Archive for October, 2007

Shuttle with Frances Allen

I had the honor of sitting next to Fran Allen on the shuttle to the airport at 6 am this morning. (Wow–the Turing Award winner opts for the shared shuttle.) I asked if there is particular work she is excited about in the coming year. Allen said she will be speaking a lot about the current crisis in computing, which she described as probably the largest computing crisis we’ve ever faced, but one that she believes can be addressed by her field. (Shame on me–I didn’t ask what the crisis is, thinking she would tell me if she wanted to discuss it further at 6 am on the way to the airport, but looking back, I’m guessing she would have been happy to discuss it… Ironic, given how struck I was that she reminded me of my mother-in-law, an incisive reporter who no doubt would have asked.) After a bit of googling, I think Allen was referring to energy crises and power consumption of high-performance computers–and the potentials for parallel computing and optimization to address these problems. Regarding the topic of the conference we were departing, she seemed optimistic about engaging women in the field of computing, calling that problem “the easy one.” She joked about how she would prefer not to focus on being the first woman to win the award, and rather to focus on her work. She said her friends at ACM laughed at the possibility of leaving that out of the conversation. We sat with another woman from IBM, who does mentors many IBMers in her work. Both she and Allen spoke about the need to have discussions about gender and cultural differences–to put the issues on the table–in the workplace and in academia, and that not having such discussions remains a serious problem.

Cancel / OK Ridiculous

screen grab of groupwise ok/cancel prompt
In Novell GroupWise 7 WebAccess, I frequently have to hit ‘cancel’ right after I click ‘send’ in order to make my email go. If you set GW to prompt before including a signature, after you click on ‘send’, you get the prompt in the screen grab. For a while I checked my sent items each time to make sure the email went after I hit ‘cancel.’ I still lose time hesitating on this when I haven’t been in WebAccess for a few days.

Grace Hopper Women in Computing

Grace Hopper Women in ComputingI left HighEdWebDev in Rochester NY this morning and I’m thrilled to have landed in Orlando FL for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. There was great energy at the poster session when I arrived. It’s striking to go from the HighEdWebDev scene–professionals managing the bureaucratic change-fearing worlds of colleges & universities, striving to bring innovative technology to their learning communities–to the Hopper scene of women in doctoral programs sharing their fascinating projects exploring future possibilities. Makes me want to go back to school!

Last night’s banquet was quite moving as Fran Allen, the 2007 Turing Award Winner (first woman ever to win) was honored. Each speaker was asked to offer 20 words of advice for the women in the audience: Fran Allen told a story about climbing a 14,000′ Bhutanese mountain. As she was climbing, she noticed that one of the guides was putting stones across a brook for her to walk over. She reassured him that it wasn’t necessary–she could get wet going across. He explained that in Bhutan, they have a tradition: IN my country, we make the path easier for those who come behind. After Allen spoke, IBM announced (and awarded) a new Fran Allen Fellowship which will include an IBM mentor for each recipient–for the first year Fran Allen herself.

Dr. Monica Martinez-Canales, chair of the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, spoke most convincingly about the importance of mentors. She encourged everyone to find a mentor and hold on tight: ask them how you can be like them, and take their advice.

HighEdWebDev: Compelling User Experience

Day Three of HighEdWebDev 2007: Beck Tench of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering did a great presentation: Designing Compelling User Experience (in Higher Education). Based on what I saw, I’d say Beck’s a gifted graphic designer and a natural teacher, involving the audience and making us forget we’re talking about some technical thing, showing images of turtles, mushrooms, flowers, washing machines and a high-waisted-shorts-wearing grown-up boy scout.

Beck raised the questions: How do you make an experience compelling? How do you build a space that people will love? How do you build something where people can come and get what they want and leave without being controlled? These are questions often being ignored in higher education where there’s a tendency to use narrow definitions of our audiences and to provide them narrow corridors in which to explore. Read the entire post: HighEdWebDev: Compelling User Experience