A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Life in the field - continuation

Yesterday it was a busy day and because I had to meet some old friends from Germany at 8pm, I decided to leave only at 7 and to take the bus directly to the city centre. I noticed that one of the fellows who was also travelling by bus was in a call conference for the last hour, and I said to myself: lucky me! I can leave, he can't! So I went out in the rain at 6:55 to wait for the bus. 3 more people were in the bus stop, and this made me think I didn't miss it!

The Bussicus Dublinius is one of the most unpredictable beasts I've met in my life. It comes and goes whenever it feels it's right, so the bus schedule is there purely for keeping your mind busy and make you run out like crazy when you think it's about to leave, just to spend another 20-40 min relaxing after a hard day's work by walking up and down...

This time, I had to wait no less than 70 min. Two buses arrived and turned back without stopping (it's the end of the bus route there!) At least I got two companions from the team I'm working with to comment on the bus predictability and talk about our frustration. When a school bus finally showed up and took us on board, we had been laughing for a while, so it didn't feel so bad anymore. Weird, isn't it?! When you get the chance to channel and share your frustration, it doesn't seem that bad anymore...
Today, I thought of filing in a complaint. On this forum? or on BusRage? Anyhow, I don't think it would make any difference!

But thinking of my young companions, who just started their job here a few months ago, I thought the situation was really serious. One of them told me he was on the bus 4h every day - that means he was getting home and going to sleep just to start again the next day early in the morning...
|| Gabriela 11:46:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Life in the field

Living the life of the people I'm studying is quite a challenge - sometimes I get so immersed in the problems that I forget about my real identity and I become one of them... Not the right thing to do for an ethnographer, but I can't wipe out my memory and forget about the times when I was a software developer myself... happy times!

I'm familiar with this environment, but I'm still perceived as a stranger; from time to time, people still introduce me to their colleagues with "we're her guinea pigs", even if now, I believe, they became aware we're not running any kind of weird experiment here.

I'm observing the day-to-day practices of a software development team, focusing on their collaboration with other people in remote places. And there's so much going on... Global Software Development ceased to be an abstract concept for me as I see it happening...

I have to make an effort now to abstract myself from what's happening, to take a step back and "to make the familiar strange". Looking for the origins of the "making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar"phrase , I landed on Alistair Cockburn's blog and consumed his findings. Google-style learning is not always efficient, but I love it!

My colleague also pointed me to this paper by Bell and Blythe, and I'm looking forward to reading it tonight!

Hmm... these were my after lunch reflections... According to the weekly lunch ritual, Wednesday is the day when "we" (see? I'm considering myself part of the team) are going to O'Brien's (where I had the chance to learn about "tripledeckers";-)

Back to work now!
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Dublin CASCON'06

Last week I attended the CASCON Dublin Symposium at the Dublin Software Laboratory of IBM. The event was organised in association with its bigger "sister", the Toronto CASCON, already at its 16th edition. This year's edition had a suggestive name: "Meeting of minds".

The keynote speaker here in Dublin was Prof.Mark Keane, the director of Science Foundation Ireland. For me, it was an excellent opportunity for getting a broad picture of research being done in Ireland: research centres, groups, topics, funding perspectives, and so on.

There were 3 papers presented in the morning, and 3 in the afternoon (very little compared to the Toronto CASCON, who went on for 4 days and included several tracks and workshops and a technology showcase). Two guests, one from Egypt and one from Sweden, gave an international dimension to the local event.

During the lunch break, a poster session gave us the chance to network with IBMers, colleagues from other universities and other participants. My team presented two posters, and we got some very interesting feedback on them. We all voted for choosing the "best poster", and Benoit Gaudin(and his colleagues) from University College Dublin got the award for a poster titled From Migrations to Population Concentration, based on some very interesting visualizations.

The video link with IBM Toronto worked (almost) without fault, and we were able to watch the keynote speech and the panel discussion going on there, and even to ask questions... It was such a nice feeling, to be part of that global research community and to participate in the Toronto event while sitting here in an auditorium at IBM in Dublin. I was happy to discover that someone blogged that event - here's the link.

The CASCON blog is aggregating posts from several participants' blogs; it almost feels like I've been there! I was thinking of it as an inspiration for setting up a conference blog for ECSCW'07 - we'll be hosting it in Limerick!

Going back to the CASCON blog today, I found a very interesting (and painfully true) reflection on CASCON (but it could apply to any other conference!), the incredible amount of enthusiasm and ideas they stir in us, and how these get killed by our inevitable return to our day-to-day lives!
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