Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fourth Weekly Review of 2010

Last week I  said I would:
  • Set up GTD folders and actions tracking system (not done, but a project set up to get it done - see seperate blog post)
  • Deliver remaining PBCs and get all of them signed off. (done)
  • Complete my schedule for monthly 1-on-1 meetings (done)
  • Answer Robi's share the week challenge (done - people inside IBM can read a detailed account of my work week)
  • Start forming our new "Customer Response Team" (done)
  • Plan for how I can help increase adoption of Sametime on Linux (started - but I need further clarification of project scope)
Next Week I will:
  • Start work on my GTD tool selection project (this will be a multi week project)
  • Discuss with my local and remote managers about what my goals should be for 2010 (again a multi week project)
  • Begin taking on the additional areas of leadership in the Sametime team (once I get clarification on what they are)
  • Start work on comparison of MicroBlogging tools

Monday, January 25, 2010

Can MT help you have Twitter interactions across langauge barriers

IBM has been involved with the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) which is is a research group funded by Science Foundation Ireland. However, this is not an ivory-tower research group. They are tacking very practical problems about how to improve translation and localisation technologies so that they can be applied to new challenges that are emerging in the modern world.

For example, many machine translation systems only perform better on long texts where the words are appearing in context, but Tweets posted to Twitter are very short with no obvious context. Furthermore, they may contain abbreviations, mis-spellings and specialised terminology. As a result the GNGL team have launched a special project to tackle the issues that arise in this specific context.

They are now looking for volunteers to test out their system and even better provide them with feedback. Ideally they would like testers who follow people who tweet in different languages from their target set (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian).

Here are the instructions directly from the author:
My name is Declan Dagger and I work on DCM3 in Trinity College with Vincent Wade. We have built an application called twanslator on top of the twitter micro-blogging network that allows you to translate tweets into different languages. Initially we are looking to collect user centric data on the capabilities and limitations of text analytics and MT in limited character/context environments such as twitter.
I would appreciate your help in conducting this research. You can get involved by doing the following:
  1. Go to and login in using your twitter account details (if you don’t have an account you can sign up at
  2. When your tweets arrive there is a simple drop down menu of languages available which the tweet can be translated in to. When you translate a tweet, a rating system is then available (thumbs up / thumbs down) to indicate whether the translation was accurate or not. You can also add comments to the translation using the comment feature. Please rate all the translations you invoke as this is critical to our research.
  3. We appreciate any feedback, comments and/or suggestions you may have on how to improve the twanslator application. To leave general feedback, please click on the “app feedback” icon on the left of the page. You can also make suggestions by tweeting them to “@myisle #twanslator”.
  4. We will be adding new features to the application over time and ask that you follow @myisle so we can keep you informed of any updates.
  5. As we need a relatively large user base to conduct our research, we would be grateful if you could suggest to your followers and colleagues to also use twanslator.
  6. We would encourage you to suggest tweeters to @myisle that you recommend following for CNGL regardless of the language they tweet in. For example “@myisle you should follow @joe_bloggs [a French expert in localisation]”.
Part of the MyISLE goal is to build an open research platform for CNGL members within the social networking space. As such, twanslator has been developed using web services, workflow and customisable interfaces. So for those in CNGL interested in using twitter as part of a research study, please contact me at and I would be more than happy to make these services available to you.

The initial user interface is somewhat rudimentary, but I am sure it will improve over time. I have sent some feedback to Declan and I would encourage all of you to do the same (the more people who ask for the same feature the more likely it will be implemented).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Third Weekly Review of 2010

Last week I  said I would:
  • Set up GTD folders and actions tracking system (not done)
  • Complete drafts of remaining PBCs and begin delivering them if approved (done - all drafted and all but 2 delivered)
  • Blog about experiences at young scientist (done)
  • Complete my schedule for weekly meetings (done)
  • Begin implementing new role (not really)
  • Keep track of what is happening at Lotusphere (done)
For next week my plan is:
  • Set up GTD folders and actions tracking system (this is the 4th week I committed to this, but  it might get done this week because I anticipate I won't be so busy)
  • Deliver remaining PBCs and get all of them signed off.
  • Complete my schedule for monthly 1-on-1 meetings
  • Answer Robi's share the week challenge
  • Start forming our new "Customer Response Team"
  • Plan for how I can help increase adoption of Sametime on Linux

Friday, January 22, 2010

Review of the IBM stand at the Young Scientist and using social software for connecting with children #ibm4btyse

Last week I was involved in helping run the IBM stand at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. One of the areas that I focused on was using social software to help publicize what we were doing on this stand. This was a hectic week. Now that I have had time to digest what happened, I decided to write this blog post which  will review how effective the stand itself was and how/if the various social software channels we used helped connect with the young people attending the exhibition.

In common with many other exhibitions there is a tradition that companies running stands at the Young Scientist will attempt to attract visitors by giving gifts to the people who visit their stand.  IBM followed that tradition with 4 diiffernt things we were giving away to our visitors. This was very sucessful - at one stage on Friday it was not physically possible for anymore people to enter our stand. However, I was surprised that the popularity of the different gifts did not relate to what they cost:
  1. Anyone who visited the stand and made a token attempt to appear interested in our stand was given a YoYo with the IBM logo. We had a total of 10,000 YoYos were available in a variety of colours and they were all distributed over the 3 days. They were  hugely popular with the students and were probably responsible for a huge percentage of the visitors to the stand. A typical interaction with a student almost always sarted with the question "is it true you are giving out YoYos?". Of course we relied "yes, but not that you are year would you like me to tell you about IBM ..." The students felt morally obliged to feign interest in our messages in return for their valued prize.
  2. Each visitor to the stand was asked to enter an idea on our web site for how technology could be used to make the world smarter. Most students were enthused by the competition and put a lot of thought into their entry. This was a good way of ensuring they really understood the Smarter Planet theme we had for our stand. We were giving out a prize fof a laptop for the best idea, but very few of the students showed any interest in the prospect of winning a laptop.
  3. Each day we held a draw for a Nintendo Wii. All they had to do to enter the draw was write their name on a ticket. There was some interest in the chance of winning a Wii - but the scramble to enter this was much less than the scramble for free YoYos. I think the mood was captured by one young boy (I would guess aged about 8-10) - when asked if he wanted to enter the draw he said "I already have a Wii, but I suppose I could always sell it on eBay" - clearly a youngster with business acumen :-)
  4. We were also giving out Ubuntu Live CDs and copies of the "IBM Open Client for Smart Work" at the pedestal where we were demonstrating Open Source software. There was very little interest in this from the younger kids, but some of the older students and their parents did show an interest. Some of the visitors to the stand were already using Ubuntu, but were fascinated to learn why IBM was promoting it. In fact a large number of the CDs were given to the IBM volunteers who planned to install it on their own PCs.
The communications team were keen to use social software tools to promote the stand to students since they heard that the students would all be keen users of these tools. I was asked to advise them as an expert in social software. I don't consider myself of an expert (expertise is relative), but I found that Laura Cowen and Sacha Chua were only to happy to fill in for the gaps in my knowledge.

The social software tools we chose to use were:
  1. We created a Wordpress blog and we planned out a schedule for which of the team members would post each day so that it would not be forgotten. Much to my surprise we kept to the schedule and even posted a few additional blog posts when ideas occured to us during the week. We managed to get IBM employees to comment on the blog by using subtle pressure on them, but I don't think only 2 of our commenters were not IBM employees (of course I could be wrong because am not 100% certain of the identity of all of the commenters).
  2. We used the existing IBM Twitter account @IBMIrelandEvent and also the hashtag #ibmbtyse - the reaction to this was good, but again I suspect we were more successful in letting adults know about the stand than in attracting youngsters. The young people did use Twitter, but generrally were more intersted in interacting with their own social social circle than in interacting with IBM. A few students who were keen ubuntu fans did send us messages via Twitter so I guess it was high quality interactions even if not high quantity.
  3. The people manning the stand took lots of pictures and posted them to Flickr (e.g. my photos), Picasa (e.g. Donnacha's photos) and other web sites, but we did not organise them in a way that allowed people view all the content together. The communications team did produce some fairly professional looking videos and posted them to the YouTube channel. Speaking to IBM people they were very impressed, but I am not sure how many others viewed them.
  4. We created an identica/StatusNet account @IBMIrelandEvent but did not really use it. The communications team were using HootSuite for managing all of the social media channels and since we never connected the identica account with HootSuite nobody remembered to manually cross post. In any case I don't think many students would use identica so our omission was not noticed.
  5. We created a Facebook event page, since we were advised that most of the students would be very keen users of Facebook. We didn't hook this up with HootSuite either since it seems that HootSuite will only post to a person's Facebook home page and not to an event page (maybe we don't fully understand HootSuite). Nevertheless I manually posted links to most of our content as it appeared and also posted links to articles about the event in the mainstream media. I think that this pages was also used more by IBMers than by the target audience - 15 of the 19 confirmed guests and 9 of the 15 people who said they were "maybe attending" were IBM employees. I think the problem is that Facebook invites can only be sent to your friends and the people at the exhibition were not our friends on Facebook. Indeed the common wisdom is that the students would be advised against interacting with us on Facebook since we are all dangerous adults.
In summary it was a great experience and I think people attending got a good impresssion of IBM. This video gives you a quick flavour:

Update 23/Jan: I forgot to mention the Facebook page in the initial post so I added a paragraph about that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goals/Resolutions for 2010

Since I have been posting weekly reviews to my blog and also spending a lot of my time at work for the last few weeks on the annual appraisal process (known as PBC within IBM), I thought it might be a good idea to also publicly post my goals/resolutions for 2010.

I don't intend to post a full set of my goals for the year because that might be tedious, instead I will only note the significant things that I want to do differently this year from the past.

I have three main goals, and they are all tied together:
  1. Become active in social networking sites outside of IBM. I am already quite active on sites inside IBM, but now I feel I am now ready to leap over/through the firewall.
  2. Become more focused in relation the topics that I blog/tweet about. In line with common advice, I will concentrate on topics that excite  my interest:
    • Advanced collaboration tools
    • Use of social software for work as well as pleasure
    • Open Source Software
  3. Be more organised in the way I plan my work. Specifically I hope to implement the GTD methodology.
Now that I have publicly declared what my goals, maybe I will be embarrassed into carrying out my promises.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second weekly review of 2010

Here is my assessment on whether or not I completed the goals I set myself for the second working week of 2010:
  • Set up my GTD system of folders and actions (fail) and continue the other practices (done)
    • I didn't yet set up my GTD tracking system. I was advised that I need to pick a system that I have confidence in and tha fits with my working style. Therefore I need to do some experimentation with toold before deciding what I will commit to.
    • I am still processing email rather than reading it and doing a weekly review
  • Complete a draft of at least 2 more of the PBC annual appraisals (done)
  • Run for the stand at the Young Scientist Exhibition (done)
    • As expected this consumed most of my time. It was a great experience - I will write a full report on it later.
  • Sort out the domain names I own
    • complete transfer of (not done - the old registrar is still haning on to this domain so I think I will give up on it)
    • Take a definite decision on whether to migrate from Blogspot to Wordpress for and tidy it up regardless (done - sticking with Blogspot for now - it looks a bit better than it used to)
  • Get involved in a discussion about some minor tweaks in our team's organisation structure (done - but discussion ongoing)
  • Set up a schedule for my regular meetings in 2010 (partially done).
For next week my plan is:
  • Set up GTD folders and actions tracking system
  • Complete drafts of remainig PBCs and begin delivering them if approved
  • Blog about experiences at young scientist
  • Complete my schedule for weekly meetings
  • Begin implementing new role
  • Keep track of what is happening at Lotusphere

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Are high profile politicians entitled to keep their private toubles out of the media

The news in Ireland has recently been dominated by two totally unrelated cases where the private troubles of high profile politicians have become the subject of media attention. It is interesting to compare the different public reaction to the two news stories and ponder what it says about whether or not we believe public figures are morally entitled to keep their private lives private.

The first case is that of Brian Lenihan the finance minister of the Republic of Ireland who is suffering from a very serious form of cancer. This new was dramatically announced by TV3 in their 9pm news program on the day after Christmas day. Mr Lenhihan is widely regarded as a very clever and able man. Many people disagree with the strategy that he is following to try and help the Irish economy recover from the recent down-turn. However, anyone I have spoken to seems to be of the opinion that he is fundamentally a good person who is trying his best to solve the financial crisis. In addition he receives sympathy due to the fact that he can not really be blamed for causing the current probelms (he was Minister for Justice at the time when the economy was allowed to "over-heat").

The second case concerns the marital difficulties of Peter Robinson the First Minister of Northern Ireland. Most people (including myself) were shocked to hear that Mrs Robinson was having an affair with a teenage boy. This news was especially surprising because Iris Robinson (who was also an active politician in her own right) is most widely know for her fundamentalist views on homosexuality. It is hard to reconcile these views with the news that Iris Robinson was engaged in an affair with someone 39 years her junior at the time she was making these provocative statements. Most people I know would not be supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - although they clearly have a large number of people in Ireland support the party or they would not be in power. In addition most people (including DUP most supporters) don't agree with her opinions on homosexuality.

Much of the public comment about Brian Lenihan's illness has concerned the fact that TV3 were very insensitive way in way they leaked the news. Apparently they contacted him on Christmas Eve and told him they were going to release the news and gave him a deadline of 48 hours to tell his family of his illness before hearing about it on the television news. Naturally people feel sympathy for Mr Lenihan having to break such traumatic news to his family over the Christmas (he has two teenage children). However, if you are objective it is hard to believe that any other news organisation would have kept the news secret for very long. Everyone agreed that the effect of the economic policies now being put in place will not be know for sure for several years - surely it is a important fact that people should know about if there is a significant that Brian Lenihan won't be able to continue as the Minister for Finance for the next 5 years regardless of what way the electorate votes in the next election. I sense that the news outlets who are criticising TV3's handling of the news are actually just upset that they weren't the first to get access to this juicy news story.

The reaction to the Robinson's marital problems has been quite different, most commentators have been only too happy to feed the public's demand for all the titillating details. I know that the Robinson's had more time than the Lenihan family to digest the news before it became public. In addition there are some suggestions that Mrs Robinson's political contacts helped the young man in question get financial support from the public purse for his business. However, on objective analysis it could be argued that the public has less right to know about this story. The distraction caused to Peter Robinson by having to come to terms with his wife's infidelity is hardly greater than the distraction caused to Brian Lenihan by his pancreatic cancer.

I suspect the main reason for the different reaction to the two stories is the relative popularity of the individuals involved. There is probably also some guilty delight in seeing an apparently arrogant person humiliated. Many people (including Peter Robinson) feel that Iris Robinson is to be blamed for her own downfall, while nobody can blame Brian Lenihan for his recent illness. In any case I personally feel sorry for both families - it can't be easy to deal with being in the public eye in such a negative way.

Update 11/Jan: The Robinson story is even more bizarre than I thought. When I initially read reports that Iris Robinson came to meet Kirk McCambley because she already knew his father, I naively though they were saying that Ms Robinson and Mr McCambley senior were social acquaintances. However, I now realise that they were hinting that they knew each other in the biblical sense. Of course Ms Robinson has only publicly admitted having a sexual relationship with Mr McCambley junior. She also stressed that while she first met him when he was aged 9, the relationship only became sexual when he was 19 and safely over the legal age of consent.

All of this provides great fodder for salacious headlines in the media, but I still fail to see how it impacts significantly on Peter Robinson's suitability for the role of First Minister. The media are making a big deal about the financing of the cafe business started by Kirk McCambley's, but the sums of money involved are relatively small and certainly trivial compared to the sums of money involved in the many recent scandals relating to the construction and banking businesses.

The silver lining to this cloud is the fact that the Lenihan family are finally getting some space to deal with their bad news as the media outlets need to save all available space for the more titillating news coming from the Robinson family.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

First weekly review of 2010

As I said before, 2010 is going to be the year when I finally start implement the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. One of the main features of GTD that I never did before is the weekly review. I decided that I will do my weekly reviews at the end of the week on Friday afternoons. This first one is been written on Saturday morning, but it is better to do it late than never. Ireland has been totally paralysed for the last week due to the unusually long snowy spell. I will do what everyone else is doing and blame the snow for the delay even though there is no real way the weather could impact on me doing my weekly review :-).

Here is my assessment on whether or not I completed the goals I set myself for the first week:
  • Set up my GTD system (partially complete)
    • I continued the "processing email" practice.
    • I am doing the weekly review
    • I have not yet set up my folders and actions system. However, I have at least given some thought to how my folder system. I have got some advice from Sacha and another IBM manager who is an experienced GTD practitioner about how my system should look. Fortunately/unfortunately both of them advise I need to set up the system in a way that suits my own working style. I am going to have to defer this to next week as I ponder.
  • Begin drafting feedback for the PBC annual appraisals (done - although I realise now that I wrote the goal so vaguely that I could claim success regardless of how little I really did - for next week I will make my goal more explicit)
    • I Chased up all of the remaining feedback I needed from managers at remote locations
    • I drafted 3 of the 8 reviews I need to do
  • Prepare for the stand at the Young Scientist Exhibition (done)
    • The team in charge of this are so organised that it is a great learning experience to work with them.
    • I am delighted to see that our blog is beginning to attract some activity.
    • The one remaining concern is that the organisers will decide to call of the exhibition due to the snowy weather. I sincerely hope it won't happen after all the preparatory efforts put in (not just by IBM, but by all the companies involved and of course the students who have been working on their projects). However, there is little we can to to affect that.
  • Sort out the domain names I own (partly done)
    • The domain is lost in limbo between the old registrar (in Australia) and the new one I chose (based in Ireland). I know that is a long journey, but I can't believe the transfer is taking so long. Surely web hosting companies should operate at web speed. Hopefully this domain will be back in action soon.
    • The domain is now active for this blog. I have decided that this should be my main domain, so I suppose I shouldn't worry too much about the other being inactive. Now that I have the domain name sorted I need to do some more work on the site itself. Initially I was confused about what I want to do, but now that I have some clear advice from my mentor I will implement it (see next weeks actions)
For next week what I hope to achieve is:
  • Set up my GTD system of folders and actions and continue the other practices
  • Complete a draft of at least 2 more of the PBC annual appraisals
  • Run for the stand at the Young Scientist Exhibition (expect this will consume most of my time)
  • Sort out the domain names I own
  • Get involved in a discussion about some minor tweaks in our team's organisation structure (nothing major so don't panic)
  • Set up a schedule for my regular meetings in 2010 (most of the repeating entries in my calendar expired at the end of 2009).

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 will be the year of Getting Things Done (GTD)

Towards the end of 2009, I found out that Sacha Chua was looking for mentees. Although I have never actually met Sacha in person, I have known her for some time through social networking and I know she will be a great mentor. We had one meeting so far where we discussed how I hope she can help me implement the Getting Things Done methodology and help me become a better blogger. So 2010 will be my year of GTD in much the same way that the Chinese say it will be the year of the Tiger.

One of the practices that Sacha recommends is to write a blog post each week reviewing what she did that week and what she plans to do during the next week. I am going to attempt to follow this practice (not sure how it will work out).

For the first week what I hope to achieve is:
  • Set up my GTD system
  • Begin drafting feedback for the PBC annual appraisals
  • Prepare for the stand at the Young Scientist Exhibition
  • Sort out the domain names I own ( and