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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.

Entries in weekly (18)


Weak weekly reviews

Hm. My weekly reviews have gone again, haven't they?

I've been a little busy, a little focused on finishing the code and horribly aware that it hasn't happened yet. In fact, my reaction in our weekly lab meeting when someone suggested attending an event which really does sound right up my research alley (as it were) demonstrates that I'm more than a little tense about it all.

In fact, I'm willing to hazard a guess that that's part of the reason the reviews have dried up. I am desperately not thinking about the work when I get home, and that is normally when I write my weekly review post.

So, what's been happening? I got my second set of data a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't had time to deal with it yet. I think that's making me nervous too. What if the data is no good? (By which I don't mean it doesn't show what I want it to, I mean what if it is incomplete or not enough?) I still haven't learnt to use SPSS or any other stats package, or really feel I've gained any insight into which stats tests I should be doing and what they really tell me either, so what to do with the data to process it? I've not done any writing for weeks. I've written a mountain of code, but it doesn't feel like the outstanding amount is diminishing so focussing on what I've done isn't really helping.

The project sponsor (who has no understanding of software development at all) is expecting a game yesterday. That's bothering me somewhat.

And although I'm enjoying the effect of having more organised lab meetings and I'm proud of the lab blog, I'm starting to resent the time and the apparent assumption of the rest of the group that I will therefore organise everything. (I suspect they may not really think that! But no, I will not organise Christmas, and no, I don't have a solution for the lab calendar...)

I've just written a 2-page to do list. With a bit of luck that will at least help me to feel slightly less anxious at any rate. We'll see.


That was week 104

Getting this one in just before week 105 starts. 

A lot more code written this week. The tasks are really getting there. There are a few more to add, but the system itself is now mostly in place. So I've moved on to sorting out the weather. 

I've got a bit of an issue with where and how I keep the hard-coded data that might eventually change. So the crop details, for example, or the weather and the effect it has in each season on each crop. Or the seasons themselves, and which tasks get done when. The approach I've taken for the tasks and seasons and I'd like to take for the weather is to have an abstract class defining the list and the item (e.g. a SeasonList and a Season). I then override these classes with the game-specific versions (e.g. CoreEarlyRainsSeason and CoreSeasonList). These are hard-coded with the right details, but wouldn't take much work to change out to use different seasons (or tasks). 

With the crops (and all the game assets) I did that earlier on in the process, and stored the details in the database. In some ways this is neater, because they use the same hibernate code structure as everything else. In other ways this is harder to change if the game assets were to change in other extensions to the game. I'm not going to have time to go back and alter this now, so it stands. But it's causing me some thought now, as the weather spans the two different types of code I have in place. 

I know that sometimes getting something in place is the most important thing, and code structure can always be altered. I still spend what feels like too much time agonising over it though! 

Other than that we had a lab meeting on Tuesday, with Judith reprising a talk she gave at AWARE in Edinburgh. Katy successfully defended her thesis in her viva, so we had to have a little champange on Wednesday. Edgar brought in a cheese fondue on Tuesday for us all to share, and Jim has had a really bad cold that is quite similar to the one I had (which makes me feel a little guilty). 

I did more exercise, but didn't feel too bad for it. So fingers crossed from here on it should just get easier. Let's hope!


That was week 102 & 103

I'm getting bad at doing this weekly, huh? Problem is that I'm mostly writing code at the moment, which is feeling quite tedious. That in itself is a problem though, so it's time to show myself I'm a) making progress and b) doing other things too.

I have made a lot of progress actually. Using trello.com I can see that I have created and closed a lot of issues, even if more do keep cropping up. I now have most of a task system in place, and adding a new task type is taking less time each time I do it. There are still a few things to sort out in a general way (e.g. at the moment you can't delete a task you've created, you can only edit it), but the framework into which I can slot my tasks is nearly there. In addition to that I've sorted out one of my long-running "I must sort that" bits, and mouseover texts finally appear on top of everything! Sounds small, but it's important.

I've started getting organised for my next study, for which I'm hoping to use a game that would be taking place anyway. It's now all good to go... If she can find enough players. On the positive side I will get more data from this one, but at the moment we're still 10 players short apparently. Fingers crossed.

The lab meetings started again, and I got the first meeting all written up. Pejman and I tried to sell the rest of the group on trello.com, but there was some resistance. There did seem to be a need to find something to replace the online booking system for the lab though, so maybe at a future meeting we should look at that. 

I do seem to be well at the moment (and fingers crossed I haven't just brought the worst cold eve down on myself), which means I'm bumping up the exercise again. I'm trying not to over-do it, but I think it might help so I probably am pushing it a little. Lots of early nights to balance it I think. Jim has a stinking cold, so I'm desperately hoping I don't catch it!


They were weeks 99, 100, and 101!

Eep. That's interesting. 

Week 99 was the Fun and Games conference, mostly. So that week was covered. 

However, the two weeks since have merged into one somehow, or rather week 100 seems to have got lost. I've not been very well - just a chesty cough and sinus infection - but losing a week like that suggests that perhaps I was less well than I was telling myself. I should pay attention to my partner! I do seem to be pulling out of it now; only one side of my head is blocked and I can bend over without serious sinus pain. And that's before the freshers arrived. Ugh. 

I have done a couple of things even so. 

The programming has crawled forward a couple of teeny baby steps. A player can now save a crop-sowing task, and see a list of saved tasks (although it's not entirely pretty). Next up is editing and deleting tasks, and executing the tasks at the end of the season. I have a hard deadline of end of October now, so I need to focus on getting things working even if not as beautiful as they could be. 

I've emailed the person at UEA who I'm hoping will let me get her students to fill out questionnaires after they play Africulture, but I haven't heard back yet. I may need to chase. 

And I'm still thinking about/making notes for my lit review. I just need a couple more hours in each day, and to be well. Not too much to ask! 


That was week 98

Well, I'm not sure that plan worked so well. I have been incredibly easy to distract this week, which I am at least partially attributing to having a bit of a stuffed sinus issue going on. A bit pathetic, I grant you, but there you go. 

I did manage to get some code done. The front end of the Tasks stuff I'm writing is coming along a bit, so possible tasks get passed through from teh back end, along with the task-appropriate locations, actors and assets. The front end now displays a form for a new task (only when in the correct game stage) with dropdown lists for each of those fields, which change content depending on which task type is selected. 

Sadly there is a lot more to do. You can't really plant a crop until you are either given some in the initial distribution of assets, or can buy it from the market (which needs cash, which needs allocating in the initial distribution of assets). You can't buy it from the market until the market is stocked (which either needs doing from the start, or the game manager needs to do it and currently they can't). 

There are some other nice-to-haves on the UI front as well. At the moment it's a plain text situation. Yawn. And it would be nice to see whether a given asset is currently in your stock before you try to assign it. S much more work to be done. 

On the bright side, I do now have drop down lists pretty much sorted, and I added events to my form model to allow custom things to happen when fields change. Happy with that. 

In writing terms, not much got done! Surprise! I investigated integrating Scrivener with my iPad copy of IAWriter. My problem is a little problem with liking to work offline and the IAWriter Dropbox "integration". If I am offline when I'm writing (which I prefer - no distractions), and work on a Dropbox doc, when I go back online, IAWriter "helpfully" copies over the work I've done offline with my old version from Dropbox. Personally I would expect it to ask me if it can't work out which is newer, but what do I know? I like IAWriter other than that "feature", so I'm investigating workarounds. Other than starting to use iCloud, which for some reason I don't want to do. I think I'd rather keep my cloud data in one place, thanks. 

I also went and looked at the notes I was trying to take on papers, based on a form suggested by Wallace and Wray in their book "Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates". The problem is that without the book on hand I can't remember what half the questions meant, so I don't think that's going to be a long-term option! I shall have to rethink. 

Next week I am off to a conference. I'm not expecting to get a huge amount of PhD work done, but if I do have some spare time I want to plan the next chunk of code I'm going to write. Next week I'll hopefully post a round up of the conference. Fingers crossed, anyway!