Bye 13, hi 14

by Dries De Roeck on February 4, 2014

Last year I posted a list of things that I saw probable to happen in 2013 and reflected upon 2012. Time to revisit and add/change for the coming year;

2013, the year in which I thought I would:

  • will make a working little printer app

That didn’t quite work out as planned. I had a couple of attempts to start building something, but the whole Ruby thing is still a lot of jibberish to me. Once again, the coding barrier strikes and totally demotivated me in this case. I do hope to revisit the topic, I did buy my @bergcloud dev shield and have some ideas of things to make. It mostly comes down to sitting down and biting through the Ruby gem. Also, the little printer team released some handy tools and examples, which I should check out.

  • will install a functional and workable media server in my house using a RaspberryPi

Yup, accomplished .. yet not satisfied. I managed to get raspbmc up and running, got it to stream live tv channels through TVHeadend. Even set up a recording service (but that never worked). Although raspbmc is pretty good and finds all my networked media, controlling it through the TV was far from ideal. Also, the software needs to update every so often – which often results in waiting +20 minutes before you can start watching a movie. Having to control it through a keyboard in order to decently access all functions was also a bit of an issue for me. So a working media center is in place, but it is currently not really workable. Regarding the Raspberry Pi, I did back the KANO project last year – apart from totally loving the keyboard, I look forward to playing around with their OS.

  • will be more active on codeacademy

This could have worked out better, I had hoped to make some steps in learning and understanding code better. For some reason I always got discouraged when I started working on an actual idea. I’m ok with copy pasting code blocks, and through some random magic making them work together. Codingwise, I was pretty happy I managed to combine two javascript libraries (1,2) into a world clock. Also happy that I managed to build my recently born daughter’s birth announcement website with zurb foundation, leaflet and symbolset icons. I did start the new year with a Processing workshop, and I think I’m starting to understand the concept of a ‘class’ – which is a good thing. I seem to have come to a point where I need a deeper understanding of the basics behind coding in order to increase the output I create. The copy paste era is over.

  • will have supervised my first Master student

Check. This was pretty successful I must say. I enjoyed playing supervisor during Bart Stoffels‘ master project. It made me realise that a totally fresh view on a topic I have been exploring for over four years can be very valuable. Also by teaming up with Bart, I got quite motivated afterwards because it showed me that there is a need and opportunity to help designers in the comprehension of digital systems. Bart’s work also resulted in a very useful tool/method which I plan to integrate in my PhD work. Looking back, it was quite an investment in time but totally worth it.

  • plan to participate in the Creativity & Cognition conference in some way

Another win here! I managed to submit a paper for the doctoral consortium, which pushed me to further crystallise my ongoing research. By writing that paper, it was possible for me to clearly explain what I planned to do and what I had already done. I really enjoyed the C&C conference, I was a bit surprised that the number of attendees was rather small – but the quality of the content was extremely high. Met a lot of great people, had a rooftop chat with Bill Verplank, saw my first live coding music performance, got to see Sydney…pretty good stuff.

  • aim to publish the key publication of my PhD research

So far it has not been published, but I did write a key publication of my research. This publication is currently under review for the DIS 2014 conference in June of this year. It covers a quantitative experiment I did in December, and brings together a lot of things. So fingers crossed for when the reviews of the paper start to roll in.

  • aim to start writing my first journal publication

Check, writing has started on the journal publication. I already missed a couple of deadlines I was planning to submit it, mostly due to a too tightly planned schedule. Current plan is to split the journal publication into two smaller pieces, one on literature and overall framework and one on tools and methods.

  • will own a 3D printer

Yes. I built it during a workshop, and it saw the light as a printrbot printer. In the meantime, I have changed it to a Wallace++ printer. For me it’s a perfect thing to have around the house. What I never thought of before is the impact of the smell the melting of the filament creates. One of the first testprints I did was a Darth Vader head in black ABS … never do that in your apartment living room with a pregnant wife in your surroundings. The printer is still mostly for fun, it’s not a functional thing but really fun to experiment with. I’m going to give a little workshop on 3D printing in my daughter’s school this April, looking forward to that. Having a 3D printer around did get me interested in OpenScad … yet another coding environment to dive into at some point.

  • will have my own garden

Well, there is garden … but still under construction. Due to various issues, we only got the key to our new home in December. In the meantime, we’ve been renovating and actually moving in coming weekend! Quite excited, but the actual enjoyment of the garden will be for next summer.

Check. In this case, a picture says a thousand words.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way things went in 2013. It was a rather busy year, both personally and professionally. From the professional point of view, I’m really happy I managed to identify an endpoint for my PhD research. I do feel that combining a part time design research job at Studio Dott and a part time PhD position at the university is (slowly) killing me. But for now, I have the feeling putting in the extra effort will somehow be beneficial in the future. On a personal level, I’m very happy I have a calm safehaven at home. Being home, and putting family before anything else is very important for my peace of mind (not always straight forward though).

So, looking ahead … time to make some predications for 2014! Here we go

2014, the year in which I…

  • Will start writing my PhD thesis
  • Plan to submit my first journal article as a first author
  • Will visit my sister in Berlin
  • Hope to create more prototypes and mockups instead of ‘thinking’ about them
  • Will be a CHI Belgium boardmember and co-organise all kinds of cool activities
  • Plan to write a collaborative paper which originated from a chat during a conference
  • Hope to participate in at least one make or hackathon
  • Plan to somehow communicate my thinking and research more to an international public (by posting more on this blog for instance!)
  • Will own my first decent audio setup
  • Will turn our front garden into a vegetable garden


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