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computing for sustainability - samuel mann

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Celebrating Excellence in Communication within IT in NZ

July 21, 2013 - 6:04pm

I’m flying a kite – looking for feedback and a vague non-committal indication of support in principle – or at least an idea of who I might talk with to begin a conversation.

I’m thinking that there is an opportunity to address the standard of communication seen in computing graduates. I want to produce a book/let that celebrates communication standards within the NZ IT industry.

All ITPs have courses on communication within their degrees. Universities are similarly developing communication courses. Our students know to “suit up” for professional presentations. Besides looking smart, the suit signifies to the students that a higher level of professionalism is required in assessments. And it works. But take the suit off, or they know the assessment is not for “Dr Red-Pen-Dragon”, then the standard slips. Plummets in fact.

Besides consistent feedback in every industry survey ever, I have spoken to colleagues from several institutions. The consensus is that the standard of communication is not at a level we should be proud of. By communication, here I’m referring to everything we might consider under a professional practice banner: from code comments to technical reports; everything from formal presentations to answering the phone and behaviour on social media; and everything from ethics and sustainability to standards of dress.

The problem is not that it isn’t being taught – it is. The problem is not that they can’t – most of them can. I believe a big part of the problem is that students think it doesn’t matter. They are convinced that no one cares what it looks like – so long as it works, no one will notice the spelling.

So. I propose a book that celebrates excellence in communication within IT in NZ.

At this stage I’m imagining case studies of communication expectations from the big companies (that students across the country will know and respect) and the smaller ones many of them will actually work in. In as far as companies are prepared to share, what are their standards of communication? Do they have standards, and how are they maintained? Examples?

I don’t think the intention is to duplicate texts such as Bliq and Moreto’s Technically Write, although we might want to explore how much such detail would be needed to make it a useful resource. Nor will we have space to reproduce tomes such as Microsoft’s style guide, but rather should celebrate the fact such things exist.

I’m hoping that it can be nicely designed, be properly edited and be distributed to every incoming IT student nationwide with an accompanying website. Jade’s John Ascroft points out we’d need to proof-read it REALLY carefully (thanks for volunteering John).

So. What do you think? Do you know who I should talk with? Would your organisation be keen to contribute material? And what might be the nature of that material?

Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology

What’s your favourite quote?

July 17, 2013 - 1:12am

Click to view slideshow.

There’s lots for computing folks to take on board in this round up of recent guests on Enjoy. Tell us which is your favourite quote in the comments.

Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology

Talking at the Intersection of Games and Sustainability

June 23, 2013 - 12:18am

Paula Owen, Science Musuem, Lates - Climate explores a sustainable view of the word, usually with an extended interview (last week Nicole Foss told us that politicians who promised growth were deluded or lying, the week before, Bill McKibben said “If 1 degree warming melts the Arctic, we’re fools to be experimenting with the earth to find out what 2 degrees will do”).

This year, at CHI 2013, I recorded nine major interviews.   Two of these we’ve used as half of a four part series on the interplay of gaming and sustainability

    Paula Owen on Sustainable Lens

    Paula Owen is the author of “How Gamification Can Help Your Business Engage in Sustainability” and creator of the Eco Action series of games”;

    Carlo Fabricatore and Ximena Lopez on Sustainable Lens

    Carlo Fabricatore & Ximena López have developed a model for considering computer games through a sustainable lens;

    Bonnie Nardi on Sustainable Lens

    Bonnie Nardi has insights from her work in virtual game worlds that we can apply to sustainable societal change; and,

    Daniel Pargman on Sustainable Lens

    Daniel Pargman explores the relationships between worlds – sustainability and computing, and between gaming and reality to ask whether we can make sustainability an epic challenge?

Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology

Crowdsourcing student business challenge

May 28, 2013 - 9:43pm

 business ideas and images merely placeholders.I’m helping run a student business startup competition: Audacious.   This year we’re experimenting with crowdsourcing:  Audacious Skulksource.    The system is 95% complete in terms of interaction design and functions, just missing some graphic elements and real text.

The objectives are:

  1. To provide a vehicle for student engagement beyond the entrants;
  2. To provide a vehicle for including Audacious in teaching programmes;
  3. To provide entrants the experience of managing marketing and narratives surrounding their business;
  4. To generate technical and commercial validation and feedback for the businesses;
  5. To provide a base for integrating social media into Audacious;
  6. To make greater use of the pitches (the details pages will be updated with the videos);
  7. To provide exposure for sponsors (commercial, academic and government);
  8. To provide a mechanism for formalising non-top40 participation with a repechage; and,
  9. To provide a mechanism to simplify logistics (especially when used for Round 1 in 2014).

We’re promoting the following as a simplified business analysis structure (toying with wording _ote).   The design, of the front page (not shown) and especially of the Analysis screen (below) will reflect this sequence:

  1. Favourite (Favourote).   Browse and thumbs up the businesses that look interesting on first glance.  Random order (default) or sort by category.
  2. Analysis (Take note).   Go through your favourites list and score according to simplified judging criteria (stars).
  3. Invest (Vote).  Spend your 100 Foxbucks.  (the slider bar – will be more aesthetically engaging).
  4. Promote.  Send the ones you like to facebook and twitter.   People who receive such messages can come back and vote once (for a “People’s choice”) or register and spend  FoxBucks.
  5. Feedback (Quote).   We hope to strengthen the start-ups by building community and advice around each one.  This may be in the offer of technical advice, offer to be a first customer, or one-off suggestions.

The scoring system is based on set allocations within bands, and different weightings.   This means that judges, lecturers (and their classes), entrants, sponsors and public can all participate equally (on the surface at least).  Much thought has gone into making the game gameproof.   The scoring will be hidden until after the final awards (so as to avoid a couple of front-runners getting all the attention).

The system will be shown at the Top 40 Awards on Thursday 30th May, used for the repechage by mid-June and used in full to support Round 2 in early July.


 business ideas and images merely placeholdersPS Skulk (noun) is a group of foxes.   We know it has a negative verb, but think we can overcome that by always pairing as Audacious Skulksource

Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology

Chris Preist on Sustainable Lens

May 28, 2013 - 4:46am

 Chris Preist

For the last three years I’ve been recording extended interviews with researchers and practitioners at CHI.

Here’s the first of this year’s recordings: Dr Chris Preist (click through for pod).  Chris is Reader in Sustainability and Computing Systems at University of Bristol.  We talk about his background; his work at HP and Forum for the Future, and how he engages students in the intersection of  sustainability and computing.  Chris is currently involved in the Close the Door (paper)  and we talk about the roles of gamification and normification.

Upcoming CHI related shows include:


See also this list of recent shows that will be of interest to computing folks.

(Pedants might notice that this recording in Chris’ office and therefore not actually at CHI, it was though the day before, as we prepared our CHI Post Sustainability workshop).

Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology

Sounds like Sustainable Computing (2)

May 28, 2013 - 4:44am

Adding to the list of shows on Sustainable Lens of particular interest to people in computing, here are some recent shows:

  • Dr Andy Williamson on the role of social media in democracy
  • Beth Karlin on the empowering role of information and communication technology in environmental change
  • Dr Sylvia Nagl on systems thinking and knowledge economies
  • Self described “permageek” Danyl Strype on the intersection of permaculture and creative commons
  • Dr Rebecca Ford on technology and behaviour change


Categories: Tech: Sustainable Technology