A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Coniecto has moved

Coniecto got a new home. I postponed telling you, because the new home wasn't quite ready. But with the limited amount of time I have right now, it won't look neater anytime soon...

All the old posts (and the pile of drafts!) have been copied there, but I still have to find a solution for importing the comments (I was with Haloscan and it looks like the only way to export them is to get a paid account now that I want to leave them!)

Stop by and say hello if you haven't heard from me in a while (and you were missing my random rants) - here's the new address:
|| Gabriela 12:33:00 PM
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Going to Podcamp Kilkenny

Well, the Podcamp was in my calendar for the last two months, but until 3 days ago, I wasn't sure I can go. It was a tough week (and a tough month!), and I wouldn't have dared to go by bus or take the train up to Dublin and then to Kilkenny!

I had promised Sabrina Marczak (a Brazilian doing a PhD at the SEGAL group in Canada), who's visiting our research group, to facilitate a few discussions with people in the Irish software industry involved in outsourcing. I have done my best, but we didn't get many responses.

I intended to take her to an OpenCoffee in Cork, but this didn't work out. She visited Cork last week, attending the Irish HCI conference in my place, while I was stuck at home, with an injured back and hip (don't ask how it happened, because it was really stupid!)

But we're coming to Kilkenny tomorrow, so who knows?! Maybe we'll have a bit of luck!

If, by any chance, you have ever been in a software outsourcing/offshoring relationship (either at the receiving or at the sending end) and you happen to be at Podcamp this Saturday, please come and say hello!

We're getting a lift with Marian, and I'm really excited to get the chance to talk to her on the way!
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My passage to India

No, I didn't disappear from the face of the Earth. I just keep writing drafts here and never manage to publish them...

I am in India - another one of my childhood dreams coming true. An Indian colleague, consulted because I was very anxious before my departure, said he doesn't think I'll encounter any life threatening circumstances. His feeling was that I'll probably be disappointed. And in a way he was right...

Things here are very different. This is not David Lean's India. Neither is Mircea Eliade's.
It's a weird mixture of aggressive capitalism and thousands of years of culture. And I need time to get accustomed to it! Maybe one day I'll love it. But for the moment, I'm just overwhelmed.

I spent a week at Wipro in Bangalore. It was a great experience and I hope to blog about it this week!

Now I'm in Kerala, taking an ayurvedic massage course. I should be in the seventh heaven... only if I could be less critical!

I'm in an Internet cafe right now - I had to change a password that was expiring and I checked every Internet cafe in town if they would let me connect my laptop. Everybody else said: "impossible", until I found this nice guy at Rabby Towers. Wi fi seems not to have reached this land yet - they were looking at me as if I'd have been from another planet .

h2g2 Book plus TowelImage by Ankur Banerjee via Flickr Talking about other planets- I found in a bookshop Douglas Adams' Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I'm reading it now!
The hotel does have Internet access - but it's an old PC in a tiny room next to the kitchen, and shared with the staff and every other hotel guest!

Going back to my hotel now, more later, world!
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Monday, July 28, 2008

The culture shock

I arrived in Bangalore on Sunday morning at 5am. The airport looked impressive - it was just opened in April this year. On the way to the city, the first shock: shacks, rubbish, people selling food next to the motorway... And the red mud everywhere...

The second shock was my carefully picked up hotel. In my naivety, I had picked up a hotel close to the company I was going to visit. I was going to visit Wipro in Madivala, so all I had to do was to find a hotel in Madivala and check the map. I wanted to walk there every day. I didn't want to depend on any means of transportation. This is how I found The Libra. Don't let the banner fool you: the pictures must be taken in some rich cousin's hotel in the UK. The place is not what we would call a hotel. Minimal furniture, windows overlooking piles of rubbish and construction sites, shower dripping continuously... After a first attempt to eat breakfast, I gave up and did my own shopping. There was a sheet on my matress and then an old blanket without an extra sheet. I asked for an extra sheet but couldn't get one. I spent the first night covered with the towel I had brought with me. It was warm, but not comfortable enough. This is a picture of an executive roam just like mine. Doesn't look too bad here, but it was actually not very welcoming. The rooms were under continuous camera surveillance, and I felt uncomfortable to know someone was watching me day and night.

On Sunday, I took a motorickshaw into town. I enjoyed the experience, although a sudden rain drenched my whole left side. It was less than one euro, but when I tried to ask the driver how to get back - or what was the name of the place where he had picked me up, I couldn't get any answer. I stopped at the Mota Royal Arcade on Brigade Road, and I would have bought the whole place if it wasn't the very first day! I tried to get an Indian SIM card, and I found out I needed a picture and a proof of address in India in order to get one. It was Sunday, so I couldn't get my photo taken. But I had dinner in a fabulous restaurant: Just Oriental. The staff was so nice that I felt spoiled. I remember I had stuffed aubergines and they were fabulous. Nice music, nice ambiance, fantastic food and service! I went to the famous MG road and looked at book shops (almost the same books as home!), tried to buy shoes - well, for women it's basically leather made flip-flops and nothing else!) and entered an old and luxurious saree shop, where I felt a bit like an elephant in a garden: whole families were seated, having tea and discussing the options with shop assistants, who were showing there more and more fabrics.

The rickshaw back was 5 times more expensive, but I was glad to see myself back safe. It got dark around 7pm, and I was very tired.

My contact at Wipro sent me a car to pick me up on Monday morning, and I accepted, but told him I intended to walk once I knew were the place was. The driver arrived half an hour earlier, and I asked him to wait, because I didn't want to get there too early. He drove me through a city market and I was amazed seeing people camping there next to their merchandise. The traffic was absolutely insane, and on several occasions I feared for the lives of women and children travelling on motorcycles driven by men.

It took me a good while until I got accustomed to the hunking horns - in the beginning, I was continuously terrified. After the first trip, I couldn't imagine walking there anymore, and I accepted Shiva, my driver, as guardian angel! Anyhow, my work took me to different locations, so managing without a car would have been impossible. The car trip took an hour most of the time...

Another shocking thing was the fly-over getting build in the middle of the current 3 lane road, in order to separate the car traffic from buses and motorcycles. I would have never thought of such a solution!

I got a Vodaphone SIM card on the second evening, not without struggle. My hotel proof of address was considered dubious. But taking into account the bombs that went off just two days before that, I understood their concern. There was police everywhere, and at every supermarket they were checking people's bags! Shopping for food was a bit complicated, but I just went for fresh fruit, Ness Cafe and milk. I needed a lot of time to figure out what was in packages and cans.

My deceiving hotel had a LAN, so I used to dive into conversation with friends every evening and forget where I was. I could have moved out, but I didn't have the energy to do it. And I was there for work, and work was good. My only indulgence during these evenings was to eat pomegranates - a fruit I always longed for, as it was one of the main features of Romanian fairy tales.

Crossing the road was a big adventure, especially in the dark. One evening it took me 20 min! Going out for dinner on my own was also tough! After a bad experience in a food court, where I had to queue for each item separately (curry, nan and lhassi), I decided to go for restaurants. One night at Sahib Sindh Sultan, the guy at the entrance tried to persuade me to go for a pub instead. I only wanted a decent dinner in a nice ambiance, and I stood my ground. In the end I got a little table in the middle of corporate party groups, and had a delicious dinner!

I didn't get to see too much during the first week - in the evenings, I wandered around my hotel on Hossur Road and that was it. I was waiting for the moment when I had to get out of Bangalore as my salvation!


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Friday, May 09, 2008

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!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday in Dublin

Because most of my trips to Dublin were for work purposes, my brain stored a Dublin=work association I'm trying to get rid of. I like Dublin a lot and I'm planning to go there more often from now on.

I discovered a different Dublin - empty streets and closed shops - because it was too early! I had breakfast in an Insomnia Cafe (Starbucks wasn't open yet), trying to think of the press release for 3Dcamp. I had my first walk through Stephen's Green on a sunny but fresh morning (all the other times I passed by it!), and I was deeply charmed.

I went to Deepak Chopra's talk at the NCH. I had read a lot of his books and I thought it was a great opportunity to see the man and listen to him speaking. No, for those who asked - I did not reach enlightenment on the spot, but it was a good motivational talk and the boost I needed.

He's a good speaker and unlike other people, pays respect to his audience. I was a bit annoyed by the over california-nized meditation music, but Utsav Lal, the young Indian pianist who played before the talk and during the interval, was fantastic.

I met a friend for lunch, and then I had a look at the iPhone in an O2 store - read a lot about it, but never touched one. Discovered there were 7 degrees in Dublin and 25 in Bucharest! This is not fair!

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Impressions after the Social Networks discussion panel at UL

I believe we did reasonably well: according to Bernie Goldbach, we had approximately 50 participants in the Library Board Roomon Friday afternoon.

There were interesting reactions to my invitation sent to the Events mailing list at the university: material for fighting students' Facebook addiction, invitations to similar events, requests to record the discussion so that it could serve as inspiration for other social networking evangelists, and apologies from people who would have loved, but couldn't be present.

Nothing worked according to the plan: but I guess this was the beauty of it!

Evert Bopp was in the audience and beside making meaningful contributions to the discussion, he qiked(aka recorded and broadcasted) the whole event.
We had a round of introductions where we tried to explain what was the connection between Bernie, James and myself: how I discovered the Limerick OpenCoffee looking for information about the Collison brothers, how Bernie discovered me through the Jaiku channel I was using with my students, and how Bernie and James were connected through the use of TypePad.

Bernie managed to write jaikus in the middle of the discussion and I guess it was spectacular for the audience to see them on the screen at the end of the discussion.

We touched on LinkedIn and Facebook. We spoke about how difficult it is to be aware of the implications and persistence of personal information disclosed on the web when you're very young. We spoke about bad experiences with Shelfari and good ones with LibraryThing.

We spoke about how Jaiku and Twitter can be used for getting ad-hoc information from your network. We showed and CiteULike and what can one do with them.

Taken out of context, this jaiku by Bernie created a bit of confusion among non-participants:
"@coniecto does not think any social network service is dangerous, as she explains to the UL socnet seminar".
What I meant was that I do not believe the services in themselves are dangerous. As for any other instrument, there are good uses and bad uses. Instead of banning students from using Bebo in schools and colleges, educators and parents should try to understand what's going on there. I can understand they're freightened because they can't understand it and all they can do is read the newspapers and listening to scary stories - but playing the ostrich won't help!

In my opinion, our teaching has to go where our students are and reach them. I could see this with my first year students: they're allergic to Powerpoint, but you can get their attention if you can prove your point with a video found or uploaded to YouTube ...

Bernie gave a few examples of situations when he used one-liners and podcasts to pass the information to students who wouldn't read the recommended books.

We spoke about "the death of books", and agreed that people who are inclined to read have more channels for getting information about books than ever before.

We didn't get too many questions from the audience - half of them were students. I guess we bombarded them with a lot more information than they could digest in an hour - but let's hope curiosity will do the rest!

We also managed to promote the Internet Experience in Education conference on 22 May 2008 in Thurles, the Limerick OpenCoffee and the 3Dcamp.

After the event, I took James for a walk over the Living Bridge, and we had a look at the venue for the 3Dcamp. We had the vision of 100+ people enjoying the interesting talks, the green ambiance of the campus and the networking... now all we need is to turn the vision into reality:)

PS Thank you, Zemanta, for saving me! I was ready to publish the post without links and go to bed, when I discovered you could actually do 3/4 of my work!


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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Panel discussion on Social Networking at the University of Limerick

It's been months since myself and Micheal O hAodha have discovered we share an interest in social networking and decided to organise an event on this topic at our university. We started with the idea of a presentation in mind, but as the date kept on slipping , the concept changed, in an attempt to make the event more lively and interactive.

Taking advantage of my collaboration with Bernie Goldbach (@topgold) and James Corbett (@EirePreneur) in bringing to life the next BarCampIreland, I thought of inviting them for a discussion panel.

The announcement went out
to the university Events mailing list:
You are invited to the panel discussion
“Social Networking – Getting Beyond the Hype”
in the Library Board Room, Friday 11 April, 2008, 2-3 pm.
The panel will touch on the variety of existing online social networking opportunities (e.g. Facebook, Linkedin, Bebo, MySpace etc.). But instead of insisting on the potential advantages/disadvantages of social networking as sometimes outlined in the mainstream media, the panelists intend to share insights from their own experience with blogging and micro-blogging as instruments for building social interfaces, networking through "social objects" (like photos, bookmarks, references) and the numerous face-to-face events facilitated by the use of online applications.
  • Micheal Ó hAodha –Librarian (College of Science and Engineering-ECE,CSIS,MAE,MOE), UL – Moderator
  • Gabriela Avram – Researcher, Interaction Design Centre, UL
  • Bernard Goldbach - Lecturer, Tipperary Institute of Technology
  • James Corbett – Entrepreneur and social media consultant, EirePreneur

And here's a wiki page dedicated to the event.

So, if you're around Limerick this Friday, you are more than welcome to join us!

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