Research Freak Out

Research is a bit of a stressful practice I am finding out. I’m partway through my honour degree so I’m talking about the original, academic flavour of research. Being in the applied field of information systems, the project I am working on is highly dependent on extensive practitioner-focused research. This means I need a lot of data from
industry. Getting data is much easier said than done…

I say research is stressful because it’s full of pressure. And gratification is extremely delayed. I started the data collection phase today; it’s a ver compressed timeline seeing its the festive season and my thesis is due in February. I’ve been working to get interviews (with help of course!) with relevant firms. It’s taking a long time. This stresses me out. Because gratification is delayed, some cognitive dissonance occurs (“Why am I even doing this?!”) and things don’t feel great. But then you get a break through and you feel great. Then the cycle of stress-concern-breakthrough repeats. It’s tumultuous.

Probably sounding whiny, but it’s a stress. Having support has become really important. Knowing that someone is there to guide and advise is incredibly important. I’ve also found focusing on the endpoints helped manage some of my concerns too. Of course you continue to hope that everything works out. That is really all I can do (apart from work hard).

I want to know what you do to manage the trials of research. I think I’d learn most from others rather than just guessing on my own!

What is your research experience? How do/did you manage stress and concern in your research project?

Vlogging: weirdest activity ever?

I’m often told I don’t have a life. Between work and university, I find it difficult to find time to do other things. Like having a life. I don’t particularly mind studying as I enjoy it. But I do think people have a point in saying that I should be trying to do other stuff in my life.

I bought myself a Flip-style video camera a few years ago before I went on a holiday to Sydney. It was great for capturing memories, but the camera never got much of a workout for a while. Then for some unknown reason, I picked it up one day and did my first mobile vlog (I had made two before this with my Mac’s iSight).

I’ve made a few vlogs since. Not many, and I normally tend to either make them about Christmas lights or have someone else in the vlog. It’s not much, but it is a start.

My most recent vlog got me thinking “I should do this more”. While my psychology friends would probably see this as an attention seeking move, I have different reasons for thinking that I should be trying to vlog more.

I think doing vlogging helps me get more confident with talking to people I am not close with; this is something I still have trouble with to this day, even though I’ve had plenty of exposure through work and study. I know YouTube is sort of a one-way communication platform, but it’s definitely not easy to just talk to yourself and a camera like a total freak!

Vlogging also provides an opportunity for me to be a little creative. I’m normally an extremely structured person (ask any of my friends). I don’t do creativity normally; it’s far too freeform a type of activity. By engaging in a much more flexible and (I guess) ill-defined pastime, I get to try something different and do something out-of-the-ordinary (well, at a personal level).

Finally, it is a chance to connect. There are billions of people with a trillion stories to share. I don’t see a point of having experiences and not sharing them with others. It is how we learn and grow. I want to be a part of that.

What do you do for a hobby? Why do you like that activity?

Remember, sharing is caring!

Remembering Steve

I know I am late in posting this, but it has taken some time for me to process what has happened. We have lost one of our great visionaries, one of our greatest innovators and one of our most persistent entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs impacted so many aspects of our world: how we communicate, how we create, how we share, how we are entertained and how we think of technology. I wanted to tell a personal story of how Steve’s work has impacted me, and how nothing will ever be the same.

I hardly started out appreciating Apple – as recently as 2007, I detested the company. I was bought up in a world totally revolving around Microsoft. My first computer ran Windows 95. My first laptop was a HP machine running Windows XP. I used media players that only worked with Windows. I could not stand the Mac vs. PC ads and I couldn’t stand people with an iPod. Microsoft was God and I was a disciple. Then things changed.

Late in 2007, my Creative MP3 player died a very sudden death. I was looking for a replacement. Apple had just held their traditional September music event, announcing the launch of such players as the iPod Classic and the very first iPod Touch. The beauty and simplicity of the iPod Classic caught me. I had to have it. I begged and begged my parents for it. Christmas rolled around and I unboxed my first Apple product; I was now the proud owner of an iPod Classic. I used it persistently: on the bus, doing homework, traveling, whatever. The beauty of Apple products became clear – so much effort had been put into industrial design, the user interface, the user experience and the ecosystem. The iPhone was beautiful but wasn’t available in its initial version in Australia; but I still wanted one. I even started liking the look of the competitive operating system – Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard.

My acquisition of an iPod was shortly followed by an iPhone 3G. The first iPhone legitimately available in Australia, I had to have this amazing fusion of phone and computer. I ordered my phone on day three of availability, and within a month, I had my first iPhone. It was amazing. Again and again, it changed how I used a phone, how I thought of communication and how I thought of computing.

Then I took the biggest bet yet. After graduating from high school, in needed a new laptop for university. The designs Apple had just put out for the MacBook Pro in November 2008 were stunning. I had to have one. The stakes (and price of a 15″ MacBook Pro in early 2009) were very high. I was taking a huge bet that I would use a brand new operating system well by the start of uni. Pay off from this bet has been massive. I love my Mac – like all Apple products, the entire experience was thought out to the smallest detail and use case. The design was streamlined, intuitive. Yet, this dumbfoundingly obvious simplicity and intuition was somehow strangely surprising.

Now, my house is littered with my Apple products. iPods, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV; the list goes on. Not for a minute do I regret one of these purchases. I have made purchase of one Windows machine in this time. I was sadly disappointed. None of the thought that Apple, a company that is Steve Jobs, put into products could be seen in this netbook. I like Windows and still use it from time to time, but I don’t regret changing to the Apple ecosystem of products.

It is clear now just how much Steve and the company he salvaged from the edge of financial ruin care about their products, their services and their users and changed how we do things. Steve bred an environment where beauty was valued, innovation was key and caring for the user was everything. Steve contributed so much to technology and the industry. Anyone in IT would be remiss for not paying respect to a great entrepreneur that bought technology to so many people from so many backgrounds and so many places worldwide.

Steve will always be a role model for me and for everyone in our industry. For me, Steve always cared about what he did: quality was everything, and I appreciate this tremendously. He stuck by his guns, standing up for what he knew, and time and time again, he was right. Repeatedly, Steve and Apple redefined how we thought about things: computing, entertainment, creating, sharing and communicating. Last of all, Steve always looked at things differently, daring to take bets where no one else would.

Steve, thank you for your tremendous contributions to technology, design, entertainment and culture. You will be sorely missed.

What is your Apple story? How will you remember Steve’s legacy?

The Lost & Found USB

I recently picked up a great deal at a VIP sale at The Good Guys Ipswich: a 4GB Verbatim flash drive for A$3 each. Given there was a limit of five, I took advantage of the deal and bought my limit of five. I’m pretty happy with that deal (seeing I just returned from my local supermarket where the same drive was selling for A$27!); now just to find a use for all of them…

A specimen of the amazing A$3 USB deal

Given I have so many now, I’m getting into the habit of carrying one with me everywhere (you’re likely rolling your eyes now: USB sticks are so 2005). But they don’t rely on the Internet and every computer has a USB port these days. That makes a USB drive a must have tool. I’m also running PortableApps on the drive. It’s a great way to have important applications configured my way wherever I go, plus a good way to carry work from machine to machine at university without having to continually log in and out of Dropbox.

Carrying this USB drive with me everywhere got me thinking – What if I lost it? USB drives are small (admittedly the Verbatim ones are a bit of a chunky monkey, but A$3 is a steal anyway you look at it). I’ve already dropped one in the car (luckily I knew about it that time). What would happen if I lost my USB drive with all my important files and apps?

Appealing to the belief that most people are at least a little altruistic, I decided I would put together a short text file providing my name and return/contact details at the top-level folder (the root for the technically inclined) on the drive (and a thank you to the person for finding it). It is a quick way to identify a drive as yours and have it returned quickly (rather than having it stolen).

I uploaded a template text file that I used for my lost USB drive notice over here. Just populate it how you like and copy it to the top level directory of your USB drive. It is simple. You can add or remove entries in the contact details section to you liking (for example, I don’t include the Facebook entry on the version I use).

Hopefully this simple solution will save your USB drive from being lost for eternity at some point in its life. But lets hope it never comes to your USB drive being lost.