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Monday, September 24, 2007

"What's missing in Social Software?" workshop at ECSCW'07

This workshop has a long history... As I had to put in a proposal for a Global Software Development workshop at ECSCW'07, I couldn't also apply for organising a social software workshop. So I instigated a couple of friends to do so;) As none of them could actually travel to Limerick in September, they suggested to bring in as workshop chair someone they knew. I agreed, and I did my best to support the organisation of the workshop in any way I could: structured the workshop proposal, created a wiki space for it, got in touch with some of the potential participants and so on.

And when everything seemed to be under control - 8 people put in papers, another few expressed their intention to attend - the workshop chair writes from Crete at 12:50pm on Friday afternoon that he's not coming! Well, I had a lot of things to do for Monday (teaching from 3 to 4pm at the University among others), but I still thought I can handle things. I prepared a workshop programme and put it online.

At the BarCamp on Friday I asked Ina to help me chairing the workshop and cover the afternoon- she accepted as she was also interested in the presentations.

And then on Monday morning I went in at 8am, to check the internet connection and all the other details - iBahn who's taking care of the Hilton Internet connections only set them up that morning. Everything seemed ok - a student volunteer was designated for supporting our workshop and another one told me she would like to sit in for part of it.

Here comes 9am, horrible weather outside, rainy and windy, and I find myself in the room with the chief scientist from IBM Dublin and one student volunteer only. It didn't cross my mind to ask the workshop chair if he was in touch with the workshop participants. I spoke very often to the each and every of the participants in the GSD workshop - from their submission until the very last minute, so I took for granted that any other workshop chair was doing the same. Ok, the workshop chair wasn't coming and Lilia was going to present from Telematica in Enschede, but where were the others?! I checked with the registration desk - two other people had actually picked up their badges and conference packs a few minutes before. Few minutes later, I welcomed Birgit Krogstie from Norway and Antonio Tapiador from Spain. A bit relieved... At least we had 4 presenters . Lilia joined us on Skype - and the audio connection was crystal clear! She asked if she could invite Robert Slagter to join the call, and of course we welcomed him!

I made up a new programme on the spot, negotiating and moving presentations around. We started a presentation round. When Alexander Troussov started speaking about Lotus Connections and Galaxy, I wanted to send Lilia the YouTube link to their ad. In the process, I clicked on it by mistake and then felt too embarrassed to stop it. Must have sounded like shameless advertising for IBM, who was one of our sponsors. I apologised, and told them about the incident in Berlin, when Craig asked if the info was public and I replied "it's on YouTube!"

It was for the first time I was using an LCD screen for presentations and the text was not reading very well. The slide images were also distorted... And as if this wasn't enough, I kept on upsetting the attendees in the room with frequent switches between presentations and email/Skype - I had to send the other slides to Lilia as we went (I preferred this solution to a two-ways Yugma connection - I was too afraid I could crash the system!).

I went first, and got some interesting comments from Lilia and Robert. Then, in the middle of Birgit's presentation, Ralf Klamma came on Skype and his Skype window popped on the presentation screen. Bad timing! Lilia saved me by taking over the task of setting Ralf up-who finally considered the possibility of giving a remote presentation!

During the coffee break, Ralf tried to negotiate an afternoon time slot - as he had meetings scheduled in the morning. The man wasn't aware of what was going on here! I had to teach, Ina couldn't come to replace me, and there were no papers to present left for the afternoon! I asked him if he ever heard from the other participants - and he answered with nonchalance that he had two cancellations in his mail box! Couldn't I have guessed that?!

Lilia's presentation via Skype and Yugma went extremely well - and there were plenty of questions and comments after it. I was starting to feel better - especially because for 30 min I had no control of my desktop and I could finally relax and listen. Ralf followed - but this time I had to handle his slides, because he didn't have the time to get Yugma running. A few hicups, but it was ok. The last presenter was Antonio - we were a bit confused to see he had ~80 slides in a pdf file, but most of them only had one-two words on them, and Antonio's intention was to make a fluid and dynamic presentation. Out of the box it was - unfortunately his attempt to demonstrate live how easy it was to get an OpenID failed!

What looked like a catastrophe in the morning ended like an enjoyable and convivial little workshop - thanks to Lilia's professional support and to Robert's contribution! Thanks a million, folks, this is the kind of situation when you find out how precious friends are! One of the student volunteers told me at the end that she felt you were more present there than people who were actually physically present in the room:)

And under the heavy horizontal rain, four of us went for lunch to the Hunt Museum - very nice atmosphere, delicious food!

A few lessons learned:

Combining face-to-face with online facilitation is a hell of a job - you must keep your head very clear to be able to cope with it!

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|| Gabriela 11:08:00 PM
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Looking for a reliable desktop sharing solution

I needed a desktop sharing solution for remote presentations in 3 of the ECSCW'07 workshops. I have a whole collection of resources related to online facilitation, and I thought it will be easy.

After torturing my son (who was on vacation and got online from my apartment here in Limerick) for hours with trials of NetMeeting, Vyew, FogCreek Copilot and Lotus Sametime Unyte in the morning, I discovered Yugma - Skype.

I wanted to try it right away, and I looked around for friends who could help me. On Yahoo Messenger I found Dee, who was having trouble with her Internet connection at home in Dublin. Dee has a new laptop running on Vista. And on Skype, I found my friend Jim, from North Carolina, who's a Mac user. Both of them graciously accepted to install Yugma for Skype and give me a hand for testing it.

I shared my screen with them, and both could see what I was typing. There was a 20-30 sec delay for Jim, but it was acceptable.

Having both my friends staring at my screen, I felt a little bit like they were in my living room, and I took the chance to introduce them to each other. The funny part was that both of them could see me typing messages to one or the other before I pressed Enter:)

The next morning, I went to the Hilton and ran a complete test with Lilia Efimova, and an audio only one with Julia Kotlarski. Even if Yugma's interface is intuitive enough, we ran into trouble when I left one session and was trying to start another. I do not think it was a software problem, it's more about figuring out what are the proper steps to do this.

Fingers crossed for next week!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007


I got back from work tonight, and at some point I switched on my laptop to keep me company (I know it must sound pathetic, but it is very much nowadays like leaving the door of my house open to signal I was at home and willing to receive guests used to be!

I was browsing through my huge pile of unread feeds:( and I got in touch via Skype with David Gurteen, who said he was experimenting with blogTV. I went to David's Facebook page, but couldn't figure out where the link was.

Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
DG: i am playing with blogtv
GA: :)nice
DG: it's cool
DG: i am broadcasting now
DG: you can watch me from my facebook profile
DG: go take a look
DG: its rather boring though
DG: the tech is flakey but not bad
DG: can't find where to click
DG: goto my profile
DG: and its on the rh column
DG: have also embedded on a page on my site but does not seem to work there
GA: right hand column? I can't see anything on the
DG: funny
DG: you are viewing my profile yes?
GA: yep
DG: blogtv pane is below my mini-feed pane
GA: got you now
GA: there are so many possible views of a profile...
DG: you can see and hear me LOL
GA: and a student of mine wrote in her exam paper that Facebook is simple and straightforward! well, it isn't!

It took me a while to figure it out, there was software to install and I needed to get an account before being able to comment in the show's chat box and not separately on Skype. David was great, he was speaking continuously and keeping the rest of his audience up-to-date with our separate conversation.

When I finally got in, David was just explaining them how we knew each other. The term "knowledge management" needed to be explained, and I got into an argument with a guy who draw the conclusion that KM was all about robots!

Timmy13 told David about the possibility of inviting a second person to co-host a show, and David brought the guy in - you can see his image next to David's, but a bit smaller.

In the end, David figured out how to embed blogTV in his website.
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

The ECKM'07 Conference in Barcelona

After a short break in Germany after the ICGSE'07 conference, I had the chance to go to Barcelona for the 8th edition of the European Conference on Knowledge Management on September 6-7.
The conference attracted a large number of participants this year, and 11 streams ran in parallel... A huge challenge - running from one room to another proved not to be the most effective strategy... Some titles were misleading, some presentations very poor, and you were always finding out during the break that you've missed an outstanding presentation that happened somewhere else...

But as always, the KM people were extremely good at networking and this made the conference pay off!

The first keynote speaker, Daan Andriessen from INHOLLAND, The Netherlands, spoke about Knowledge as Love: How Metaphors Direct our Efforts to Manage Knowledge in Organisations.
A bit shocking in the beginning, but the idea of the keynote was that the metaphor we use for referring to something as abstract as knowledge influences not only our vocabulary, but also our approach. If knowledge is treated as a resource, it can be stored, packaged, transferred. If knowledge would be treated as love, it would be all about relationship, trust, sharing and so on.

During the first morning, I met David Gurteen on a corridor and we shared our frustration regarding some of the presentations: people reading slides or some script, with no interaction whatsoever with the audience. David came up with the idea of creating a networking space and hijacking people who seem to be wandering from one room to another in order to have a meaningful conversation. David and me share the idea that we learn the most when we interact with our peers, and not when we sit in a chair watching slides. We didn't hijack anyone in the end;), a lady joined us voluntarily, but then I left and caught the second part of a presentation with a promising title: Disconnecting the Knowledge from the Knower (by Jennifer Adelstein).

During the break, while talking in Romanian to Constantin Bratescu (whom I didn't know, but who was coming from my alma mater) I managed to attract two other Romanians: Virginia Maracine and Adriana-Sarah Nica. Quite a crowd, can't remember seeing so many Romanians at any of the previous editions!

I had to chair a session in the afternoon, and it was quite disappointing. The first participant presenting had an audience made of two: myself and the next speaker! Her work was serious, her presentation attractive...and though... If we think of ~180 participants spread over 11 parallel tracks, the average attendance should have been a bit higher... or my maths are wrong!
The next participant had all his luggage stolen from his car in France the day before, and he was forced to improvise a presentation using the text of his paper. The third presenter didn't show up, despite of having registered in the morning. As people were flocking to our room - even if we didn't have a presentation, we spent the time chatting and preparing Julie Boyd from Loughborough University for her very first presentation. I really enjoyed the presentation of her small ethnographic study in an explosive factory focusing on learning in practice.

The conference dinner was impressive and I was happy to be in a fabulous building and not on a boat like in Paris or Budapest. While introducing myself to my companions at the table, I discovered that half of them were Irish! Isn't this a small world?!

On the second day, the keynote speaker was Jan Annerstedt from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark on Intelligent Cities. The topic seemed interesting, but the presentation lacked any connection to KM. Or were we too tired after the night before?!

The highlight of the conference was the Knowledge Cafe, ran by David Gurteen and dedicated to the Knowledge Metaphor. David posted Daan's slides, pictures and a few video interviews on the Gurteen Knowledge website. I set up a wiki page within the eckm wikispace to serve as placeholder for our knowledge metaphors.

My own paper - "Knowledge Work Practices in Global Software Development" was well received and initiated an interesting discussion. Why most of the virtual teams in the literature are made of software developers? Aren't there any other examples? What's the value of studying practices?

A few interesting contacts initiated at the conference:
- Andrea Fried, from Chemnitz University of Technology
- Igor Hawryszkiewycz, from The Sydney University of Technology
- Ved Prakash, from WIPRO Technologies, Bangalore
- Stella Van Rijn, from Nyenrode Business University
- Hanna Timonen, from the Helsinki University of Technology.

On Friday afternoon, we were invited to a session of the InCas EU project - A pragmatic ICS Methodology for European SMEs. To my greatest shame, I was put to sleep by the pilot SMEs experiences- people with very poor English presenting the "outstanding" experiences of their companies. Been there, done that! The highlight of the afternoon was Leif Edvinsson's talk - I've never had the chance to listen to the grandfather of intellectual capital before!

Here's my set of pictures on Flickr.

Next edition will happen in Southhampton, on 4-5 September 2007.
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Saturday, September 01, 2007

The ICGSE in Munich

My paper made it into one of the most important conferences in our field, the International Conference on Global Software Engineering, that happened in Munich between 27 and 31 August.

On Monday, I went to a tutorial on SNA- Seeing inside: Using social network analysis to understand patterns of collaboration and coordination in global software teams offered by Kate Ehrlich and Giuseppe Valletto from IBM Research. It was great to meet Kate in person after collaborating with her in drafting a project inside IBM! (The project never took off, but it was great to work with Kate and learn from her!)

During lunch, I made a terrible faux pas when I sat down at the same table with Phillippe Kruchten who was in the middle of his lunch. I read his name tag and as my excitment was bursting, the only line I could find after "Hello, nice to meet you!" was: "we're reading your papers!" He was very nice answering: "and I'm reading your papers too! I had to read all the 100+ submissions..." The truth is I had discovered one of his papers only the week before, and it served me very well to make a point in my ECKM'07 paper, so for me it was a wonderful coincidence and all I meant was to thank him... but then I made a complete fool of myself!

My colleague Anders introduced me to Frances Paulisch, the host and the good fairy of the conference. Frances introduced me to Daniela Damian (again, what a difference between exchanging emails and talking on Skype from being face-to-face!) Daniela introduced me to some of her students - I remember meeting Sabrina Marczak on that occasion.

A welcome reception at the Hilton City Munich followed on the same evening.

On Tuesday, instead of a keynote, there was an opening session including "two important papers"-as introduced by the organisers. Their topics - text-based communication in distributed requirements workshops and respectively the relationship between time zone separation and performance - were of great interest and therefore they were vividly discussed by the audience during the following breaks.

An Experience session, containing only papers from the industry, followed.

Before introducing the keynote speaker, Phillipe Kruchten presented some statistics: there were 100 submissions, out of which 29 were accepted; 156 participants were 60 from Germany, 22 from the US, 9 from the Netherlands, 8 from Finland, 5 from Canada, 4 from India, 3 from Japan. There were supposed to be 2 more Irish, but they didn't make it till the end.

25% of the participants were from academia, 35% from the industry, 19% came from research, 5% were consultants and 16% belonged to “other categories”. Strange enough, not a single person from this last category could be identified…

Then "Herr Professor Doktor" Erran Carmel delivered his keynote speech, "Reflections on a Decade of Studying Global Software Engineering".
A poster session followed - only 3 posters were presented, and unfortunately the Irish IBMers who were co-authors of one of them couldn't be there. Kate Ehrlich and Prof.Marilyn Tremaine had to stand next to it, explaining the work that had been done.

Sabrina Marczak from PUCRS, and a group of students from TU Munich(under the supervision of Marilyn Tremaine) were the authors of the other two.

In the afternoon, we had a session dedicated to Quality and Performance. Two very different talks. Rajesh Agarval from TCS presented the solution found by his company for motivating their developers to work as quality engineers as well. The other speaker was Timo Poikolainen from Nokia - and again, the audience had the chance to hear about successes and failures with thorough openness, as always when someone from Nokia is giving a presentation.

The session organized for students in the evening included two parts:

- In the first part, J.Sauer from Hamburg University presented the results of a survey he has undertaken on the particular difficulties of research in the GSE domain. It was interesting to listen to the student introductions – it gave you an idea of the differences between research settings in different countries.

- In the second part, Harold Ossher from IBM Watson introduced the Jazz Technology platform. Jazz is the result of a collaboration between IBM Rational and IBM Research and is attempting to build a team collaboration platform on top of the Eclipse IDE. – not yet open to the public; a few videos available. Two related research projects based on jazz were presented: one from Victoria University and the other one from University of California, Irvine.

And then the banquet, at the Ratshaus Keller. A lot of nice food and drinks, a magician going around and entertaining people, socializing and networking, and lots of fun.

On Wednesday, it was my turn, and I was extremely nervous. The session was titled Communication, and I was in very good company: Matt Bass from SEI-CMU (actually from Siemens!), and Luis Izquierdo, from the University of Victoria. Luis's paper was extremely interesting - his methods were also inspired by ethnography, and his field site very similar to ours.

I oscillated between a classical presentation and an unusual one. In the end, I couldn't resist the temptation - I went for the unusual one. I started with a warning - no figures nor tables in my presentation!

I don't know what was the impact at the conceptual level - if I managed to convince the audience how important social practices and human actors actually are in a global environment!, but probably my little SouthPark characters have made quite an impression!

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the chance of presenting to the steering committee the Lero proposal of organising ICGSE 2009 in Limerick.

Thursday, the last day of the conference, was shorter.
In the morning, the announcement was made that ICGSE 08 is going to take place in Bangalore, India, and ICGSE 09 in Limerick, Ireland.

In the first session, Michael Vax from LUXOFT delivered the keynote speech, substituting his boss who couldn't come because of visa problems.

The keynote was followed by an Experience session: Subita Sudershana from Roche Molecular Systems (very energetic talk, including stories of miscommunication with both parts speaking English!) , Viktor Clerc from VU Amsterdam, and Alexander Boden from University of Siegen.

The final session was dedicated to Processes and chaired by Daniela Damian. Alberto Avritzer from Siemens Corporate Research presented the Global Software Studio 3.0 project. Our own university was involved in the first and second year in this project, so it was interesting to see how it evolved in the next stage. Fausto Fasano spoke about an experiment on code inspection, while the final presentation (Rafael Prikladnicki from PUCRS) examined different offshoring and onshoring strategies.

It was a very interesting for me to meet in person so many academics and practitioners involved in GSE research. As I said, I was reading their papers, but didn't have any perception of their personalities.
And it was good to see who does the same kind of work in the GSE community. I found a lot of connections with the work of people in Daniela Damian's group (Luis Izquierdo, Sabrina Marczak) and with Alexander Boden's research - clearly grounded in CSCW. Let's hope we can cook a workshop or tutorial together for next year!

I must confess I was very anxious during the conference: we seem to worry a bit too much as a group that our work won't be well seen by hard core software engineers, who are obviously preferring quantitave studies and experiments to our "soft" qualitative and interpretive approach. The conference proved to me that the community is ready to listen to what we have to say, and we can actually make an important contribution complementing those quantitative approaches.

My ego got nicely massaged on several occasions; for example, Alberto Avritzer greeted me on the first day as we would have known each other - just to find out before the end of the conference that he was reading my blog from time to time! Frederick Zarndt commented at the end of my presentation (with shining eyes and a big smile on his face) that he had experienced as a practitioner all the situations mentioned in the presentation. Frederick gave a tutorial on the first day on "intercultural expectations, misunderstandings and communications" that I unfortunately missed. And then, there was a very touching scene in the lobby on the last day, when a young lady (a Brasilian student volunteer) came to tell me in her hesitant English: "When I'll grow up, I would like to be like you!"

In conclusion, the conference in Munich was a very rewarding experience - and it was followed by a short vacation. Here's my Flickr set from the conference and the one from the cycling tour of Munich on Friday!

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