Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lero Talk: Margaret-Anne Storey

Anne, Daniel and Gabriela attended today a Lero talk by Dr. Margaret-Anne Storey - associate professor of computer science at the University of Victoria, Canada.

She was one of the organisers of last year's CSCW workshop Supporting the Social Side of Large-Scale Software Development
in which Anders had the chance to participate. Unfortunately, Anders couldn't be here today, being engaged in his fieldwork in Dublin.

The title of today's talk was “Turning Source Code Comments into Waypoints for Source Code Navigation”.

Reading her bio I noticed the similarity between her work and ours - her research goal is "to understand how technology can help people explore, understand and share complex information and knowledge".

The presentation based on 2 phases of her research - materialised in two papers (and presented in reverse order)

I was really impressed hearing her confession that they built the tool first and then checked if there was a real need for it or not (not many researchers tend to talk about their errors openly!).

Peggy told the audience a nice story about sailing inspiring research and providing the term "waypoints". It happens pretty often that researchers get ideas from their personal lives and bring them into their research work...but these connections are not made explicit very often. It gave a very nice human touch to the talk!

She also shed a light on the large Eclipse community and different repositories available to the researcher. During the talk, a study by Anne Ying was mentioned : Source code that talks - the speaker emphasizing how dangerous is for a researcher to draw conclusions from data mining only.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Presenting the Lero GSD research to Peri Loucopoulos

In an effort to get an outsider expert's view on the different GSD projects going on within Lero, Brian Fitzgerald, the GSD research area leader invited prof. Peri Loucopoulos from Loughborough University.

The different research strands within the GSD prepared presentations of their work. We were lucky to give ours this morning, in the second slot. We got 90 min, and we squeezed in 5 presentations which were supposed to take 10 min each:
  • Overview (Liam)
  • Mapping the GSD domain (Anne)
  • Learning in the context of OS sprints (Anne)
  • Defect reports as communication and articulation mechanisms (Daniel)
  • Collaborative work practices in GSD (Gabriela)
We used a lot more time - because I was the last before Liam had to conclude, and there were only 15 min left for Q&A and discussions.

The comments of our guest (and of the audience as well) were encouraging and appreciative of our work. We might have been taken for the ugly duckling for a while, but I have the feeling we're slowly evolving into the beautiful swan we were meant to be ;)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brian Nicholson's visit

For the last two days, we had Brian Nicholson from Manchester Business School as guest. We all knew Brian Nicholson as one of the outstanding names in the GSD field and author of the well-known Global IT Outsourcing book. But it was captivating to meet him in person and to have the chance to discuss our work with him! During the first part of Wednesday, we invited Brian to the Interaction Design Centre and spoke to him about the GSD research going on within Lero.

As the new Living Bridge was just opened the week before and we had a mild autumn day, we invited Brian for a walk over the bridge. The picture was taken in front of the Health Sciences building on the Clare side of the campus!

In the afternoon, Brian visited Lero and gave a talk titled "Embedded Knowledge and Offshore Software Development".
A recording of the talk is available here, thanks to Gerard Mulligan and the technical team at Lero.

This morning we had the chance to discuss our work with Brian in more detail. The interest he showed in our studies was for us a sign that we're on the right track, and the suggestions he made helped us to see new opportunities and new directions.

Friday, October 26, 2007

From Surviving to Thriving: Women in Science

On Monday 22nd October the Centre for Women in Science & Engineering Research (WiSER) at Trinity College Dublin, hosted a one-day conference entitled “From Surviving to Thriving: Women in Science”.

Among the aims of the conference were to

  • to educate and debate the cause of women’s under-representation in academic science, engineering and technology (SET) in Ireland
  • to learn about the successful Irish initiatives that are having a positive impact on the working environment of female scientists
  • to learn from experience: hear stories of women who are thriving in SET

It was the later that attracted me – feeling I haven’t been making as much progress in my research as I should and also feeling exhausted from balancing kids and work (had been up most nights the previous week with a sick toddler) I decided to head to Dublin for some much needed inspiration and a chance to network.

It was well worth it. There were some very interesting presentations in the morning session, (you can check the WiSER website for more details) including one by Dr. Ita Richardson on a Gender Audit that was completed here at UL. The results will be available sometime in November I believe . The afternoon consisted of very open and frank discussions from women working at all levels of academic SET. These discussions focused on the particular challenges and experiences faced by women in SET.

What I found really inspiring about the entire day was the positive tone, it was really about educating ourselves as women, understanding the challenges we face in the SET workplace and learning how to manage and overcome them. The outcome was overwhelmingly a feeling of encouragement and also the recognition that careers can be managed. While many women (myself included) take a career break to raise children it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to the give up on re-entering the workplace or making a contribution. Lack of confidence and isolation were among the many findings that emerged in terms the obstacles women faced in SET. I found this external reflection of what I had been feeling really beneficial. It is much easier to feel inspired and encouraged when you know you are not alone and others have overcome similar challenges and progressed in the field. What I found of most benefit though was the recognition that it is circumstances and not ability that are the limitations at present and circumstances will change. There were some excellent tips given on mentoring schemes and the importance of networking. All in all a day well spent, and I’m back feeling reinvigorated and far more optimistic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We won the best poster award!

Just a brief update, more about CASCON'07 later!

After being exiled in a far corner and getting but a few visitors, we thought the poster was mainly a nice exercise for our group and nothing else!

But when the award was announced, we(Gabriela and Daniel) found out with amazement that we actually won the big prize! So we got our 15 min of glory and Gabriela was given the chance to present our work to the Dublin CASCON audience:)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our poster for CASCON

Gabriela and Daniel will represent our group at CASCON in Dublin, on Wednesday 24 October 2007.
The IBM CAS Software and Systems Engineering Symposium 2007 (Dublin Ireland) is the third annual IBM Dublin CAS research symposia organised as a multi-track single day event on October 24th 2007. This symposium is organised in association with CASCON 2007 the 17th Annual International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering and in cooperation with Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research Center .

In our continuous battle with deadlines, we didn't manage to submit our paper on qualitative research methods in studying Global Software Development intended for this conference.

Having spent so many months at IBM Ireland, we felt we needed to bring some contribution to this annual event, so we will present a poster on emergent collaborative work practices. Each box is meant to illustrates practices we've observed - related to social networking, communication, cultural differences, dealing with time and space constraints...

What we're trying to do is to reflect this understanding of practice back to the practitioners now ...

Pretty colourful, isn't it?!

STARs certificate presentation

Today, Muireann O'Brien, the secondary school teacher who joined our group for the summer, received her STARs certificate from the Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Michael Martin at a ceremony that took place in Cork, at the Rochestown Park Hotel.

12 other teachers received their certificates of participation today. The official news can be read on the SFI website.
Unfortunately, none of us could go there, so we asked Clare McInerney, the Lero Knowledge Transfer and Outreach Officer, to be our messenger congratulating Muireann on this occasion!

Muireann promised to visit the IDC soon, together with a group of transition year students from the Carrigaline Community School. We're looking forward to their visit!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The new SFI DG visiting UL

Today, Prof. Frank Gannon, the new director general of Science Foundation Ireland, visited the University of Limerick.
Liam and Gabriela attended a meeting in the elegant Library Board Room, where the UL Research VP, Prof Vincent Cunnane, introduced Prof Gannon to approx 50 academics and researchers who came to hear about the approach and the plans of the new SFI director.
It was mentioned that research within UL receives no less than 54mil euro from SFI, a lot of research projects (our included!) depending on this funding.

The visit coincided with Frank Gannon's 100th day in the new position. After a brief presentation of the various programmes funded by the SFI and of the intentions for the future, he patiently answered to questions from the audience. Some disfunctionalities were brought to his attention, new alternatives explored, future trends discussed. The Towards 2016 Action Plan was mentioned on several occasions.

It was weird to see that some people kept on referring to their own rejected projects and bad experiences, preventing other colleagues from speaking.

Can't remember last time when I spent 2h in a meeting without checking my watch;)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our workshop at ECSCW'07

This year, the IDC had the privilege to organise the 10th edition of the prestigious ECSCW conference here in Limerick. It was a huge effort, but it paid off. Everything was perfect, including the weather! For more details on the preparations and on the actual conference, check the conference blog!

Liam was the local chair, and Gabriela, Anders and Michael Cooke were involved in the organisation. Anne and Daniel also attended the conference.

On the first day, Gabriela was supposed to be involved as co-organiser in a workshop on Social Software. But you can read more on her blog about what actually happened!

On the second day of the conference , our research group was involved in the organisation of a second workshop, dedicated to The Challenges of Collaborative Work in Global Software Development.
More details are available on the workshop page.

The first part was dedicated to paper presentations. We had 12 papers accepted for the workshop, looking at GSD from various angles, from theoretical approaches to highly pragmatic ones. It was quite a challenge for Gabriela to keep the time, but she was without mercy and warned speakers and discussants whenever they were tempted to exceed their time!

The workshop venue was probably the best in the whole Hilton Limerick, the City View suite. What wasn't the best was the audio installation in the room. We discovered this when we tested it at 8:50! Actually, the loud speakers where not working at all, and at 10 am we had scheduled the presentation of Julia Kotlarsky and Ilan Oshri who were in Warwick and supposed to give an online presentation via Skype and Yugma. We worked through this little "crisis" with the hotel staff, and after 30 min of trials the loudspeakers abandoned their strike and started working again (with a bit of a background noise, but working anyhow!) During all this time, the presentations in the room went on without major interruptions.

When the time came, Julia shared her desktop with us and delivered the presentation. The next paper belonged to Séamas Kelly and Camilla Noonan, and Seamas had to speak into the microphone in order to be heard by Ilan, who was the discussant for their paper. Most of the time, the communication went fine, with all the annoyance of the background sound. But we were all relieved when this episode finished...

We took a longer lunch break and went together to Luigi Malone's, where we enjoyed the company of the other workshop participants (and the food!). Walking through Limerick city centre in the lunchtime mild sun was a plus;)

And the gorgeous weather allowed us to go out on the terrace and enjoy the beautiful view during the second part, when we had an Open Space. Topics were proposed, several groups formed, but the Open Space "law of two feet" wasn't applied too much! It looks like people were caught in one conversation and couldn't leave it very easy...

In the end , we had a short plenary session to communicate the conclusions. There's an audio recording of this session available for download, and the notes made by Gabriela and post-its were also shared.

A set of pictures is also available on Flickr.

As organisers, we were honoured to host the workshop, and we would like to thank again to all of you who attended! It was such an enjoyable experience!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The ECKM'07 Conference in Barcelona

On September 6-7, Gabriela attended the 8th edition of the European Conference on Knowledge Management at Consorci Escola Industrial de Barcelona (CEIB), Spain.
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.

A few papers I found of interest:
- Disconnecting the Knowledge from the Knower - Jennifer Adelstein
- Knowledge Transfer Mechanisms - A Case Study From Manufacturing - Julie Boyd
- Technological Gatekeepers - Eoin Whelan

The second 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.

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.

Hanna's research work has the same focus as ours: work practices. We explored the chances for a potential collaboration between our research groups and decided to stay in touch.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The International Conference on Global Software Engineering

Gabriela and Anders are in Munich, attending one of the major conferences in our field - Gabriela as a speaker, Anders as student volunteer.

On Monday, the tutorials and workshops took place at the Technical University Munich in Garching ForschungsZentrum. We both attended the T4 tutorial: Seeing inside: Using social network analysis to understand patterns of collaboration and coordination in global software teams offered by Kate Ehrlich and Giuseppe Valletto (also co-organized by Mary Helander) from IBM Research.
The tutorial was interesting and attracted around 20 people. It looks like SNA is appealing to both researchers and practitioners - probably for quite a variety of reasons. While the first part of the tutorial was dedicated to the introduction of SNA basic concepts , the second was meant to show us how to extract social networks data from existing repositories like bug tracking systems, email and so on.

We had the chance to meet some of the most prominent researchers in our field (Daniela Damian, Phillipe Kruchten) and to socialize with colleagues (one of them, we discovered, was from Dublin, CA!)

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 (Gabriela's:), 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 honour 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.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Prof. Pekka Abrahamsson talk

Yesterday, myself and Gabriela went down to the LERO building here at UL to attend a talk by Prof. Pekka Abrahamsson. Pekka is at VTT in Finland and his research interests are centred on business and innovation agility, agile software production and empirical software engineering. Among other things, he is currently involved in VTT's Agile Software Technologies Research Programme and the FLEXI-ITEA2 project.

His talk here at UL had two parts: first, the talk shared unpublished results of an Idea Movement study where 50 000 mobile service ideas were collected from people of all age groups in Finland; the second part of the talk connects innovation processes and software development through agile software development models.

Two interesting topics, handled by a good (as well as very funny) speaker! One of the interesting observations from the Idea Movement project, that at least I appreciated, was that it seems like innovation achieved through interaction with the actual users on a large (huge) scale isn't technology driven but rather "idea-driven", as 95% of the ideas they received were quite possible to achieve with current technology. As Pekka put it: "the ideas that came out were framed in current technology."

Brian Fitzgerald organized the talk. He has known Pekka for many years, but his cluster project 3 group also have current connections to VTT and Pekka, since one of the research fellows, Minna Pikkarainen, is from there.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Summer guests

Today we had not one, but two guests here at UL. Both also gave talks (organised by Chris Exton in association with the CSCoP).

The first talk scheduled in the morning was Michael Kölling's from the University of Kent.
Titled "Greenfoot - An Interactive Platform For Introducing Programming", the talk introduced a framework Michael has developed for introducing beginning students to programming.
"Greenfoot allows starting to program with interactive graphical simulations, computer
games and other graphical scenarios. One of the main aims of Greenfoot is to create a motivating, creative, diverse entry to the learning of programming, that engages larger groups of students, including those not traditionally well represented in our degree intake.
Greenfoot uses the Java Programming Language, and was originally designed to be used as a first platform, especially at the high school level, before students then migrate to other environments. "
Michael also writes an interesting blog. What a pity Muireann was not here anymore! This could be the perfect approach for her students!

The second talk was by Alexander Troussov, the Chief Scientist of the IBM Dublin Center for Advanced Studies who initially facilitated our connection with the team we've been observing for 16 months and supported our socGSD field studies inside IBM .
The topic of the talk was "Socio-semantic computing in IBM and the EU project Nepomuk"

Alexander spoke about the launch of Lotus Connections (social software for business designed to help build social networks in the corporate environment)

According to some analysts, the release of Lotus Connections means that "the
company is serious about dominating social networking for the enterprise".

Alexander gave an introduction into the new emergent area of socio-semantic computing, and presented Galaxy -the tool for socio-semantic computing created in the IBM Dublin Software Lab, which is part of the deliverables in the FP6 project Nepomuk aiming to build a social semantic desktop (for more detail, also see Nepomuk on Bibsonomy).

(the slide belongs to a set presented at the Irish Digital Libraries Summit)
Alexander demonstrated the tool in front of the audience, showing how it manages to collect semantic information from a variety of sources.

In the afternoon, the two guests honoured us with their presence in the Interaction Design Centre, discussing their ideas and possible collaboration opportunities.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Muireann's time with the socGSD team coming to an end...

Today was Muireann's last day with us. We enjoyed a lot having her around this summer as a STARs teacher, and in a short time she has become part of our team.

She sat in most our team meetings during this period, joined us in attending talks and presentations, gave her moral support to our OSS conference presentation and participated as an observer in our recent meeting with the advisory group. She spent time with each of us, getting acquainted with our specific research interests, career trajectories and work.

She was also given the chance to meet with some of our colleagues in Lero: Ita Richardson, Brian Fitzgerald, Irene Caulfield, Val Casey, Sadhana Deshpande.

Pamela O'Shea gave her a Linux crash course. Gabriela tried to pass her the social software bug;-)

Our colleagues in the IDC adopted her as well, and she had the chance to find out about the other ongoing projects.
We were more than happy to have Muireann here with us for the summer, and she's more than welcome to visit the IDC in the future! We hope to keep in touch with her and her school in Carrigaline in the future...

Goodbye, Muireann, and thank you!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Getting feedback on our work to date...

On Wednesday, July 17, our team had the chance to meet with our advisory group again (last meeting was in September last year).

James Wickham (from Trinity College Dublin), Seamas Kelly and Pamela Abbott (from University College Dublin) visited us for a day to discuss our research to date.

The whole team was present (Prof.Liam Bannon, Gabriela Avram, Anders Sigfridsson, Daniel Sullivan, Anne Sheehan and Michael Cooke). Muireann O'Brien, our STARs guest for the summer, joined us as well.
The morning was dedicated to presentations. Liam opened the meeting, presenting the current status of our research.
  • Anne came next, speaking about her work together with Anders on positioning our own work in the landscape of Global Software Development;
  • Anders spoke about our approach in studying the PyPy Open Source community using situated learning as lens; in connection with this, he commented on his intentions to focus his PhD thesis on learning in the workplace;
  • Daniel made an introduction in the topic of his master thesis (Defect Tracking Systems) and presented his latest observations from recent fieldwork.
  • Gabriela spoke about her field observations on collaborative work practices in GSD and the major topics she sees evolving: tools adoption, e-meetings, social networking in the corporate environment.
The ideas in each presentation were commented in detail both by our guests and by the other participants.

The afternoon was dedicated to discussing the current stage of our research and the future plans.

We all found the discussions extremely useful for our work. It was a real work meeting, in which we put into light both the strengths and the weaknesses we could see in our work and got useful feedback from the members of the advisory group (and Liam!). They confirmed the value of our approach and encouraged us to continue on the same lines.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

IBM innovation Centre opening July 11th 2007 at Damastown

Daniel attended this recent IBM event and is sharing his notes here:

As was previously announced by the former future leader of the main party in government and minister for Enterprise IBM have this past week opened what they describe as an Innovation Centre. It is very nice facility in part of building 6

I missed the introduction from Hans Ulrich Maerkl, Chairman of IBM EMEA as I had some other matters to attend to.

I came in just as the talk from Jim Corgel was hitting its stride it was primarily aimed at Venture Capitalists and companies that are thinking of partnering with IBM and he spoke of the ongoing roll out of Innovation centres or similar type facilities around Europe and he also spoke of the types of virtual supports that there will be.

Next up, we saw a video from Porto Media which was quite twee (as the owner himself admitted but the idea is very good - essentially you can download media such as movies in less than 20 secs to a USB stick from a Kiosk that can be placed anywhere. The kiosk takes up a sq metre of floor space and compared to say Blockbuster which has 8/900 moives per store, this device can have 4/5,000 movies. After the video we heard from the company’s owner Chris Armstrong who spoke about the problems of being taken seriously by the Venture Capital community in Ireland.

Next was BiancaMed, who are in the medical devices area. This may perhaps be more interesting from an wider IDC perspective. They is involved in proactive, non invasive monitoring of sleep, diet and exercise as part of its efforts in enhancing well-being. (I know it sounds a little too like a line from Lenina Husley in Demolition Man- " Enhance your calm, John Spartan") That said, I'd be curious about the technology, they use audio that gets analysed to monitor heart rate breathing and so on.

Next, Deborah Magid from IBM then spoke more about what IBM gives for Partner organisations. This presentation was a bit more buzzwordy. I'm pretty sure I heard synergy being used at least once. That said, IBM are really pushing that they are interested in partnering with companies and that they are interested in VCs funding some of those companies.

We broke for coffee at this point and there was some mingling.

Sandra Kearney - spoke at length about Web 2.0 and how Internet 3D is what IBM believes is the next stage in the web. She uses it herself to manage her teams who are distributed across Australia, the US and SE Asia. A ex-military person and pilot with 1500 hours flight time, I recall she mentioned 130s so I'm guess it was C130s.

Msoft spoke about how they use 2nd life for demoing what their product is all about. Their product is for tracking blood product in a hospital/clinical environment.

Nic Brisbourne spoke again about the VC environment and the opportunities involved. Only tangential about virtual worlds and 3D internet. If you click the link on his name you can read his perspective on the opening.

Ham Rambler or John Mahon (who is a pilot) spoke about Dublin in 2nd Life which he created and how that has been going. Talked about audio streaming and live music being played within 2nd life and how money can be made by the players of the music.

Then we had lunch - sandwiches on the go - and a tour of the new area. I spoke with Alexander Troussov about their work on Galaxy, it is quite intriguing and also the Lotus Connections work is interesting. Overall there was a pretty heavy business emphasis to the day and a considerable media in attendance. There were well over 200 people in all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Checking notes with an Indian software developer:-)

Today, Gabriela and Muireann had Sadhana Deshpande as guest in the IDC, a wonderful opportunity to discuss about cultural differences, entrepreneurship and gender in software development.

Sadhana recently joined Ita Richardson's research group as a research assistant, and we also explored possible collaboration directions together. She, together with her younger sister, started a software development company in India in the 90's and her portfolio includes some very important projects undertaken for the local government.

Gabriela brought into discussion some of the assertions encountered in interviews and publications regarding the collaboration with Indian software engineers, and it was extremely interesting to hear that things are not what they seem to be when we look at them through the lenses of Western culture!
Just a few examples:
  • Female Indian managers don't use their first names on business cards not because they are women, but because it's impolite to address any superior there on the first name!!
  • Indians are very adaptive when it comes to learning a foreign language other than English; they do this naturally, as India is a huge country and there are lots of languages spoken only in specific regions.
  • Indian developers who spent time working abroad are not rejected by their teams when returning to India; on the contrary, this is considered the norm - people should spend time abroad in order to refine their education and get acquainted to different cultures;
  • The high turnover in software development personnel the big multinational companies complain about is part of the Indian software development culture; changing jobs every 1-2 years is a way of advancing in their careers and learning about different technologies. This trend is manifested only in software development and associated industries.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lero Talk: (Bad) Software and the Law

Today, we(Anne, Daniel, Muireann and Gabriela) went to an interesting talk given by Professor Cem Kaner (Director of the Centre for Software Testing Education and Research at Florida Institute of Technology). He seems to be deeply involved in the development of the U.S. law on software. He also writes a blog, and has co-authored three books:

The main topic revolved around the consequences of delivering software that fails to perform as reasonably expected. Are software developers accountable to software customers? What if bad software actually kills people or causes nasty accidents?

He spoke about risks, material effects, the American attitude toward know-how and reverse engineering, he emphasized we can't be aware of all the emerging properties of software and he stated that most of the software problems are actually design defects.

Professor David Parnas, who acted as discussant, argued that software should not be in any law, and engineering laws should apply to software. From his perspective, complexity isn't just out there, it is something we humans create, and it shouldn't be an excuse for sloppiness.

An interesting idea that arose in the discussion was that, at some point, people become tied into using software, either because their data is in, and they are dependent on it, or - my insight- because their practices are heavily reliant on the tool, and they can't even imagine another way of performing a specific activity than the one they are familiar with.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Talk by Peter Eades

Muireann attended a talk by Peter Eades, University of Sydney, HxI Initiative and NICTA, in the ERB last week. The title of the talk was "Humans Interacting with Information, Machines, Systems, and Humans".

In this talk some technologies that support humans in their interactions with information, machines, systems, and other humans were discussed. The talk began with Information Visualization, that is, the art and science of mapping abstract data into visual forms. These visual forms enable humans to understand large data sets (such as social networks, and biological networks). Professor Eades gave some interesting new and old examples, which show the successes and failures of computer-based Information Visualization, including metro maps from around the world.
The 'Braccetto' project, which investigates how distributed teams of humans can collaborate over a shared visual workspace was also described. The 'Braccetto' project is developing "mixed presence groupware", that is, tools to enable partially co-located and partially remote teams to collaborate. The talk on the Braccetto project, which began in 2006, was interesting. The idea of a CTW (Configurable Tele-presence Workstation) is being explored. When collaborating, there are two screens and both teams can observe a vertical one, while running an application on the horizontal one. This system is also touch-screen.

Finally the 'HxI Initiative' was described briefly. This is a major initiative of the Australian Government that aims to increase Australia's research output in HxI.
Here's a presentation on the same topic that was available on the web.

Monday, June 25, 2007

EACE Workshop at Fraunhofer FOKUS

This draft has been sitting here for more than a month... Trying to finish & publish it now!

On June 22 early in the morning I flew to Berlin to attend the EACE Workshop at Fraunhofer FOKUS, after a demanding week spent in Dublin doing fieldwork.
The EACE project is part of the ongoing research in Europe looking at ICT technologies for developing new collaborative tools and environments. The EACE project is an 18 month FP6 Specific Support Action set to "investigate further the dynamics, potential and impacts of the technological advances in order to feed the policy making process".

The agenda sounded very interesting, and I was hoping to meet some of the people doing research in the field of Collaborative (e)Working Environments, which ties so well into our work. I'm part of several AMI@work communities, I'm subscribed to the ECOSPACE newsletter, but I didn't have yet the chance to meet face-to-face with people doing research in this area, and I thought this would be a good opportunity.

As usually when I travel abroad, I did my homework before(booked the flight, arranged accommodation at friends, printed out directions and a map). Unfortunately, the Deutsche Bahn website knew nothing about Kaiserin-Augusta Allee, and gave me directions to Kaiserin-Augusta Strasse instead. I had to arrive there before realising there was no Fraunhofer Institut in that area, and it took me a while to get to the right place, so I missed some of the morning talks.

Craig Cmehill from SAP has blogged the event on the spot (and then waited indefinitely for this post to be published, guessing - I don't know how!- that there was another blogger in the room!).

In the afternoon, Arnd Layer from IBM Germany spoke about Practical experience with social software at IBM. He spoke about profiles, communities, tagging, internal blogs and activities - all what Lotus Connections basically offers!, but he illustrated everything with examples, which made the talk really interesting. I really loved this particular tag cloud!

After spending the whole week absorbing information in my fieldwork, I was on the same wavelength with the speaker. When Craig asked: "Is this public? Can I blog this?", I basically couldn't keep from telling him it was on YouTube:-) as public as it can get!
Arnd also mentioned Lotus Greenhouse, meant to give customers and collaborators the feeling of the new products, and ThinkPlace, the internal Web application for facilitating innovation.

Arnd concluded with a few words of wisdom on Business Social Networking:
- listen to your customers;
- use blogs to communicate externally, watch blogs speaking about your own products;
- encourage adoption: instant messaging and web conferences can provide people with real time information;
- use wikis as glossaries for teams / FAQs.

He emphasized that we live in a globalised world, in which the ones who dare and are pro-active will have the advantages. Knowledge Management was - for too long- stuck in top down processes; social networking opens new perspectives.

The next speaker was Craig Cmehil, Community Evangelist at SAP AG - presenting The world(s) of the SAP community Network. This time, the facts were completely new, and I had a tremendous surprise to see what a big company can do with these nice tools, if the right attitude and culture are embraced. And of course, the right people - Craig appeared to me as a sort of wizard, open-minded, innovative and ready to try new things in new ways, always present in a hundred places at one time, reading, commenting, adjusting the tools to fit the people.
The SAP community network seems to me an impressive achievement, with separate areas dedicated to developers and business process experts.
What makes the concept interesting are its exclusive content, the downloads available, the worldwide collaboration it fosters and a recognition system for the contributions of its members.
Craig said 76% of the content was actually contributed by the users, which is quite impressive.
He also mentioned specific problems, like French speakers not mingling with the others and having their separate community - but the community network is actually supporting this.
New tools are offered to the community and people are experimenting. Some get adopted, some others don't. He mentioned Second Life and Twitter (and the case of Sen. Edwards that made the corporate world to actually pay attention to micro-blogging!)

The next presenter was Volkmar Pipek from University of Siegen, Germany. His talk was titled Every Software is Social -Appropriation Support in Collaborative Systems.
He tackled one of my favourite topics: the adoption of collaborative software tools, mentioning long-term studies on Groupware adoption such as Orlikowski 1996, Kasten & Jones 1998, Pipek & Wulf 1999.

I loved the idea that good design and user centred software development are important, but they don't guarantee adoption; use dynamics can‘t be fully anticipated.
I particularly liked the statement on the role of social practice around collaborative systems
in adoption. Actually the practice is the appropriation of these technologies!!

He illustrated his talk with a few examples from their work - the help function of a tool(an Eclipse-based client for the BSCW system) was combined with a wiki.

The main conclusion was that these ‘appropriation activities’ should be actively supported, and we're moving towards ‘Virtual Communities of Tool Practice’! The designers of a tool can do a lot, but the last mile has to be done by users.

Frank Fuchs Kittowski from Fraunhofer ISST was next, speaking about Integration of Knowledge Communities into Knowledge-intensive Business Processes.

I came across Frank's name while I was working for Fraunhofer IESE and some of my colleagues were involved in a project called APO-IT together with several other Fraunhofer Institutes, but I never had the chance to meet him in person before.

He spoke about making informal collaboration visible and integrating communities into business processes. Wikis were then brought into the picture for providing "context- (process-) based access to the community" and give birth to "collaborative knowledge activities without process
boundaries (in and across process steps)". I must confess I am a bit skeptical about this idea. It might sound good in theory (finding a cure for a pain we all know it's there!), but it doesn't pay any attention to the fact that communities are living organisms (if we speak about real communities here and not about special interest groups assembled by the management!)

Their approach is actually adding a wiki and a wiki interface to the existing APO Pilot process oriented knowledge base.

The interesting twist is that the application is designed for process integrated learning in the automotive industry.

The last speaker was George Milis, from European Dynamics who presented the current results of the EACE project in a talk titled: Towards a New Policy Framework for the Adoption of Electronic Collaborative Working Environments.
The project partners set to elaborate policy recommendations for CWE adoption(Collaborative eWorking Environments) in the EU.

What they came up with was a "layered ontology of collaboration patterns". More on the framework and the 3 selected CWE prototypes in George's slides!

There were mentions about counterbalancing the American supremacy in designing collaborative software tools (doh!). Someone mentioned the Buerger Portal initiative in Germany - giving every german citizen an email address, a web page, access to shared spaces (who's interested already has all these).
Someone asked the following question: "If the availability of the technologies is not a problem, then how can EU stimulate the adoption?" I tried to bring into discussion the idea the approach shouldn't be centred on the technology and the collaborative tools, but on the purpose for which one would embrace these tools. If a job application procedure or a tax claim can only be done online, people will learn how to use it. But putting the carriage in front of the horses won't help!
I mentioned Karin Knorr-Cetina's work on Sociality with Objects that has been used by Jyri Engestrom to show why some social network services work and others don't.

Another discussion topic was the (disappearing) work-life balance. People tend to take care of personal matters durring the working hours and work from home in the evenings, so the boundaries between work and free time tend to get blurred. Arnd stated that what's happening inside IBM shows that actually adding a social dimension to work improves productivity.
Volkmar argued that life needs structure -say the psychologists!

The question: Do we need a collaboration etiquette(c-etiquette)? was also asked. Could such an etiquette be modelled ? (In my opinion, it can only emerge!)

The opportunity of using CWE as a vehicle for transferring knowledge and skills to new and younger employees was also touched in the discussion.

The slides of the presentations were made available for download, and there are also a few pictures from the event available.

Together with Craig Cmehil, we managed to ignite some interest for social software tools and especially for Twitter and Dopplr! Unfortunately, the enthusiasm was short lived - none of the invitations I've sent were ever answered!

Craig also uses a nice tool I wasn't aware of - Time-to-Meet - for scheduling his meetings.
There's a link to a database full of other fancy applications on his blog.

In conclusion, it was an interesting event and a good networking opportunity, but my original expectation of getting associated with some FP7 proposal writers in this area wasn't unfortunately met.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My fieldwork coming to a natural closure

The team I have observed for 16 months is handing over their project to another team in Europe. The joys of global distribution of software development:-)

So, my time with them has come to a natural closure. And in a way, I'm glad it happened like this - it was so difficult to make up my mind about when to stop!

The team is staying together and will be assigned another project, and I think this was a very wise decision. It takes about 6 months for a newbie to come to full speed (maybe less if he's only changing projects inside the same business unit!). There's so much to learn, not necessarily about coding, but also about people, tools, internal processes and procedures...

If I give it a thought, only 6 of the members we met in the beginning of our study are still part of the team. Probably 9-10 left, joining other projects, sometimes leaving the company, some other times the country... That's life! People are not spending 20 years of their lives in the same job anymore - they're moving, learning, adapting, and I don't think this is bad. It keeps you alive!

As a former software developer, there were times when I felt I got too close to my "subjects", becoming involved in their activities (at least emotionally;-) . Ethnographers call this "going native"!

But now that the circle is closed, and I'll have to move on and do the writing... the most challenging part!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lero Talk on AUTOSAR

On Wednesday, before our presentation at the OSS 07 conference, Gabriela and Muireann attended a Lero talk given by Uwe Werner from Bosch on "AUTOSAR – Automotive Open System Architecture: Challenges and Opportunities".

AUTOSAR is an open standards organization created to provide open standards for the architecture of the software created for the automotive industry. It brings together an impressive number of major car manufacturers, but also providers of various car parts and research organisations.

Open Source Software Conference at UL

The 3rd International Conference on Open Source Systems is hosted by our University between 11 and 14 July.

As stated by the organisers, "the goal of OSS 2007 is to provide an international forum where a diverse community of professionals from academia, industry and public administration can come together to share research findings and practical experiences. The conference is also meant to provide information and education to practitioners, identify directions for further research, and to be an ongoing platform for technology transfer."

On Wednesday 13 July, our paper "Sprint-driven development: working, learning and the process of enculturation in the PyPy community"(Sigfridsson, Avram, Sheehan, Sullivan) was scheduled in a very select company:
  • part of Prof. Kevin Crowston's team at Syracuse University, Qing Li presented the paper "Emergent Decision-making Practices in Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) Development Teams" (Heckman, Crowston, Eseryel, Allen, Li);
  • Ari Jaaksi from Nokia presented his paper "Experiences on product development with open source", after giving an excellent keynote in the morning.

Last year in August, the PyPy project organised a sprint at UL. It was a madly busy period, but Anders, Daniel and myself decided to take the opportunity to observe the sprint. We spent part of that week in August trying to make ourselves useful to the team, talking to them, watching their interaction, recording their work sessions. They were so used to being studied, that they graciously allowed us to sit in and listen.

Early in January, we decided to put in a paper for the OSS 07 conference. The paper was accepted and this is how we got to participate.

Two other papers, presented in the afternoon, were also well connected to our topic:
  • "Learning through practical involvement in the OSS ecosystem: experiences from a Masters assignment "( Lundell, Persson, Lings -University of Skövde, Sweden), presented by Bjorn Lundell;
  • "Learning and the Imperative of Production in F/OS development"- presented by Evangelia Berdou (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK).

STARs participant joined our project team...

Muireann O'Brien, teacher at the Carrigaline Community School, joined our project team for the following 8 weeks.

She is funded through the SFI STARs programme:

The STARS programme is an initiative through which teachers can receive support to conduct research within an SFI-funded research team during school holiday periods for a period of between 6 to 8 weeks. Teachers receive a stipend equivalent of up to 8 weeks salary for their participation in the programme. The goal is to help teachers renew their interest in science as researchers, connect them with faculty in the universities and institutes of technology and enhance the teaching of science across the educational system. The primary aim of the programme is to disseminate new skills and knowledge to teachers which can then be passed on to their students.

Muireann will be involved in all our project activities during her stay with us. After an induction period that will give her the chance to become familiar both with the Global Software Development literature and with the particular approach of our project, we are going to involve her in most of our activities. She will also be given the chance to participate in workshops and meetings with other research groups studying Global Software Development from different perspectives, in order to get a more complete picture of research being under way in this area.

Having Muireann on board this summer will allow us to get a better image of the students' level of understanding and enable her to explain our research to her peers and students.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Software Process Measurement

Anne attended this talk on Software Metrics at Lero today.

The speaker was Jari Soini from Tampere University of Technology in Finland. He is in the process of writing up his PhD and because of his interest in Software Process, has connections with Ita Richardson, hence his visit to Lero.

Jari is part of a research group whose aim is to provide a metrics database to assist SMEs in Finland define measurement objectives, i.e. what can and should be measured in the software development process. Knowledge sharing is a key motivator in designing the database. The SMEs are finding measurement difficult and want to learn from each other. Metrics have been gathered from over 40 companies through a combination of interviews and a detailed questionnaire. The metrics database has a web based interface which is designed by the research team with continuous feedback and evaluation from the user group.

There was interesting discussion around potential bias in the evaluation of metrics to be included in the database. The research group doesn't identify who decides within each SME what should be measured; who completes the questionaire; who judges questionaire categories such as reliability &accuracy; who are the users of the system.

As part of the data gathering process 3 categories of beneficiary are identified: upper management; project management; & software engineers. One of the outcomes of the research was that the primary beneficiaries of the metrics are upper management (82%), with only 7% aimed at software engineers as key beneficiaries, despite the fact that software engineers are tasked with collecting most of the measurements. Work has not been done in this project on the actual or perceived impact on software engineers.

Abstracts relating to the topics that were discussed can be found on the Lero website.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Educamp at Tipperary Institute of Technology

Even if both Michael and Gabriela had the intention to attend the Educamp at the Tipperary Institute of Technology in Thurles yesterday, in the end, Muireann had to go on her own. Having read the announcement and listening to Gabriela's explanations on Barcamps and Unconferences, Muireann had the impression that she would end up at a very unorthodox event. It wasn't quite like that ;-). Here's a press article related to the event.

The event was organised as a formal conference "The Internet Experience in Education", with a number of speakers in the morning session and organised workshops in the afternoon. The speakers included Dr. Rachel O'Connell, Bebo, Bernie Goldbach, Social Media in Education, Simon Grehan, Irish Children's use of Social Networks, Dr. Deirdre Butler, Innovative Teaching and Seamus Ryan on Whole School Information Technology. A number of teachers spoke on innovative teaching using technology in the classroom including Ronan Ward, who won an Innovative Teachers Award at the EMEA Innovative Teachers forum in Paris this year.

Muireann found the whole experience very refreshing and was particularly interested in the area of Social Networking as the general feeling was that rather than fight this phenomenon, which has always been the case up to now, teachers will have to learn more about it and try to develop ways to turn it into something more positive. It will be important to educate students (and teachers!) on how to use this media safely, to enhance the experience in the classroom.
Workshops in the afternoon included Audio and Video in the Classroom (using Podcasts etc), Internet Safety, and another gave tips on using OpenSource Software in schools.

Each participant received a USB memory stick with all presentations and useful information. This will be a valuable resource when introducing the ideas to the classroom. Muireann came away from the conference with great enthusiasm and felt the large attendance illustrated the willingness of teachers to embrace innovation and creativity through technology.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

IDC PhD/MSc seminar

Anders gave a presentation this Tuesday at the IDC Ph.D./Master seminar organised by Annette Aboulafia, with the participation of Prof. Niels Engelsted, Dept of Psychology, University of Copenhagen & Prof. Arne Poulsen, Dept, of Psychology and Pedagogic, University of Roskilde.

The aim of the seminar was twofold:

  • to present a variety of understandings of human relationships in relation to a a research project titled 'What-do-I-call-you-mom?', in which Annette, Niels and Arne are collaborating.
  • a discussion on IDC Ph.D./Master projects. The participants were asked to write a 1-2 page abstract of their research question or idea, planned contribution to the field and their methods. This was the starting point for discussion.
Anders presented his PhD research proposal: "Information technology and learning in practice: A study of work practices and learning in globally distributed software development projects".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dr. Marilyn Lennon!

Yesterday was a big day for the IDC, because it was the day when Marilyn Lennon, one of the students from the first year of the IMedia program, had her viva. She passed with flying colours, receiving praise from her supervisor Prof. Liam Bannon for a solid and admirable defence of here thesis, and thus became the first PhD graduate who originated in the IMedia program!

Congratulations, Marilyn!

Afterwards there was a reception at the IDC office, attended by a mix of old school IDC:ers (among them some of Marylins classmates from the IMedia course) and the new generation, as well as other friends and well-wishers. Gabriela and Lui took some pictures and they are available here and here respectively.

More details about the theis and the viva is on the IDC blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Workshop at ECSCW'07 accepted!

Our proposal for organising a workshop on The Challenges of Collaborative Work in Global Software Development at the ECSCW'07 conference was accepted and the call for participation is out!

Here's an excerpt from the call:
This one day workshop aims to bring together researchers studying different aspects of computer-supported cooperative work in Global Software Development(GSD).

Suggested topics include:
  1. Conceptual understanding of work practices in GSD (issues related to collaboration, coordination, articulation work)
  2. Project management in GSD (different models for organizing the work – from distributed teams through to outsourcing relationships and open source communities, cross-cultural issues, team selection, facilitation)
  3. Social and behavioral studies of collaboration and coordination in GSD by individuals or teams
  4. Collaborative software tools used in GSD:
  5. - software configuration management, version control, bug tracking systems;
    - communication tools (email, mailing lists, Instant Messaging, chats, electronic meeting room support, videoconferencing);
    - blogs, wikis, social bookmarking;
    - expertise finder and social networking applications;
    - knowledge repositories: knowledge bases, experience databases, lessons learned repositories.
  6. Case studies, experiences, examples of successful and unsuccessful GSD projects.
More information here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

We had guests today...

Sean O'Riain and Aphra Kerr from NUI Maynooth visited us today. They're attending an important sociology conference taking place at UL over the next three days.

Sean is part of the advisory group of our project and we're looking forward to have him back here for a whole day later this year to discuss our research.

Michael, Anders, Anne and myself had a very interesting conversation with them over lunch about topics ranging from interaction design, cultural probes, organizations trying to solve their political problems by introducing new software tools - to Twitter and information overload.

College of Informatics & Electronics Research Day

The College of Informatics and Electronics has a newly appointed assistant dean and one of his first actions was to organize a research day. All postgraduates in the college were invited to present their work and were also asked to submit a poster that could be put on display in the lobby. In his own words:
"The purpose of the Research Day is to create interaction and discussion on research with others within the College and to disseminate information on your research to the University Campus."
The event took place yesterday and Myself and Paul Gallagher from the IDC got to present our PhD work and we also had posters. Two other students from the IDC had poster too: Parag Deshpande and Darragh Murphy.

Overall it was pretty interesting to see what other people are doing in the college, even though much of the stuff is very different from what we are doing. I didn't see all of the presentations, but there were two other Lero postgraduates presenting among the ones I attended, namely Eoin Ò Conchùir (who is also into GSD research) and John Burton (who does research on medical devices).

Winner of best speech was Mìcheàl Mac Lochlainn with his talk about text-to-speech theories and techniques. Interesting topic and a very good speaker!

And, as the little cherry on top, there was free wine and snacks afterwards...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Right here and now?!

Yep, Anders! Right here and now!

After a five minute discussion about keeping track about things happening in our project, we decided to start a blog!

So here we go! May the road rise up to meet us...