Beki Grinter

Posts Tagged ‘CHI conference’

Perennial CHI problems

In academic management, discipline, HCI, research on May 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I recently attended CHI 2011. I’ve attended CHI for several consecutive years, and I feel I am hearing some similar refrains: there are some problems with CHI that need to be addressed.

It doesn’t represent me! More needs to be done to encourage [practitioners, designers, developers, students] to attend and the reason they do not is because there is not enough relevant content.

CHI has grown relentlessly over the last decade. It has added tracks and increased the content in each type. I keep wondering when CHI will become COMDEX and we’ll be going to Las Vegas each year because its the only city big enough to host the conference. We’re a way off (I was just hoping to influence the location selection committee since I quite like Las Vegas), but we have been growing.

If growth has been the means by which we’ve tried to address the inclusivity concerns, and if that’s not happened despite growth, is it time to change the conversation? Should we decide that we’re all going to agree that CHI doesn’t completely represent all our interests all the time, and when it’s not, its perhaps representing someone elses? Or, should CHI devolve and become different conferences?

Its too expensive! I hear that one. I not only send myself, but I also send students. All my students work hard to manage their costs, and I thank them all for doing so. Still, a total of $5000 for all of us is not out of bounds. The latest version of this conversation we had was whether we’d like to have a tiered pricing structure to encourage more people to attend, with lower rates for those who really can’t afford the current costs, and higher rates for those of us who can to cover the gap.

I really support encouraging others to attend, but I also admit I winced adding to my costs. I’d love to know where the current registration fee goes. Is there anything we could do differently that would help us accomplish the goal of encouraging more people to attend without adding to the costs for those who already do?

Reviewing. The concern is the quality of the reviews or review process. I’ve always seen this as a problem of scale. Well ever since I was co-chair for the Papers process. Sending email to 2,500 distinct reviewers was a sobering reminder of just how many people it takes to make just one track of this conference run. It must be even more people now. How big are we as a community? What does it mean for us that it takes thousands of people to make it operational?

To end, I would like to thank everyone for CHI. Despite these concerns, the vast community of volunteers who did who knows what all (I would love to see a number of how many people were involved in CHI 2011 in some form, across all the tracks), pulled out another conference, that if I think it didn’t represent me all the time, I think it surely represented someone at the time.

Adventures in Yarn

In crafts and craftiness, HCI on April 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Last week I went to Stitches South! It’s a yarn convention, there are demonstrations and classes about yarn techniques. I’m used to going to conferences, it’s an occupational hazard in Computer Science. Bring on the tote bag (free) and the t-shirt to commemorate the event (for a price). I’m used to selecting among sessions and also trying to decide what, if anything of the vendors who come, typically with books, I would purchase.

Other than that yarn is quite different. Most strikingly, the gender balance of course. There were some men at Stitches South, I even recognized one of them (he organizes the men’s knitting group at a local yarn store I purchase wool from). But, they were few and far between. As a friend of mine pointed out, they also fall into two distinct categories. Those who knit, and those whose wives knit.

And while there were books for sale, there were other things too. Yarn of course. Lots and lots of yarn. I wish Computer Science conferences had the diversity of alternatives as yarn conventions. It would be like looking among Commodores, Amigas, ZX81, as well as the PC or Mac question. And then there were all the unnecessary things you have to buy to make knitting fun. That’s probably the equivalent of a laptop case (even though you have several, you can be persuaded to buy more, well I can). I’m going to a conference in my professional field soon, CHI, and I wish there were more things to amuse my purchasing interests. After a long day in sessions, I think there’s a target market for the whimsical purchase.

And since I’ve written this much…

…the most ridiculous thing I purchased at Stitches South was a contraption that allows you to wear a ball of wool. It has a bangle like attachment from which a stick suspends with a cap below. You attach the bangle to your wrist, thread the stick through the centre of the ball of wool and then use the cap to ensure that the wool doesn’t fall off. Now I can look like a complete knitting pratt. But it will save those embarrassing accidents in the cinema where you begin knitting with wool on lap and then somewhere, usually during the darkest scene in the entire film, the wool falls off and down into the murky world of “below the cinema seat.” Not only is the process of fishing around for it usually futile, there are all manner of disgusting things below the cinema seat. Old popcorn is among the least offensive. So, I’ll be saving that particular gadget for the next trip to the movies, or perhaps for this Friday when I can recreate cinema conditions watching the Royal Wedding before dawn while knitting.

Social Media: Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull, Katla, Ash Clouds and Flying

In empirical, European Union, research, social media on April 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Yesterday, a volcano in the Eyjafjallajokull region started erupting. And as reports continue to suggest things might be getting worse, and could have significant long term global implications, my thoughts are with those who are directly impacted by the floods. The volcano started sending up a large ash cloud, up to 55,000 ft into the air. Upper atmosphere winds are now blowing the ash towards Europe. As the ash is sinking (now at 18,000 to 33,000 ft), it’s entering the airspace of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, and progressively others in Northern Europe. Ash and aeroplanes do not mix, instead they get into the engines and can cause them to stop.

Needless to say, social media including Twitter have kicked into high gear as people’s travel plans get altered. I’m attending CHI2010 in Atlanta, and I have heard many discussions about flight delays today among the Europeans who are now stuck in the United States waiting to return home. Flickr has a group that you can contribute: share your images.

I have a few observations.

I think it’s not just that Eyjafjallajokull is difficult to spell, (I would like to hear from native Icelandic speakers whether its easier to spell if you’re familiar with the language), it’s also long, by the time you put that into the tweet stream you’ve got considerably less characters than you do with other hashtags. Interestingly, following it on twitter you see substantive discussion by people I suspect are largely outside of Iceland wondering (like I did) how you say this word. Not all of those discussions are in English, but i am pretty certain that they are all not in Icelandic. Two other hashtags I’ve seen are #ashtag and #icelandic. Both of course suggest a dominant language in social media. This is already well known, but it’s another reminder of how different Internet experiences can be if you’re English-native or not. And what a privilege it is to have a working knowledge of English.

In Iceland it’s the case that the volcano that erupted did more than send up a large ash cloud, it also caused a glacier to melt. People were evacuated. Roads were destroyed. People’s farm lands were destroyed. Blogs are now collating the data, which is a good thing IMO since the twitter stream might be good for propagating news but it’s hard to get a sense of the total picture from bite-size messages. I like this interplay between blogs and twitter. Something similar is going on with the BBC who have a live feed of the impacts of the eruption, including those involving flights.

So what else is consuming the twitterverse is the impact on flights. It’s not just in Northern Europe. As I mentioned it’s also people trying to get from Europe to the United States and vice versa. And then there’s people for whom Europe is the first stop, such as those moving from the U.S. to India or vice versa. And one thing you immediately notice is how dependent we are on air travel for professional and personal reasons. Seeing people tweet their own tales of what they are going through gives the news a sense of “really happening” “real people”, well at least for me.

It’s another reminder of the global migration patterns that exist, in addition to the more short-term reasons people fly. And we’ll soon begin to see the global consequences of this disruption. It’s not just that the Northern European airspace is shut down, it’s now also that planes that were meant to be in one place, and their associated crews, are not where they should be. Soon, other forms of computational technologies will be brought to bear on solving what is I can only imagine a hideous n-way scheduling problem that each airline and airport has to go through to make sense of where the system currently is and how to return it to “normal” as soon as possible. Another consequence of this is that people are stuck in places and needing hotel rooms. And here it’s not that the ratio of people stuck in the wrong place some how works out. Here in Atlanta, we have a large domestic competition (Robotics and school children) coming to town and at the same time extra people who are affected by the ash cloud. You can also see that in the tweet stream.

Perhaps it’s obvious to all, but I find the way that it plays out via social media fascinating. A serious disruption to the infrastructure of global migration has obvious consequences, but they appear as I said to be “really happening” “real people”, well at least for me.

Other images, here, here, and a image of the gradual clearing out of British airspace, which reminds me of the one that occurred in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11.

oh, and this seems meta. While I was putting together this post, Ed Chi was writing about my own updates on the volcano that I made via twitter.


In computer science, discipline, HCI on November 8, 2009 at 9:53 am

I think some of the arguments I’ve been making about Computer Science also play out within the disciplines of Computer Science. I am struck by some of the common themes that appear in James’ post about frustrations with CHI and UIST echo thoughts about Systems and CS more generally. Having a discipline in disciplinary flux creates confusion and frustration around the objectives. I think there are upsides too, but I am convinced that they require a type of risk/courage to take. The type of risk that’s not about extending a program to do more, deeply, more of the same, but about taking the risk that what you do might even be perceived as not counting. So, real risk.