Music to research to – Pivot

18 09 2008

Great album by Sydney band Pivot. Who would have thought a good band would come from there!

… Matt

The trials of data collection

18 09 2008

Here is a post from deep in the trenches of data collection. As I type this I have some students working away, testing my prototype application.

I am about half way through all the classes, with one more this afternoon, and two more tomorrow. So how is it going I hear you ask? Hhhhmmmm…

Let me say I am not convinced I will have all of the last data I need. It is still early days, but it points out a major issue with data collection… getting eager participants.

Mine are coming from the student population. Since all is above board with Ethics, I ask the students if they would like to participate. As is completely fair, they all have a choice if they want to participate or not, and it is stressed that they don’t have to. It is the right thing to do, but boy does it make data collection difficult! I wish I had a dollar for each person that asked “what do I get out of it?” or “yeah, but how will it help me?”!

Anyway, after canvassing students in lectures a few weeks ago, I got about 70 willing to participate which I was pretty happy with to be honest. I felt that with all the different kinds of data I was collecting I would get some good stuff. But then we come to the actual experiment.

Well, students have an interesting work ethic god bless ’em. Unfortunately it seems this week is turning out to be one of those “I have better things to do than go to programming labs” kind of weeks. So to say my numbers are low is a bit of an understatement. But we are not through it yet, so lets see how they all pan out. But I guess I am preparing for more data collection, however if the data turns out to be quite rich, then I may have enough to write up (taking into account I have done two other stages of data collection already).

I am not upset with the students… a bit disappointed maybe… but I guess it just highlights thinking of the best ways to get keen participants. I will see how I go and what I can come up with.

So fingers crossed for the rest of the week readers! Lets see how it all pans out.

… Matt

PhD – Life – Play – Fitness Balance (or, the Otter is pretty silly)

28 08 2008

No, don’t worry… this is not going to be some philosophical posting full of lots of zen mumbo-jumbo. Just a bit of a story of my weekend and what else is happening besides my PhD.

Those that know me think I am a bit crazy. It is on a number of levels, but the main one is my ease of being swayed into physical activities. One thing that Monash University does well is their Team Monash program. This is Monash putting formal teams into major Melbourne fitness events, including the Portsea Swim Classic, the Mother’s Day Classic, Melbourne Marathon, and Around the Bay in a Day ride. Why I am crazy is that I do each of these. The Team Monash banner is addictive though… you get looked after well, get gear to run/swim/cycle in, and get be part of the big Monash group.

So, October is coming fast, which means I am running and cycling very soon. Before you think I some kind of Superman (which I am most defintely not), I am not running a whole marathon. That is just for crazy people. I was going to do a half marathon, but it is the weekend before the Around the Bay ride, which is my favourite, so I am just doing the 10km run. But it finishes in the MCG so I am pretty excited about it. My main focus is on riding around the bay.

For those of you not from Melbourne, we are situated on a bloody big bay (Port Phillip Bay). Someone, sometime decided “Hey, we could ride around this thing!”, and thus thousands of us looneys decide to do it each year. How far I hear you ask? Well, 210 butt wrenching kilometres, that’s how far. Yes, it is a long way, but it is also believe it or not it is really fun.

Below is a Google Map of what we ride. Scale is obviously hard to tell, but it is about 210-220km of riding. We get a ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento about half way, so we literally do go around the whole bay.

This is where the title of this posting comes in… at some point I had to tell (well, force) myself to say “Hey, you need to train for this… get on your bike!”. The main problems have been:

  1. I really want to get this PhD done
  2. Our winter has been pretty cold and wet this year
  3. Training means doing rides of at least 100km (ie at least 4-5 hour sessions)

So the weekend gone I said enough is enough. Sunday, being a pretty nice day, I threw the bike in the car, drove to my favourite spot in East Malvern, and started riding. I headed into the city via the main bike trail and went through to Port Melbourne, and the start of the famous (or infamous) Beach Rd ride. And that is where it hit me.

As I headed on my way to Frankston I had one of those kind of zen moments. I thought to myself “It is a beautiful day, I am on the water, I have nowhere to be, and this is great!”. I think it was a combination of a cold wet winter, not having been on my bike in ages, work being crazy, and the fact it was a nice day with no wind. But it was just one of those blissful moments.

So I proceeded to ride close to 120km over the next 4.5 hours. Yes, it is a lot, but I needed to kick the training into gear. But if 120km can be peaceful and enjoyable, this was it.

Anyway, that is the end of the story. What is the moral? Well,

  1. Yes, I’m nuts
  2. I discovered I am pretty fit (I do a couple of gym RPM classes a week to keep my fitness and sanity)
  3. Sometimes you just need to say “Sorry PhD, today is for my body, not for my brain!”

If you are struggling with trying to fit these things in, sometimes you just have to do it. Nothing like registering to ride around a bloody big bay to get you motivated. See you on Beach Rd!

… Matt

Otter Progress – Development is almost there…

28 08 2008

Just a quick update since it has been 2 weeks since the last post. I have mentioned previously that once semester starts it gets pretty crazy. Well, in the 2 weeks I have been teaching and marking, but also getting some development done. And I am happy to say I have had some major things happen.

Firstly, I have about 70 participants for my final data collection in a month. It will involve students using my application to see how it helps them with Object Oriented Program Design, and I just had to get them to fill out Consent Forms so that everything is above board with the Ethics department. Hopefully this gets me the last data I need!

The other major thing has been in the development side of things. Here are some screen shots of the current version. It has come a loooong way since the last postings. Not only does it look better, but it is very functional… almost the point of unleashing it. So final development can hopefully be sorted over the weekend and then into the hands of some testers. How exciting!

… Matt

Music to Research to – Deerhoof

28 08 2008

This is slightly older record, but I have just fallen in love with it. It is Friend Opportunity by Deerhoof and is very schizophrenic demented pop music… maybe it suits my current mood!

… Matt

Wow… these bricks do give a little…

12 08 2008

My last post had a nice image of a brick wall. I just typed into Google image search “Otter puts head through brick wall”. I actually got lots of results, just none with an otter with its head through a brick wall (no… I wasn’t expecting to get that picture). So I typed “head through brick wall” and this image was about the 3rd result. I laughed, so here it is.


Silliness out of the way, I managed to solve a couple of problems in my development that really had me stuck and a little despondant. The main one was one of those times when you are saying to yourself “I am sure I have tried it this way, but let’s give it another go”. Anyway, some stars aligned, my office filled with an orange mist with gold sparkles (as our resident goat would say), and it worked. Phew.

So I have one more main thing to solve and then I think it is tidy up (touch wood). Fingers crossed that at the end of this week I am pretty close to having the main functionality all working. Hopefully…

… Matt

Otters hitting their heads against brick walls

11 08 2008

It had to be too good to be true. After a few weeks of stellar progress, I have hit the wall in my development. This is because of a few things…

The first is that I have struck two things I need to do with my code that it just won’t do. I know there will be ways to do it, but one particularly is just frustrating the hell out of me. The longer I look at it, the further away a solution seems. So in part this entry is me trying to take my brain away from it for a moment.

The second problem is not really a problem, but a reality. Semester is underway and slowly but surely other commitments sneak in. Teaching, supervision, a meeting here, a meeting there. Then your week has disappeared. My load this semester is quite good, but things are starting to pile up 😦

The final influencing factor I guess is being against the clock. I really have to have this nutted out as I want to do some evaluation of it in class in a month or so. So I need to get this puppy sorted and some preliminary testing done like by yesterday. Nothing like a deadline to bring out your best!

So, here is hoping that moment of clarity comes sometime today. Please. Pretty please? Maybe it is time to change my music.

… Matt