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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.


That was week 95

Again, a fair amount of coding. Not quite as much as there should have been though, due to having to prepare a camera-ready 2-pager for Fun and Games 2012.

I think I made a bit of a breakthrough though. Because of the way our project is, I tend to put the game first and my research second. I couldn't work out why I kept getting feedback about focussing on my research. I finally twigged that the game (in research terms) is just a tool that I'm using to investigate my research question, and not the most important bit at all! The second version felt better, and the third version even had a couple of "yay"s scrawled in the margin by my supervisor. It feels like I might be getting somewhere! (I still have the poster to produce.)

Friday the lab members who are still around went and played table tennis in the sun at lunchtime. It's rather nice to do that occasionally. Helps build the social aspect of the group, and it's not been sunny that much this year, so it's good to enjoy it while we can!

I'm on holiday this week, beyond the reach of wifi and other such things. I'm quite looking forward to "going dark" for a week. :-)


That was weeks 93 and 94

Whoops, missed a week. 

To be honest, most of the last two weeks have been pretty straightforwardly coding. I finally finished the diets and allocations stuff! Of course we then promptly had a discussion about whether that might not actually be the best way to do it. Gah. 

Next up is the tasks. The family members in the game have to be assigned to do farming tasks like sowing fields, or weeding, and household tasks like gathering firewood, baby-sitting and cooking. Juggling the labour commitments is one of the key aspects of the game, so the tasks are an important section. This could be another long programming stint, and I'm running out of time. 

Sadly I also heard that my BCS HCI 2012 submission was not successful. I'd applied for the doctoral consortium. They don't really seem to have felt that my paper was HCI enough, which could be a fair criticism. I'll be talking over their feedback with my supervisor in a meeting tomorrow. At least I got feedback this time, unlike from DIS!

I do need to finish a camera-ready paper for Fun and Games 2012 too. Be good to get some writing in. 

I didn't really feel well last week (noone in our office did) - sort of a cold without obvious cold symptoms. All the muzziness, not too much snot. Hopefully that is mostly gone now. I have one more week before I'm off on holiday, so I need a big week this week! 


That was week 92

I've been struggling a little for concentration this week. I'm starting to get a little cheesed off with the bit I'm coding. But I'm making good progress, the diet stuff is pretty much there and the allocation stuff is getting there. Although I'm basically copying stuff that was in the prototype Jim and I code in such different ways that it's actually not straightforward to do. Still, getting there.

I had my annual review on Monday, which I commented on. Very pleased to have got all of that out of the way. Only 3 days later than the deadline too, so as long as my funding is there (it is) re-registration should go smoothly.

I gave myself half of Friday off. It was going to be a reward for finishing the allocation stuff, but I didn't. Hopefully I'll be better for it next week though.



On Friday we had our school postgraduate poster presentation, which as a 2nd year PhD student I was required to participate in. I've never produced an academic poster before, let alone presented it, so I think it was a very valuable experience to have in a 'safe' environment. 

I've had a little difficulty in working out what should appear on a poster, and how much detail I ought to give. I think the conversations I had around my poster have given me a little more insight and I thought I ought to write it down.

  • Start from the research questions. I need to work out what my single over-arching research question is.
  • Present more information about the face-to-face (tabletop?) games I am investigating. It is important that there can be 15-30 participants, not the normal 5-6 that are involved in most boardgames. 
  • I need to be much clearer about my design. 2x2, draw it out. I put it in the presentation I did, so why didn't I carry that through?

I still think less text is better, so I'll have to juggle that a little, but I'm sure I included irrelevant information so we'll see. I'll try harder for my next one. (Maybe it's time to brush up on my comic-drawing?!)

I've also just had my thesis committee meeting for this year. I'm waiting for my supervisor to come back through and give me the feedback, but I enjoyed it more than last year. I got a lot of useful information on what areas I need to defend and beef up my knowledge of. Again, a lot of it centred on what I had left out. 

  • I need to introduce my topic better. Introduce Social Identity Theory properly with historical references, talk about why that not a different group theory (done very well in Jonas Heide Smith's thesis*). 
  • I need to stay focussed on my research question (write it down!). That's not just in my reading, but in my coding too. If something isn't going to have an effect on my research question, don't do it! 
  • It would be useful to think about all possible outcomes to my experiments, and what conclusions I could draw from them. 
  • I need to clarify what I'm varying, what references I have to back up why that's going to have an effect, and really look hard for 'confounding issues'. 
  • And I need a contingency plan. If my experiments take longer to organise than I'd hoped, what can I do in the meantime? How can I make sure I hit that September deadline? 
  • It might also be useful to show how I could do this using only one board game. See if it's possible. Interesting idea.

I think one of the hardest things for me to do in terms of writing is going to be including all the relevant information. I think my brevity often comes from discarding information that to me is obvious or disinteresting, and it's only when I discuss it with others that I realise I've done it. I know I do it when I'm chatting sometimes and bouncing through ideas, I hadn't realised I did it quite so much when I write. All useful feedback and a part of the learning process. 

Now. Back to my code while I wait for feedback. 


*Smith, J.H., 2006. Plans and Purposes: How Videogame Goals Shape Player Behaviour. IT University of Copenhagen. Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi= [Accessed April 5, 2012].


That was week 91

A good coding week this week. Diets are now all done bar the deleting, including all the little nutritional graphs and calculations and whatnot. I've not done the deleting because I haven't quite decided whether to properly delete the record from the database, or set a deleted flag and keep the information instead. I think I should probably use the deleted flag, both on that and on diet allocations, so I can get that done Monday afternoon.

A diet (in our game anyway) is only part of the story. The players have to create an allocation of food for the entire family. The allocation screen is next on my list, but as the allocation is basically a collection of diets a lot of the really hard stuff is done already. Hopefully.

I attended my first Athena SWAN meeting. It made me a little irate, which I didn't expect. More research on that required I think.

I completed my annual review documentation and got it all sent out. That happens on Monday, and I suspect I'm going to get some interesting feedback on my methodology. I'm basing that on the discussion I have had with one of my panel members today at the postgraduate poster presentation. Since I don't currently think I have any problem with suggestions (I don't feel particularly defensive about it yet - I may after another couple of studies!) I'm rather looking forward to a stimulating conversation. This may be another case where I'm surprised by my reaction, of course! I'm much less stressed about it this year though. I've been sleeping and everything.

Keeping the exercise ticking over is working well too. I'm slowing realising that my brain might be tired but my body is still ok with a run. So all in all it feels like it's been a busy and productive week.