Archive for February, 2008

Out and About

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I am finally over the flu!

Today was a national holiday. Marty was off work so we decided to go out for a walk. The snow has gone and it felt like spring. He wanted to explore the local area and to show me the Tokyo Institute of Technology. I can see why he was amused that I didn’t know where it was. The Midorigaoka section is less than a minute from our apartment. We aren’t sure where in the campus YAPC::Asia will be but it took under 15 minutes to walk to the main entrance and we weren’t exactly rushing.

From there we walked through Ōokayama and on to Kita-Senzoku. We stopped walking when Marty got hungry, hopped on a train, and had dinner at Okusawa After dinner we went to Big Echo for a couple of hours and then home to watch “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”.

Tomorrow evening we are going to see the WWE Royal Rumble tour. Not so sure how I feel about that but Marty assures me that it will be fun…

Strange Pizza

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Once I start to travel again I am going to eat some normal pizza. Normal pizza for me contains mushrooms and ham. Pizza in Japan can be strange. We had a pizza tonight that was half chicken teriyaki and half bolognese. The chicken teriyaki part contains teriyaki chicken, onions, sweet corn, peppers, broccoli and mayonnaise (we get ours without mayonnaise as I can’t cope with the thought of mayonnaise on pizza). Marty wanted to try something new, which is why we ended up with half a bolognese pizza. The bolognese half contained a beef bolognese sauce, béchamel sauce, extra cheese, and potato. It tasted really odd and not like pizza all. Marty liked it – but then Marty likes most food.

With our delivery we received an advert for a new pizza – hamburger pizza. They are actually making pizza with what appears to be lots of smallish hamburgers on top. Yuck!

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Saturday night is a great night to sit in, watch a film, and eat take-away food. Tonight we thought we would watch “Little Miss Sunshine” and eat pizza. It was snowing so we decided to order in. Marty logged into Dominos site but there was a message stating that no more deliveries would be made tonight. Then we tried the curry house but they also wouldn’t deliver. In the end we gave up as no one would deliver. Who knew that a little snow could be so problematic?

Sweets Forest

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I knew that I lived in an area famous for its cakes but I didn’t know that we had food based theme park within five minutes walk of the apartment.

On the second floor of the circular gray building, an ivy-covered gate leads into a small country village where the smell of sweets baking in the oven wafts through the air. The village is dotted with country houses, leafy pink and white trees, wooden mailboxes, birdcages and a wooden well. There’s even the sound of birds and music boxes to set the mood.

I have walked by “Sweets Forest” numerous times. There is some sort of water feature outside the building and occasionally I have glanced up the stairs and considered going to take a further look – but I’ve always just walked on by. I’m going to have to visit sometime soon.

Tired Being Housebound

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I need to get out of this apartment. I really don’t feel that bad. O.K. so when I look in a mirror I can see that my eyes are puffy and my nose is red and sometimes I can’t seem to stop sneezing but it’s just a cold, honestly. The flu is gone and I don’t have the plague. I can’t believe that I am actually thinking about getting a mask so that I can at least go for a walk.

Japanese Exam

Friday, February 8th, 2008

We finally received the results for our Japanese exams. Unfortunately I didn’t pass mine. I knew when I was studying that it would be a close thing but I had hoped that I would manage to scrape through. In the end I only got 56% overall. I did do as well in the kanji and vocabulary as I was expecting getting 78% in that section but it was the grammar section that let me down.

On a happier note Marty did pass his. And I’m thrilled as his qualification was required for a course he would like to study.

Who Knows What Motivates You

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

I’m reading yet another paper (pdf) on motivation and free and open source software.

One thing that most of the papers I have read have in common is that they use a survey to gather their information. However, most do not publish the actual survey so that I can see the questions they ask. Surveys will be biased by the people writing them. They will have a predefined list of things that they think are motivators and they will ask questions about them. In the last couple of these papers I have read the researchers are getting a very low response when asking questions about reputation. But really, who is going to actually admit to taking part in an open source project because it will enhance their reputation? It seems so much nobler to suggest it’s because of ideology or that you do it because it makes you feel happy.

The problem with asking people questions about the things that motivate them is that many people don’t actually know what motivates them. Provide them with a list of the sort of things you expect to motivate them and they are bound to find one that the like the look of better than the others.

They will have some idea as to the sort of thing it might be, or things they would like it to be, but they may not know the real reasons as it’s a very difficult thing to work out.

How do I know this? Well, I’ve read Maslow’s book on “Motivation and Personality“. I could give you very plausible reasons behind my actions and I can speak about motivations in an educated way that would convince many people that I know what I am talking about. But, for example, I haven’t got a clue what motivates me to write. I really don’t. Why do I spend hours writing on this blog? It could be a desire for intellectual stimulation; it could be that it’s an enjoyable pastime; maybe I think it will enhance my career prospects; or I want the respect of my peers…

But that’s all just made up from a list of things that I know are supposed to motivate people. I just don’t have a clue. And after reading Maslow I realise that I am not alone.

Cultural Differences: Sock Glue

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

A while back I was sitting on a train on my way to meet Marty when my I noticed that the girl beside me was fiddling with her socks. Girls in Japan tend to wear long socks which are pulled up to their knees or that are worn over the knees. These socks were just below her knees. She had pulled one of her socks down and was holding something that looked to me like Pritt Stick. She started to apply this to her leg. I looked away, as it’s rude to stare, but couldn’t help but look back. She appeared to be gluing her sock in place. She then did the same thing with the other sock.

I have always thought that schoolgirls in Northern Ireland did strange things with their socks. They roll them down in a certain way and the last time I asked my little sister they were wearing about three pairs of these at a time. But they don’t glue them to their legs!

I asked some Japanese friends about this and they wanted to know what I did to keep my socks and stockings in place, as the obvious way to do this is to use sock glue. I think for now I’ll continue to let mine slide down.

Today’s Reading

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I don’t seem to be getting anywhere today in my reading. In my quest to find out more about communication I keep coming across papers that fail to communicate. Researchers from different backgrounds use different words to describe the same concepts. I have to keep checking to see if they are all really writing about the same thing or if there is some important yet subtle difference that I am missing.

I have read about a university that is trying to include an oral communication element into their Computer Science and Mathematics classes to prepare their students for the workplace that values communication skills over advanced programming skills. I have read about the problems that women face in Computer Science classes because the social setting in the classroom is defensive and not supportive – leading the women to believe that they don’t belong.

The new word of the day is para-verbal which appears to be a very similar concept to the linguistic one of prosody but I haven’t quite worked out yet if they are synonyms.

I am going to give up and read some fiction as I can’t face the thought of reading any more technical or scientific papers tonight.

What Motivates Wiki Writers?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I have been reading a variety of papers to try to gain more understanding of communities and the things that motivate people to participate in various projects. Today, I came across a paper (pdf) by Majchrzak et. al. that discusses a survey carried out among 168 companies regarding the use of corporate wikis.

A while back I read an article in the November issue of the Communications of the ACM by Oded Nov entitled “What Motivates Wikipedians”. (There is an earlier version (pdf) available.)

The top two motivational factors that Nov gives for wikipedians are ideology – that information should be free – and fun. Fun came out ahead of ideology as he discovered that although people talk about ideology this talk does not always become action. It is after all easier to talk about what you believe rather than to actually make a change because of it. Nov also noted that as we get older Fun becomes more important as a motivator.

I was hoping that the paper on corporate wiki users would give me some indication whether or not the same motivational factors are present in the corporate world. But it doesn’t, as its survey questions focused on one of the other motivational factors given for contributing to open source projects – that of reputation. Only a minority of the corporate wiki users reported that the wiki enhanced their reputation leading the writers to believe that corporate wikis have a different effect on users than open source software community participation. This is different than the survey on wikipedians as the top motivational factors of fun and ideology were added to the survey because they are considered open source motivators.

Majchrzak et. al. state that the main benefit of a corporate wiki is that it makes work easier. The main reasons employees gave for adding to or changing the wiki were “information was of immediate relevance to my work” and “by keeping knowledge updated, my work would be easier”.

Most systems designed to share knowledge would have the benefit of allowing people to store information that was relevant to their job yet lots of them fail. It appears that wikis are considered to be sustainable in the workplace and there has to be more to that than its ability to store information. Is the primary motivator really that they make work easier or is it a combination of they make work easier and are fun to use?