite its size. They will appreciate you pointing out its village-like nature, and the way that, unlike other capital cities, it has a rustic charm without being contaminated by a sense of being international and cosmopolitan.

7. If travelling around the country, you will encounter several different local stouts, including Beamish in Galway and Murphy's in Cork. Needless to say, these are imitations of the Dublin-based Guinness, and the highest compliment you can give, upon tasting one of these beers, is to exclaim that it "Tastes just like Guinness!"

8. When being served a pint of Guinness (or any of the aforementioned local stouts), it will often be covered with a white cap of foam. That foam is taking the place of beer that you've paid for! To show that you're no ignorant tourist, just blow said foam off onto the bar counter, and then ask the bartender to top up your pint. They'll be happy to do so now that you've shown you know what's what.

9. The "Irish Car Bomb", a shot of Jamesons in a pint of Guinness, is the national drink of Ireland, and should be ordered frequently to show your appreciation for your host country.

10. It's always good form to use local phrases to show that you've being paying attention to people around you. For example, you might say that something is "Good like Bono!", who is a national hero, or, if surprised, exclaim "Fuck the pope!"


Jul. 2nd, 2008 04:49 pm
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Just to let you all know that I'll be joining Nokia Research Palo Alto as a Member of Research Staff starting November 17th. Woooo!

Now back to your regularly scheduled finishing-writing-my-dissertation.
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Some brilliant stuff at Central St. Martin's Degree show this year. My friend Tim has a great summary post here which is worth a flip through:

There's a nice visualization of the Mexican-American war in the style of Minard's map of the invasion of Napoleon's invasion of Russie by David Hernández Méndez:

I also particularly like Kacper Hamilton's set of classes around the theme of the seven deadly sins. I rarely like glass art, but I think this is very wittily done.
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Caitlin's pix here:

Now to finish up that thesis.
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I did a gig a week or two ago with Red Shift productions, who do some great science/theater work. We did an opening performance for a life sciences conference with Nobel Laurate Roald Hoffman. He gave the opening keynote, supposedly a talk about molecular behaviour under high-pressure, and his laptop "didn't work"... so myself and two other actors came up and performed the slides for him, a la classic improv format "Family Vacation". Lots of fun.
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This is a great concept video by Pam Briggs & Patrick Olivier about 'Biometric Demons', which I first saw when they presented it at alt.chi. It's an excellent example of concept work specifying function without pinning down form. Lovely.

Their blurb:
The Biometric Daemon describes a kind of electronic pet that thrives on the biometric properties of its user and which can be used for authentication and identity management. It is based on the novels of Philip Pullman.
The concept was developed by Pam Briggs (Northumbria University - PaCT Lab) and Patrick Olivier (Newcastle University - Culture Lab) - with a PDF link to the scientific paper here:
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Does anybody know how I can paste something from Acrobat into Word without it taking every new line as a hard CR? IE, I want to paste this from an Acrobat document

Moving from inspiration, or glimpses of particular lives as
possibilities in a design space, to information that seeks to
pinpoint exact requirements or needs of general
communities is symptomatic of different stances on the
ultimate goal of interpretation, in particular whether it
should be open or closed. The former approach sees
interpretation as opening up a variety of possibilities [52].
The latter sees interpretation as a process of negotiation
toward one single, correct, and unambiguous
understanding; the need to establish a single interpretation
then leads to a proliferation of methods to support a
narrowing of and verification of the potential design space.

but make it look like this:

Moving from inspiration, or glimpses of particular lives as possibilities in a design space, to information that seeks to pinpoint exact requirements or needs of general communities is symptomatic of different stances on the ultimate goal of interpretation, in particular whether it should be open or closed. The former approach sees interpretation as opening up a variety of possibilities [52]. The latter sees interpretation as a process of negotiation toward one single, correct, and unambiguous understanding; the need to establish a single interpretation then leads to a proliferation of methods to support a narrowing of and verification of the potential design space.

Should not be the rocket science, no? But I can't figure out how to make it do it in any way other than just deleting that CR/LF (or whatever it is) at the end of each line.

I'm not sure whether it's Acrobat sucking or Word sucking here. It does strike me that it should be possible to fix it in Word, though, and I can't figure out how. Right now if I want to do it I'm pasting it into TextPad, selecting it and Ctrl-J reformatting as a single line, then cut-and-pasting back out. Which works but is clearly ridiculous.
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In January Perlick challenged me to make my New Year's resolution doing something structured, as I'm generally very improvisational by nature. Now, I'm a pretty good musician, but I have a poor sense of rhythm, which I find frustrating, so I figured that would be a good thing to work at.

After failing to get Jess to buy Rock Band for the house, I decided to get a metronome and use that. Caitlin couldn't find hers, so I decided an excellent thing to do would be to build one. Naturally, in an Altoids box, as anything that could fit inside an Altoids box is always cooler when one has done so. So one 555 chip and a few hours in the basement later, I'm happy to announce success. A relaxing alternative to thesing.

Images and witty commentary about circuits behind the cut )

Thanks to Caitlin for her help in solderin' and buildin' and all.

I really should get around to writing this up on Instructables so that Christy doesn't tell me off here, but I always forget to document as I'm going along. Ah well, maybe I'll go and recreate at some point over spring break.
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I'm reading 'Course of empire'. The LoC publication data reads "1. Human-alien encounters - Fiction". It's nice to know someone at the LoC believes, y'know?
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Inspired by some graphs [ profile] dr_tectonic produced which showed graphical representations of individual songs, I got distracted this morning and started thinking about who songs are written about.

As it happens, I have a (gendered) list of names on my computer from previous research, and I also have a dump of OLGA (the OnLine Guitar Archive, now defunct due to pressure from the MPA and NMPA) for my own personal, educational and research use. That's about 10,000 songs from about 1,100 artists; it's worth noting the list is biased towards English-language popular music with guitars in it that can be represented with chords or tab (i.e. rock/blues/pop) from the last fifty or so years.

There are a few things that make this problem difficult. First, identifying names is hard. I've assumed that they're capitalized words in songs that appear on the name list. That does cause some problems: there's a lot of names that are common words ('Will', 'Hope', 'Van', etc). Second, there's no XML here: it's all just flat text files, in directories by first eight characters of the band name. Third, identifying gender of names is a whole problem unto itself. Fourth, I'm assuming that anonymous transcribers of songs are scrupulous about capitalization -- no "layla! i get down on my knees". Fifth, I don't want this to be more biased than necessary by the names of the artists: I want to know who they're writing about, not who's doing the writing. And sixth, I'm count each name each time it shows up, not once-per-song, so the name 'Layla' gets nine hits, despite the fact it's probably one song. Makes you wonder why I even bother trying. So the code has a lot of hedging to try and get around those problems[1], *and* I have to manually go into the result and decide what I think are and are not names.

But, in conclusion, out of 1,255,417 lines in 10,296 songs, the following names are mentioned more than 50 times:

will 464 #likely not a name most of the time
jesus 199
john 163
joe 144
america 147 #wierd name list
dan 108
johnny 108
billy 108
mary 102 #first female name
paul 78
van 72 #mainly due to a lot of non-english songs, not mr. morrison
james 69
peter 69
jack 66
tom 66
sally 63
jimmy 62
santa 59
ray 59
polly 55
willie 51

Aren't you glad you didn't ask?
[1]: I skip the first five lines of the file, I skip any lines with 'by' or 'artist' in them, I skip lines which are All In Title Case, I skip lines that have the name of the directory in them [ie some approximation of the artist], and I skip the words ["you", "love", "come", "song", "into", "set","straight", "christmas","lady","round","york","melody","young"] which are in the names list but seem unlikely in this context to be informative.

For more detail, you might want to check out the
complete output of names and frequencies here.

You could, but it's unlikely, want to check out the
code here or
the [gendered] namelist here.
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