December Update

December was an odd month. Work-wise, things went well... until they really didn't.

We did another data gathering test with the robot, which went wrong. Fortunately, it was the kind of wrong that really shows the limits of the system, and problems you didn't realize were there, so useful stuff overall. The big problem came when we started a new test, and discovered that the robot didn't work anymore. It was really weird to me, as it had been fine that morning! Turns out one of the motors had broken, so that took the robot out of commission right up until our last day before break.

In the meantime, I worked on the UI, and had a great opportunity to run a quick usability test modeled of Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy. I made a few representative tasks, got a few kind volunteers from my lab, and saw how they did things. It was immediately useful! I was able to see problems with the UI I never would have seen before. I quickly started work on a revision, and I think it's going to be good. I'd absolutely recommend anyone working on any sort of UI to read these books and find a way to do these usability tests on your project.

On the personal side, the biggest thing was getting ready to move to a new apartment. I've got a nice studio on the south end of UBC campus. Very cozy, and being about 5 minutes from the CS building will be super convenient when we're back in person again. I also found a great gaming group in Vancouver called Meeple Leaf who are doing a lot of free online events, including regular Jackbox Party Pack sessions. They recently finished up a week-long marathon from Jan. 1-7, where we played the Pack number for that day (so Jan. 5 was Party Pack 5). We found a lot of hidden gems, and it was interesting to see little things that developed.

It was also an emotionally stressful month. I had a bit of a health scare, and it triggered some lasting anxiety in me. Fortunately, I'm doing what I can to get the help I need. That, and the changing seasons, and the vaccine roll-out, really helped me get through. I have to keep reminding myself that, in spite of all the horrible things happening, human intelligence and ingenuity created a vaccine faster than ever before. We can do unprecedented things sometimes, and it's good to remember that.

(Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)

January 11, 2021
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