Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thomas P. Moran

Thomas P. Moran is one of the pioneers establishing the field of human computer interaction in computer science with the seminal book, The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction , in 1983. He was a manager of the user interface and collaborative systems group at Xerox PARC , and he was the founding director of EuroPARC (current "XRCE") , in Cambridge. He has led research teams developing innovative systems for informal interaction, exploring techniques in hypertext, media space, multimedia, pen-based and vision-based interaction; and he has also developed several analytic models and design methods for HCI. The most influential work there I think is the work on GOMS model with Stuart Card and Allen Newell.

He is currently a Distinguished Engineer at IBM Almaden Research Center near San Jose, California, and is leading a multi-lab research program on Unified Activity Management, which is exploring how to make activity the central organizing construct in the IBM Workplace platform. The Unified Activity Management (UAM) project is defining a new organizing framework for supporting collaborative work around the concept of human activity by creating a Unified Activity representation, architecture, and user experience. Activities are what we do everyday. An activity is any coherent set of actions that we take towards some end, be it specific or vague. Effective business activities involve a combination of formal and informal work, often spread among a variety of people, tools, systems and service providers. An explicit activity object is needed to represent the collection of relationships that emerge between people, the artifacts they work on, their communication and coordination, the calendar, and the business processes they use to complete their work. As presented in the below figure, the unified activity management integrates formal business processes with the informal collaborations needed to accomplish business objectives.

I was also part of this program lead by Tom when in IBM. I helped explored the collaborative activity patterns as building blocks in workplace and helped design the activity centered project management tool for IBM Workplace (former Lotus Workplace). I published two papers as the first author on these threads.

Tom Moran is the founding Editor of Human-Computer Interaction. In 2003 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. In 2004 he won the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award . He is a good friend of my adviser Jack. They coauthored the book Design Rationale: Concepts, Techniques, and Use and had many other collaborations.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Prospective Academic Communities and Publication Places

As a phd student who want to enter academia, it is necessary and helpful for me to identify my academic communities that I maybe part of some day.

The first community I would like to refer to is ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI). Human Computer Interaction is the youngest of nine core areas of computer science as defined by the Association for Computing Machinery(ACM). This community began at 1982, and has provided a forum for the discussion of all aspectis of HCI through a series of conferences, publications, web sites, email discussion groups, and other services. My advisor Jack Carroll is the Editor-in-Chief of its journal ACM Transactions of Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI). And its annual conference ACM CHI(conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems) is the top conference in this area. It was my dream place for publication when I was in IBM but all my three submissions were rejected. The rankings I got from the reviewers were 1 (strongly reject) for the first paper, 2 (reject) for the second one, and 3 for the last one. This year I submitted another paper to it, according to this arithmetic progression, I guess it should be rated 4 and thus be accepted. :p

The Association for Information Systems (AIS) is another community I am interested in. Actually I got acquaited to this community just in this summer because I needed to distribute my online questionnaire via various HCI related mail lists. Its Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction (AIS HCI) may be the one most closed to me. It is starting a transactions on HCI (THCI), which is most likely a high-quality place to publish. Probably I will submit a paper on social ties accustomized from my candidacy paper to it. It will be so cool if I can have a paper in the No. 1 Issue 1 of a high quality journal.

There is another notable community outside the USA, the community centered on the biannual European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW) , which was started in 1989, and committed to grounding technological development and systems design in an understanding of "the specifics of practical, situated action". The european scholars in HCI are generally more theoretical, I guess this conference may reflect some of their orientation in ethnographic study, situated action, and the like. I like such trends, I hope I can have at least one publication in it before my graduation.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Dejin Zhao is a 4th year phd student in our lab. He works on informal communication at work place. He is now studying how people use microblog and its potential impacts on collaborative work. His work involves in interdisciplinary fields such as collaborative work,  infomal communication, social networking in organization, web 2.0, and end-user programming.

He has attended four conferences including HICSS, ACM CHI, ACM CSCW, and AMCIS. He gave presentations in HICSS, AMCIS, and ACM CSCW. He was the volunteer of the ACM CHI and ACM CSCW. He is prolific in his research. He published many papers in high-quality conferences and journals including AMCIS, HICSS, VL/HCC, HCII, JSPE, AUIC, etc.

He views himself as a HCI researcher and designer of collaborative and communication technologies. He believes informal and social interactions powered by enterprise 3.0 technologies will have dramatic impacts on future of collaborative work. 

I hold some similar ideas with Dejin. I also value informal communication in collaborative work. For example, I did studies a couple of years ago on lightweight collaborations in the workplace scenarios such as project mangement, exploring how to utilize context information by supporting the ad-hoc, loosely-coupled interaction activities. 

I am also interested in and did some studies on enterprize and organization issues such as project and portfolio management, merger and acquisition, and telecommunication in international organizations when working in IBM. However, I think I focus more on social and psychological aspects. Compared with Dejin whose background is computer science, my background is psychology. So I take less technical view than him.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Advisor II: The Academic Dr. John M. Carroll

Jack Carroll is one of the founder of HCI. I think he is the best theorist in this area. Below is the introduction from SIGCHI when Jack won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003:

"Jack is one of the pioneering thought leaders developing the intellectual foundations for HCI. His work, which ranges over philosophy, cognitive science, social science, systems theory, and design theory, is a creative integration of theory and practical methods, such as his work on scenario-based design methods. His work on the Blacksburg Electronic Village is one of the most successful and longest-running community participatory design experiments. Jack is probably the most prolific researcher in HCI - in addition to well over 300 papers, he has written and edited 14 influential books, including the just-published "HCI Models, Theories, and Frameworks". Jack's multitude of contributions to our understanding of the nature and practice of HCI is profound."

Jack's influences are profound and his contributions are versatile. He proposed minimalism in information and instruction design in 1980s, which has been accepted as common knowledge now in this area. Jack also proposed senario-based design in 1990's, which has been widely accepted in application and interface design. In early 1980's when users could first know personal computer, Jack conducted a series of studies revealing that users are active and creative adventurers in learning computer. He designed instructions such as "minimal manual" and and applications such as "training wheel" to help learning. He proposed task-artifact framework in HCI. He raised a very famous and influencing debate with other two big guys Newell and Card (fathers of GOMS) on the "soft science" vs. "hard science". I think the time tells he was right. He also had a lot of establishing and penetrating work in usability engineering, design rationale, participatory design, and community informatics.

Similar with his versatile contributions, Jack's background includes mathematics, information sciences (Lehigh Univ.), psychology (Collumbia Univ.), and linguistics (MIT). He worked with the famous linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky for several years, and said the only thing he was sure there was that his interest did not lie in linguistics. Actually nobody respect Chomsky as he does. And actually he published a linguistic psychological paper in Science when he was a PhD student, which pointed out the radical problems and weak point of psychology. So he said he was not just a psychologist, but better than a psychologist.

Probably you can call Jack a psychologist, an information scientist, a linguist, or a philosopher. But he was never a computer scientist. But interestingly, he had been the head of the department of computer science in Virginia Tech for several years.

He is a very supportive academic advisor. Although he is so insightful, he is never directive to students. He said it is because when he led the legendary User Interface Institute at IBM he found other researchers usually took his temporal opinions or ideas for discussion as authoritative orders. He never push students, he just set himself as an example for the students. I like his style very much.

Jack has a lot of editorial services. He is one of the founder and the editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions on Computer- Human Interaction (TOCHI). He is in the advisory boards of International Journal of Human- Computer Studies, Human- Computer Interaction Series, Advances in Human- Computer Interaction Series, Handbook of User Interface Design, Handbook of Computer Science and Engineering, Human- Computer Interaction and Organizational Informatics, Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction, Kluwer Series in Human- Computer Interaction. He is the founding member of some of them. He is also in the editorial boards in almost 40 other famous journals in information science, cognitive science, psycholinguistics, psychology, communication, software, and the general journal Science. He teach classes such as IST 522 (HCI Theories, Models, and Frameworks) and IST 402 (Community Informatics).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Advisor I: Personal Life of Jack Carroll

Jack was born right in Pennsylvania and grew up in New York. He graduated as a bachelar of mathematics and bachelar of information sciences from Lehigh University, where his father was a professor. He got his Phd degree of psychology in Columbia University. Then he spent 18 years (1977-1994) in IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he managed the legendary User Interface Institute. In 1994, he became the head of the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Since 2003, Jack has been the Edward M Frymoyer Chair Professor and the co-Director of the College of IST's Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning. 

Jack's wife, Professor Mary Beth Rosson, is also the co-Director of the Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning. They met at IBM and worked and collaborated since then. In HCI field, there are two very well known couples, one is Jack and Marybeth, the other is the Olson couple in University of Michigan. Interestingly, both of them received the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award. Jack and Mary Beth had a daughter, who is currently an undergraduate student in the Department of Sociology at Penn State. They have a lovely dog Kerby, who usually accompanies Jack while he is jogging.

Jack likes music. His favorate star is Bob Dylan. He played guitar since 13 years old. He also played the harmonicon while playing guitar just as Bob Dylan does. The left one of the following two pictures is Bob Dylan, the right one is Jack playing in a band. Guess which one is Jack. ;-)

* The 1st, 2nd, and last picture are from:

Friday, September 19, 2008


"Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable"

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

Familiar with the words above? Yes, they are in the banner hanging beside the grand stair in IST building. I loved it at the first sight of it in the first day I am here last year when I even had no idea about the diversity of IST.

If you ask me what's IST's flavor. Miscellaneous, I would say. Is miscellany a kind of flavor. Why not? Good cook makes delicious blend, bad cook only run into a mess. That's the difference. And IST SHOULD be specialized in platforming the mixture of diverse ingredient, catalyzing for the chemistry, and creating intellectual synergies. Well it is an innovative experiment highly challenging. Sometimes we pain, sometimes we gain. Steve helped kick off, then he lost his way, or ist lost its way.  The only thing we are sure is, IST is on the way.

The I-T-P triangle is usually leveraged to CONCEPTUALLY integrate the fragments. Everyone is assumed to be able to find his or her place in the triangle. However, obviously people have not be integrated into a unity, or they need not to.

It seems to me the basic unit is each professor's lab. Then these professors assemble to have a formal center or informal collaboration. It is a very flexible and effective way in my opinion. If we can have synergy, if professors feel comfortable, if students feel comfortable, then that's OK. 

I am in Dr. John M. Carroll's Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning Lab. But actually I am not very clear where the HCI or CSCL is in the tiangle. Conventionally, HCI is in the people-technology edge, but isn't HCI concerned with information? As for me, I also work in the CiteceerX Group, which must be in the technology node. But funny I have little knowledge about technology. I would say I am interested in the social and psychological issues in information world. I know my position clearly. But I don't feel comfortable if you just place me in the People node. :D

Anyway, why creeping in the triangle? Just find resource, and do what you are interested in!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The I-School

According to Wikipedia, an I-school is an academic program "committed to understanding the role of information in human endeavors and nature". I-school conducts research into the fundamental aspects of information and information technology and into the relationships between people, information and technology.

An I-school is distinguished from traditional programs first because of its interdisciplinarity. I-schools usually involve endeavors from various traditional disciplines such as computer science, psychology, sociology, engeering, education, management, and so on.  Actually interdisciplinarity itself is not the purpose. The purpose of a program is and should always be effectively addressing specific problems. I-school address problems around how information and communication technology could support and facilitate human's well-being. This vision is vast, and sophisticated, which cannot be addressed by any single discipline. By involving scholars from different disciplines together, we can create intellectual synergies which even might be  unexpected. 

I-school by its nature breed an environment of innovation and open-mindedness. With experts with different perspectives working together, we can easily run into collisions of our prototypings; we sparkle innovative ideas; we are no longer confined in certain horizontal; we learn from each other; and we address the problems better. In such a environment, people become open-minded, and bear more innovations.

Thirdly, even just thinking about we have the opportunity to rebuild a better scientific paradigm is thrilling. I-school is not just a collection of people from different perspectives. These perspectives should have chemistry; and then the I-school become an integrated organism. I-school should have its own perspective and philosophy. We now have a triangle of information, technology, and people. But that is far from enough. Actually as I-school develops, even the triangle may become outdated. Think about the case there is always a vetex in the tiangle where people in the opposite edge cannot reach! 

Last but not least important, I-school focus on addressing practical problems tangibly in real world! Information science maybe one of the few area where development of industry always go before development of academia. It is the constantly emerging problems in this information era that drives the development of information science. We can see what we do substantially change the world very quickly.

I personally love to be a part of an I-school. With this supportive platform, I can dream whatever I want to dream; my endeavers really matter to human; and I have the opportunity to do something big.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What drives me

I am dedicated to an academic adventure in studying social and people aspects in information science. In the new information era, business models and social practices are in constant transition as a result of the proliferation of information technology. So topics such as how social practices will evolve, how technology could adapt to and facilitate these new practices, and how such infrastructural changes will create new challenges as well as possibilities are really fascinating to me.

I would love to be a professor in academia to study these things. Mediation itself is the best reward for me. I have talent in doing so, and I dream to be one of the best theorist in information society.

Who am I academically

I am now a second year PhD student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. I am in the Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning Lab and Center for Human Computer Interaction under the supervision of Dr. John M. Carroll.

My research interests lie at community informatics and related social & psychological issues. I am exploring supporting the academic collaboration in CiteceerX as a research assistant with Dr. Lee Giles' lab. I am investigating social tagging and recommender systems, and now is writing a paper for that. I am also interested in applying social theories in the information society, for example, I am using the theory of constructuration to explain the dynamics in online community. I also investigate social capital and social ties in virtual environment.

Prior to my PhD study, I had worked as a research & development engineer at IBM China Research Lab since 2003, where my research topics mainly concerned with supporting collaborative activities of knowledge workers. For example, I studied interfaces to help coordinating interruptions in workplace; I focused on activity centered project management for two years.

When I was in the Department of Psychology at Peking University, I spent two years in the Brain and Cognitive Science Center and studied phonological processing of Chinese. I did my dissertation in Personality and Social Psychological Lab on cultural differences on thinking styles and their influences on conflict management styles.

Who am I personally

Shaoke means "young scientist" in Chinese. This moniker seems to be true, when he graduated from university several years ago at 19 years old, and joined IBM as a HCI researcher. However, he is worried whether he need to change his name when he is no longer young. :D

He is a vagrant all his life. He left home to attend the middle school at nine years old. Eversince, he has not stayed in the same place for more than four years. He is so grateful he has met so many great people everywhere, and so many memorable things. He loves the saying "O ever youthful, O ever weeping" from "The Dharma Bums".

He is kind of buddhist, who believes a soul of buddaha hides in everybody. He has a variety of interests, but is good at few. He played soccer since 1996. He also plays other things such as pingpang, tennis, basketball, and i-go. He practiced aikido for several years when in Beijing.