Longs days and little sleep make it likely that I’ll forget important details from the 2012 CRC conference, so I thought I’d write a few quick thoughts while they are still in my head…
I flew up to Sydney early on Tuesday morning, for a day of student training workshops with the other research students. Student numbers seemed down a bit on previous years due to a few scheduling clashes (ANZMAC in Perth, OZCHI in Canberra) but we still had 34 PhD students in attendance.
The major theme behind this year’s workshops was “creative leadership”, with sessions run by Ralph Kerle from the Creative Leadership Forum. We also heard from Paul Boustead about his journey from CRC researcher to director of the Interactive Voice group at Dolby, a keynote from Stuart Anderson (Sydney Capital Partners), and some advice from Natalie Chapman (Gemaker/Smart Services CRC) on idea evaluation, protection and commercialisation.
I enjoyed Ralph’s session on the FourSight thinking profiles (built on Gerard Puccio’s work at Buffalo State University). Despite having a very biased group (almost all PhD students, engaged in some kind of technology research) we were relatively close to the global norms: slightly more Ideators, and a good mix of Clarifiers, Developers and Implementers. The FourSight archetypes are an interesting tool for looking objectively at team composition, and examining the strengths and weaknesses of groups and individuals.
Natalie’s session seemed more relevant to the CRC researchers than the IP workshop we saw a few years back: covering some of the same ground, but in a more accessible fashion. People asked questions about their own work or that of their colleagues, and saw the range of options available when trying to take an idea to market. It’s not always about patents or copyright! There are lots of tools available, and situations where each might be the most appropriate.
Late in the day, we tried a group exercise where teams of eight students proposed a series of business ideas, picked one, and worked through a series of stages: identifying what IP would be involved, ways of protecting it, a pathway to commercialisation, and a description of the product and business model. My team had plenty of ideas, but struggled a bit on the details of how to mange the interim stages – possibly because we’d ended up with a team almost entirely filled with ideators, and lacked the developers or implementors who would work on those areas. I love team challenges – another reason why I need to finish my damn PhD already, as the endless solo work is wearing me down…
Wednesday involved the formal start of the conference, with research presentations, a great keynote by David Harrison from Freelance.com, and the student poster sessions. The room layout did no favours to the students: poster sessions were held during meal breaks, with the food in a different room. Few people made it to the far end of the main room where I was based, so the opportunity for conversation was pretty limited. I think the 2009 conference was the closest to a format that really worked in that regard – while those sessions were far too long, at least we spent all day talking instead of hoping that someone might come over for a chat. Still, the few conversations I had this year were all valuable.
An oft-mentioned research strength in the CRC has been our combination of technology and user research: understanding user motivations and behaviour, in order to design better products and services. While that’s broadly true, I think that we still have a ways to go on that front: the CRC contains sharply contrasting research groups, and “social” research is obviously not a priority for some. For me, that was probably the only sour note in the conference: talking to people with bold, world-changing ideas that risk going nowhere at all, because their products require widespread adoption from a group of poorly understood potential customers. I firmly believe that the users of a technology should be placed right in the middle of the design process: understand what they want, how they will use the technology, and why they might not use it in the way you had imagined.
Ignore the users and you risk them ignoring your technology: regardless of how great its potential benefits might be. Having seen a glimpse of what those futures might hold, it would be a shame to see them never realised.
It takes a lot of work to cut an 8-page conference paper down into 4 pages, but we finally managed it. I used my extra hour on Sunday morning (courtesy of the 3am end of daylight savings time) to finish rewriting the longer version of our Trust & Reputation paper, cutting it down for the 4-page poster papers format, and received publishing approval from the CRC this afternoon.
So, Trust, Reputation and the Small Firm: Building Online Brand Reputation for SMEs has now been submitted to ICWSM. It covers four of the small business case studies from my project, exploring how the businesses are using social media tools to build trust and reputation among online communities. Now, I need to get back to working on my thesis… and figuring out how many hoops I need to jump through in order to get an international trip approved by the university. In July, Barbara and I should be presenting our paper in Barcelona 🙂
Lest I forget them, here are some conferences (and the all-important deadlines!) that I’m looking at this year:
5th International Conference on Communities and Technologies (C&T)
29 June – 2 July 2011, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Doctoral Consortium applications due 30 April
The biennial Communities and Technologies (C&T) conference is the premier international forum for stimulating scholarly debate and disseminating research on the complex connections between communities – both physical and virtual – and information and communication technologies.
C&T 2011 welcomes participation from researchers, designers, educators, industry, and students from the many disciplines and perspectives bearing on the interaction between community and technology, including architecture, arts, business, design, economics, education, engineering, ergonomics, information technology, geography, health, humanities, law, media and communication studies, and social sciences. The conference program will include competitively selected, peer-reviewed papers, as well as pre-conference workshops, a doctoral consortium, and invited keynote and panel speakers.
It looks like there will be some interesting workshops at this one. Axel and Jean’s “Making sense of Twitter: Quantitative analysis using Twapperkeeper and other tools” could be useful to go to. Twapperkeeper users are no longer able to download archives, though, as Twitter won’t allow them to offer that feature on a paid site. I’m not sure what other services are out there for research archives of Twitter feeds and search terms.
Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM-11)
17-21 July 2011, Barcelona, Spain
Paper submitted 8 February
ICWSM-11, will be held on July 17-21, 2011 in Barcelona (Spain) and will be collocated with IJCAI-11. The International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media is a unique forum that brings together researchers from the disciplines in computer science, linguistics, communication, and the social sciences. The broad goal of ICWSM is to increase understanding of social media in all its incarnations. Submissions describing research that blends social science and technology are especially encouraged.
Though this conference is relatively new, it has become one of the premier venues for social scientists and technologists to gather and discuss cutting-edge research in Social Media. This is largely due to a typical acceptance rate of 20% for full-length research papers and support from Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
This is the conference that I co-authored a paper for – still waiting to hear back from them at the moment. It looks fantastic, and I’d love to attend. From what I’ve seen so far, ICWSM has a good range of researchers from different disciplines.
OzCHI 2011 Design, Culture and Interaction
28 November – 2 December, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
17 June: Long papers due
2 September: Doctoral Consortium applications and short papers due
OzCHI is Australia’s leading forum for work in all areas of Human-Computer Interaction and CHISIG’s (www.chisig.org) annual non-profit conference. OzCHI attracts an international community of practitioners, researchers, academics and students from a wide range of disciplines including user experience designers, information architects, software engineers, human factors experts, information systems analysts, social scientists and managers. We also welcome perspectives from design, architecture engineering, planning, social science and creative industries among other disciplines. We invite original contributions on all topics related to Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) including practical, technical, methodological, empirical and theoretical aspects.
The conference theme, “Design, Culture and Interaction”, reflects both the global nature of HCI and the diversity of cultures within which people incorporate interactive use of computers in their daily lives. It reflects the diversity of cultures within which HCI practitioners and researchers work, and the diversity of cultures for which they build their applications and within which they conduct their research.
I really enjoyed OZCHI last year. I’m not sure how well my research fits into the 2011 theme, but I’d still like to attend the conference if it doesn’t clash with the CRC end of year event. Their call for papers should go out soon, so I’ll have a closer look at it then.
I’ve been working on a paper for the Internation Conference on Weblogs and Social Media over the past fortnight. The research component is mine; the context and literature is written by a friend in QUT who suggested that we collaborate on a paper. We have some overlapping research interests, and can keep in touch via Skype. Easy, right?
Of course, nothing works quite that smoothly in practice. Brisbane got flooded. QUT lost their internet connection – no details given, but I like to think that their server room was temporarily full of bull sharks. Then, before she could send me her half of the paper, my co-author was whisked off to Fiji on a surprise birthday present from her husband… possibly one of the nicest way of being disconnected from the internet that I can think of 🙂
Deadline Day became a mad rush, more so than usual because I needed to head up to Sydney for our CRC’s third year review: a day of interviews and presentations to a review panel, assessing how the research centre has been performing. My contribution was extremely short, but I still lost most of the day to transit delays at the two ariports. I typed my last few corrections straight into the layout template and sent it off from the Melbourne Airport arrivals lounge. I really hope that the completed paper makes sense to people who aren’t stressed and sleep deprived – when read in the light of day. I haven’t been able to make myself re-read it yet. That’s a job for next week, or possibly the week after that.
It’s been a while since I wrote about what I’ve done so far.
I’m having trouble getting hold of enough people to interview. I had hoped to arrange ten interviews from each sector (services, hospitality, retail). That’s not working out very well, at the moment.
I’ll have no problems filling the Services list – in fact, I might end up expanding it a little, to take a few more people from some business types. I have about half my retail interviews organised, though one business I was particularly keen on speaking to hasn’t shown up for two interview dates, and hasn’t replied to emails recently. After a string of cancellations and withdrawals, I only have two hospitality businesses on my list. I really want at least five restaurants, cafés and bars, and need to interview them as soon as possible.
It’s been frustrating. I think that I’m getting valuable information from all the interviews I’ve done so far, and the interviewees have all been very positive about the project. I’m running out of potential leads to follow up on, though, and need to do a lot more interviews before the end of the year.
I’m tracking down businesses through every channel I can, at the moment. The #socialmelb group has been fantastic, as it attracts new people with an interest in social media every week. Contacting twitter-using businesses via Twitter has actually worked well. Contacting the facebookers via Facebook hasn’t worked at all, so far. Email has been reasonably successful, but only in cases where I’ve had some kind of bridging connection: knowing a name, or having someone else refer me. Email via “Contact Us” webforms has been singularly useless. I suspect that either I’m automatically considered a spammer, or that people are too busy to write back.
If anyone reading this happens to run a small business, please let me know! You can find an overview of my project here. In particular, I want to speak with five more retail businesses (online or brick&mortar stores), and up to eight restaurants, bars or cafés. The only requirement is that the business uses some kind of social media (social networking, blogs, forums, twitter, etc), or intends to in the next 12 months.
This week, I’m hoping to sort out bookings, flights and accommodation for OZCHI (Brisbane) and CPRF (Sydney). The two conferences have a fairly different outlook, but have more overlap with what I’m looking at (studying technology users, in an Australian small business context) than most. OZCHI runs at the same time as the first Ashes test match, apparently, so I have to book accommodation by Friday! Let’s hope that the wheels of the bureaucracy are spinning smoothly… otherwise, I’ll have to book it all myself and sort out money later.
I’m in Sydney at the moment, waiting for my excruciatingly slow mobile “broadband” so I can check my email and look up a few things for tomorrow’s panel discussion: ironically, one where I’ll be speaking about the National Broadband Network. Truth be told, I’d kill for something a bit faster than the 23kbps I’m getting right now…
Tuesday was a very full day, packed to the gills with training sessions: media skills, a commercialisation ‘boot camp’, intellectual property law and pitching/presentation training. Some of the workshops suffered a little from being trimmed-down versions of longer presentations, but I found all of them worth going to. I wish I’d had that kind of preparation before the Business Plan competition pitch, but it’s still useful for applying that 20:20 hindsight.
We wrapped up the day over at the Rose Hotel, where I found that assembling a bunch of random PhD students doesn’t necessarily make a very good pub trivia team (we don’t know enough pop lyrics…). Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves in the second half of the trivia night. Next time, we ought to shanghai someone who can answer the sport, film, TV and music questions 🙂
Despite getting up a little after 5am, I still only got a shade under three hours’ sleep after getting back to the hotel room. Not the best way to get ready for a full day of poster presentations…
Today’s poster sessions seemed fairly quiet, without many people stopping to talk about the project. That wasn’t entirely unexpected: location (hidden in the corner) and subject (a qualitative business study in a room filled with technology projects) left it on the fringe in more ways than one. So I was quite surprised to win an award for the most popular thesis, based on votes from the industry partners – not something I saw coming at all.
Feedback on the project has been excellent: particularly in terms of new areas to explore, helping to develop a stronger direction for the research, and highlighting groups that could benefit from the research outcomes. The project feels much more substantial than it did about twelve hours ago.
Right now, I need sleep… six hours over the last two nights is enough to function (barely), but it’s not going to get me through day 3. The panel discussion is on first thing tomorrow, so I’ll need to be awake for that one!