donderdag 10 mei 2012

On university work

So, back in January of 2011, I was doing a project for my university concerning politicians, tracking them and the website that was to be built around it. Let me spoil you this: I am no coder, and attempting to build websites out of .xml documents was harder for me than it was for other people out of my team.
But that isn’t why I’m writing this. Back then, we were given this ‘amazing’ (quotations mean sarcasm, people!) project lead who was in the habit of sending us e-mails concerning new ideas that had come up in his rotten excuse for a mind. These e-mails were so regular and, well, quite frankly formulaic that we built our own template out of it:

Good [part of day],
[part of day], [location], I got an [exaggeration of awesomeness] idea! [horribly complicated idea][impossible expectations]
[comment that completely overlooks the fact that this will put us back even further than we already were].
[impossible deadline]
[insultingly cheery wish for good luck]

So, this morning, under the shower, I got an absolutely great idea!
I’ll stop there, because, quite frankly, it wasn’t that great, but I think it gets the point across.
Right now, I’m involved in two project groups concerning research. One is about quantitatively (still hate typing that word) researching the quality of master theses from my university, which is really quite interesting but, quite frankly, not that well thought out. Every time we meet, it is yet another struggle to get everyone back on one line and to make sure that, by the end, everyone knows what they’re going to do and why.
I don’t get why that’s so hard, though. Up until now, I’ve always been quite capable of convincing myself that I knew what was happening around me. It really takes quite a bit to make me throw up my hands and say, ‘I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?’ (no, really, it does). It’s always the same one or two people, though, so I guess I’m either exceptionally stupid and adept at hiding that and those two are capable of relativistic vies of the world, or there’s something going fundamentally wrong with those people.
But venting about other people is something I don’t really enjoy doing. What I do enjoy is going to new, scary places, lose all of the relatively little sense of direction I have and have to ask strangers to tell me where to go (I’m making a point somewhere, bear with me). It’s actually quite scary for someone as socially retarded as I am, though I guess that, for me, it probably bears the same kind of thrill people describe they’re looking for when they’re going to scary movies or Halloween.
So, today, I had to go to the university’s library to find out if we could get an absurd amount of theses from them in digital format. Most of the theses are already available for free use online, but not for the one subject that I was responsible of. Long story short: I had to see what was wrong and what I could do about it. So I had to go to the library to speak with the person responsible for the study subject and speak with him. And I hate libraries. Especially libraries where I haven’t been yet, and the chance of being shushed is actually pretty real (that’s the social awkwardness right there).
I can tell you, this library was two things:
1) flippin’ HUGE.
2) terribly disorganized.
In order to get around, I had to ask an employee to walk me to my destination, and even she told me that she had to look for a bit and that she wasn’t exactly sure where the heck we were at that exact moment. It was a humbling experience for someone who’s so used to working in a supermarket and knowing the general locations of everything quite well, to be in a building that’s so large and cluttered that someone might actually get lost in it.
(about the theses: we found them, turns out I hadn’t defined my search terms quite right…)

The other study (remember? There were two!) is about the Uncanny Valley, a whole different concept in and of itself. Read up about it at Wikipedia (, or let me give you the general gist of it over here (if you already know it, skip the following paragraph, or read it anyway to correct me on the inevitable mistakes I’m going to make):
Basically, when you see a robot, your reaction and the way you like it will depend on how it looks. If you see a car manufacturing thing, you’ll likely have no feelings for it. If you see the T-800, you’ll flippin’ run. The theory of the Uncanny Valley states that your reaction will be generally more positive when the robot’s appearance comes closer and closer to that of an actual human being, until there’s a point where it is almost human, but not QUITE like it. It’s that gut feeling that something is wrong, maybe because of a slower reaction time, the way the voice sounds, or the simple fact that it never blinks (oh god, those eyes! They don’t blink! THEY NEVER BLINK!). There’s a Doctor Who joke in there.
When the robot becomes actually human looking (think Data, from Star Trek: TNG), it is more than likely that you’re out of this valley and can actually converse with it on a relatively pleasant level. That’s the high and low, long and short, of the Uncanny Valley.
Now, that said, I find this study to be of the more interesting subject, but of the less motivated team. I can’t blame my team, the first one is gobbling up all of our time and actually managing all the necessary reading and getting everything written down requires a lot of work, but when we actually have to perform the study itself, things might just go a bit south. Thank goodness we’ve got everything worked out now, so getting enough results to show something will be a piece of cake. I hope.

Now, then. I’ve had the chance to release a bit of wind that I’ve been holding up. With a bit of luck, it’ll get me through the coming weeks, when my girlfriend has exams and I’m fighting to get those studies done. I don’t like saying it, but things couldn’t have been timed better!

By the way, did someone notice I'm struggling with the actual paragraph work of this blog? Whenever I type something up in Microsoft Word (I like the spelling checker, shut up), it reads every single enter as double, and every double enter as tripple... Very annoying, because I don't know if I want to keep the double enter for paragraphs or not...

1 opmerking:

  1. Ah, fellow students. Some less intelligent people always get through, as they cheat by studying REALLY hard to make up for their lack of intelligence. Wholly unfair.