CHI2013 reflection

It is almost a week after the CHI2013 conference in Paris, France and after a hectic three days at work I found the time to look back at CHI and reflect on what happened. 

First of all, it is a great event to catch up with ex-colleagues and dear friends who are spread around the globe.

Monday 29/4
In terms of content my favorite presentation was in the first day of the conference and that was Steven Dow‘s (et al.) presentation of the paper: A Pilot Study of Using Crowds in the Classroom. It was both inspiring and very informative on how to use the crowd to teach interaction design.

Furthermore, I attended the panel: “Will Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) Change Education?”. In this panel I particularly liked the discussion with the audience, especially the ones from Open University who strongly questioned the way MOOC’s are presented as something new. Although I recognize some of the points that were made, I can’t resist noticing how the establishment of a certain field (online education) starts to feel the earth under their feet shaking. It was really incredible to see how critical and in some cases bitter comments were made towards the panel. I did not hear any serious arguments apart from that MOOC’s are nothing new. Yeah sure, however they are also free and they are offered by better known universities from the ones that were so critical. Instead of embracing the efforts and offering something new to their students they seemed really worried about their own future and their overpriced classes. That was really an eye-opener and sad at the same time to experience. On the panel’s presentations I thought Scott Klemmer’s presentation on the key to successful MOOCS which is self-assessment. Rubrics and training students to understand and apply rubrics is key to self-assessment. He also mentioned the technique of calibrated peer assessment. In the first step (Calibration) students are asked to grade assignments which are already graded by stuff members. As soon as they have graded an assignment which is very close to the faculty’s grade they can move to step two (Assess 5 peers). In step two they are randomly assigned five assignments of their peers. One out of these five assignments is already graded by a faculty member. In the final step the students are asked to assess their own work. Here’s the link to video explaining the process and a link to the webpage.

Antonelli’s opening keynote was probably the best of the three keynotes for me. It was really great to hear her mention during the Q&A that “Eindhoven” was one of the top places when it comes to design and interaction design in the world!

Tuesday started off really nicely with Bonnie John’s course on CogTool. I must admit that I really liked the course. It was well prepared, well motivated and I found a lot of value in the tool that she has created. I would highly recommend it. It is really incredible to see a ±10% prediction in performance of experts on certain interfaces. The tool also includes touch-based interactions and voice commands. It is a great tool for the community to embrace and extend. On the same topic, my dear Greek colleagues from Hellenic Open University and University of Patras, also presented a tool for webform filling tasks which predicts the time for a user to fill out a common webform. More info about this ground breaking tool can be found at:

Wednesday was of course our day with presenting our poster: Picassopass: A Password Scheme Using a Dynamically Layered Combination of Graphical Elements. We had several people interested in our work and even got an invitation to present our work to another conference! Thus, overall very happy with the reception of the poster.

Evan’s paper: “Footprint Tracker: Supporting Diary Studies with Lifelogging” was also one of my most liked presentations. The work was a really nice combination of automatically gathered data from MS’s sensecam and a mobile phone in combination to a diary and the lesson’s learned for such a data gathering method.

Although somewhat outdated, I enjoyed listening to Jakob Nielsen’s talk for his lifetime achievement award. I also had the chance to personally ask him how would he define UX and got a somewhat surprising answer by him mentioning that UX extends the design of a certain system to customer support, branding, etc. however he also told me that “you can’t design for UX”! I am entirely sure what he meant but he certainly told me that!

The day closed perfect for NHTV’s ADE with Marta and Thomas, two IGAD students, taking home the student design competition for their category with their game titled: ATUM. Well done guys! Although NHTV had such a small footprint at CHI, Wednesday was a day that we took full advantage of our footprint! Their names were also announced just before the final keynote in front of all conference attendees!

On Thursday I really enjoyed Andres‘ poster: “Exploring the Interaction Design Space for Interactive Glasses”. Interactive glasses seems an area which is growing very fast and will probably explode in next year’s CHI. Although I did not attend the talk, I was also intrigued by the paper: “Spirituality: There’s an App for That! (But Not a Lot of Research)” which highlighted the gap between the thousands of apps in the various appstores aiming to support the religious practices of people and how little research (and the possible reasons for that) on the CHI community for this topic. It is my opinion that with CHI going to Asia in two years this topic needs to be more prominent in that spiritually rich continent.

Some final thoughts; the app was useful and can become even more useful by time-flitering of the program and the ability to pose questions through the app to various panels or the keynote speakers. The content at the conference was better categorized than previous years. Probably the crowd-based filters are responsible for that. Finally, the venue was ok, Vancouver’s (CHI2011) venue is hard to beat!