Feb 13, 2014

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: Student Research Poster

This note is about my experience in Grace Hopper as a participant in the Student Research Competition. I was a student volunteer in first attendance to Grace Hopper, and that helped me to get familiarize with the organization of the conference and meet students from other universities. But that time I did not submit anything to the conference and realized that the best way to make a proper connection to other conference attendees is to present my research work (paper, poster, etc.). Although I did not take part in the Student Research Competition that time, I was very inspired by it, especially because Tanzima apu was one of the winners that year. Next year I submitted my own poster, and it was accepted! My poster did not win that time but due to the acceptance, I received the travel scholarship and free registration! Next year (my third Grace Hopper attendance) I submitted another poster and that one got accepted, too! To my utter surprise, at the end of the poster competition day I saw I am one of the 3 winners! Yay!! And another winner is Zalia apu! So 2 out of 3 winners were BUETians! Just imagine how it felt when we both were in the stage receiving the medals! I wish all 3 of the winners were BUETians at that time, hehehe. Anyways, apart from self-bragging, I want to share some experience here since the call for participation for this year came out recently.

Presenting a poster gave me the opportunity to talk to people: I did not have to go to people and find opportunity to introduce myself, rather I was just standing in front of my poster; people came to me and asked about my research. For an introvert like me this is a great advantage.  And they were people from industry and academia who were really interested in the topic of my poster. There is a career fair on Grace Hopper, so people from those tech companies looking for talents will come to your poster and talk to you if they find a match. Another benefit is that I got very useful feedback about the poster I presented, and I could improve my paper on that topic. And again, being accepted for the research competition means ACM will pay for the travel and registration.

One flexibility about Grace Hopper poster submission is it does not have to be previously unpublished; we can choose one already published work, so I could choose my best work as long as I am the main person behind that work. First we have to submit an abstract explaining the work. If that abstract gets accepted, they invite us to the conference where we have to present a poster, so no need to worry about making a pretty poster before that acceptance.

Step one: Abstract submission: Get an ACM student membership if you don’t have one, it is around $20 (I also got some concession using my BD address, rather than US address). I decided to present the work I was doing for my MS thesis. It was an iterative process to write it down in 2 pages, at the begining I had 6 pages, then 4, and then finally I was able to trim it down to 2 pages, and made the figures small but clear to fit in. Since my advisor and I already know about the work, so we cannot always tell if something is missing or unclear, so I got it reviewed by someone who is not that familiar with the topic (as if s/he is the reviewer). My grammar also fails me time to time, so I got it reviewed by native English speaker. There are some judging criteria, like clarity, contribution, etc., so needed to check if those met properly, though it’s hard to tell.

Step two: Poster session: I was indeed very happy when I got the acceptance letter from the review committee. That means I get to be in GHC! The review was very positive with a high score which boosted my confidence. Now it is time to get ready for the conference and design the actual poster. In Grace Hopper, people from many fields of computing gather together, we cannot expect that all of them are familiar with my particular type of research, I tried to keep that in mind while designing.

There are many online materials for good poster design guidelines. I will still reiterate some.
  • Do not use too many words: use key words rather than full sentence. Use diagrams, figures, screenshots with proper labeling.
  • Choose a nice layout: at first I decided to have a big central diagram and depict the idea around it, but my advisor suggested that as people read from left to right I should also follow that convention. Then I chose a three column layout, and arranged paragraphs and figures accordingly.Imagine how it will look from a distance (as if it is an artwork!).
  • Choose the correct color scheme, I used https://kuler.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/ for the color palette. 
  • Choose the right font (avoid Comic Sans as it is unprofessional, on the other hand Time New Roman is too old fashioned).
These little things can make big difference, everyone is doing excellent research, why not make yours look more professional and polished! You can also print out smaller one page version of your poster so people can take it with them like a flyer. Leave some of your business cards there,too.

After the poster is printed, it is time to present it at the conference. It started from 6 pm, so I had some time to practice in the morning. During the poster session, three or four judges will come one by one and ask about the work. Introduce yourself with a smile (my advisor always reminds me to smile). Then summarize the work in 5 to 10 minutes while navigating them through the poster. If talking about the result, then show them the result section of the poster. I practiced that before the poster session with my friends. After presenting the poster to a few people, I realized which part of the work is more interesting to other people, so I tried to emphasize on that. After that introduction, the judges will ask you questions about the work. They asked me who were my collaborators, what was my core contribution, how can I use it on other areas, what do the results indicate, etc. I also got feedback on how to improve this work (that really helped me for the paper I wrote on this). Talking about the same thing again and again can be tiring but that also helps to perfect the presentation.

Step three: Talk: At the end of the poster session (around 9 or 10 pm), they announce the finalists among all the participants. The finalists are scheduled to give a 15-20 minute talk about the poster the next day. For that I prepared some slides, and followed similar guidelines for the slides, too. Do not make them verbose, use text sparingly, use visual aid type diagram. No one is going to read the text on the slides, the audience’s attention should be on you, not on your slides. Make eye contact with the audience, make hand gestures, smile, and be dramatic with your voice!

Being a non-native English speaker, all of these are frightening to me, so I practiced with my friends before going to the stage. This talk session is the final judging step. There were 3 new judges in the audience. I was happy to see some of my friends in the audience, too. So I started my talk looking at my friends (as if I was making eye contact with the 'audience'). It was a relief to start the talk like that, then I moved my gaze around as if I am having conversation with the whole room. While showing something from the slides (for example, some diagram), point the mouse or the laser there, don’t just say things like “at the upper right corner you will see..bla bla”… my advisor always reminds me to engage with the audience, make them follow your lead; this is opposite to my character, but I force myself to do that and each time I present something, the feedback from the audience amazes me (that means I am a good actor!).

Always leave some time for Q and A after the talk, and have your email, URL, and Twitter ID at the last slide because that slide will be on display during the QA, so people can write down your info from there.

I feel that sometimes we fail to show enthusiasm about our own work, so the audience/judges also cannot relate to our work or underestimate its impact. Show them how excited you are that your work is going to change the world (even if you don’t believe that)! If I can do it, so can any of you.

The award ceremony was one of the most memorable days of my life! Being in the same stage with all these tremendous women is already a great honor in itself, and the winners get to submit their posters to the ACM SRC grand-final with all the other winners of all ACM conferences throughout the year (the grand finalists get to attend the Turing award ceremony!!!!). So start writing your abstract and be prepared for the submission. 

Oct 2, 2013

Grace Hopper 2013: Keynote Panel and Student Opportunity Lab

October 1st:
Thought Minneapolis would be chilly, but nope, just usual autumn weather, nothing much different from Maryland. The Millennium hotel is fine, everything is so easily accessible, we just walked a few blocks and found places to hang out. Dinner at the Jerusalem restaurant was awesome. And oh, did I mention that we went there by a rickshaw driven by a freshman girl from UMN:) That was superb!

October 2nd:
Keynote panel: instead of keynote speech, they made it a QA panel, very interactive and lively. Much focus was given to Lean in circles. Inspirational indeed. Sheryl Sandburg (CEO, Facebook) emphasized much on the role of peers, not just mentors. I agree with this vision, the mentors may not be from same generation or same view point. Peers can be more inspiring as they are of same age and probably similar background and understand the culture and time that we are in.

The QA session was very interesting and thought provoking:

1) My daughter wants to study biology, but I want her to be in CS, what to do? 
2) Should we have conferences for women? Should we consider gender as a factor at all? 
3) How to increase number of female CS major? 
4) What would you change if you had a magic wand?
5) Why freshmen or high school girls do not want to pursue CS?

Student research opportunity lab: tables had separate topics and 10 attendees sat around 2 or 3 expert representative from different professional background. I attended the one with HCI/UX design for the first round table panel. It was a good experience. We has UX designers from Linked in and Chegg discussing with us about the importance of design in product development and why we should put the users first.

May 15, 2013

Visualizing World Languages in Wikipedia

After seeing how the population of a language is not correlated with the volume of internet content of that language (although obvious) in the inforgraphics created by Funders and Founders: http://notes.fundersandfounders.com/post/50347902559/worlds-top-languages-on-the-internet , I decided to collect the number of Wikipedia articles on those languages. So I collected the data from Wikipedia written in the top 10 languages in the world and made these charts using Excel.

Sorted by Wikipedia articles
Sorted by population
After sorting according to the number of wikipedia articles, I see that although Mandarin Chinese is spoken by the highest number of people in the world, if we rank by the number of the wikipedia articles, Chinese goes to the 6th position. The bad thing about Excel is after I sort the columns, it does not retain the same color for the same language:(

Then again, I decided to see the percentage of articles in those languages, not the percentage in total, rather the proportion among the articles in these languages. So I drew this pie chart:

Visualizing World Languages and Bangla Content in Internet

Found this visualization in my facebook feed shared by some of my friends, and also in my lab's mailing list:

Funders and Founders made this visualization that compares the world language based on their population and internet-content. I am attaching the image from their website:

I would like to know more about the data and what they mean by Language used in Internet: language in text? Language in video/ music? Everything? For the case of internet, another interesting observation would be to see which language is generating more content now than before, because definitely, when internet started, everything was in English. 

I see Bengali is on the 7th position, way to go population growth!  At least we are among top ten languages, based on number of people. But then I look at the bar graph at the bottom, and can see the discrepancy. I am glad that Chinese and Spanish have some correlation with the number of people and the volume of internet-content. The problem with the visualization is, the circle shows the number, not the percentage. The bar shows the percentage, not the number. Although in both cases, I would like to see both percentage and number. And also I would like to see both the data in similar visualization, I do not see any point why one is a circle and other is a bar. It's difficult to compare the % of world population and % of internet-content. But I appreciate the effort to make a point with this visualization. Although I am confused about the thought-bubble with a person with turban, another one with farmer's hat, and another with a baseball cap: the content-creator is thinking about all of them? So s/he is trying to include internationalization features [for Chinese/Shikh/American people] ?

Makes me sort of sad though. Don't know about others, but in case of Bengali, the Wikipedia movement is trying to create more contents in Bengali, but one thing is, people who can afford a computer+internet, already know workable English (because they are privileged to go to school and have electricity), so they don't feel the need to have Bengali contents. And people who actually need it in Bengali cannot afford computers. When our higher level textbooks/exams are also in English, when it comes to search for academic documents, it makes more sense to search in English. We cannot deny the fact that the lingua franca of modern day academic publication/ research is English. 

Although I wonder how the chart will look like if they only consider social/creative content (like blog-posts, Facebook posts). The standard Unicode for Bengali font started around 2001, before that people had to write Bengali using Roman script. Phonetic keyboard made it lot more easier than before so we can easily type in Bengali without using a Bengali keyboard layout. It is easier than before, but still not as easy as typing in English. 

Bengali speaking-area.
 soource Wikipedia:
Most Bengali content I came across over the internet are: 
       Text: newspaper articles, blogs, social media status update, text books.
       Video: Bengali songs, movie, or TV drama(Youtube), video lectures (Shikkhok.com). 
       Audio: Music sites sharing mp3s.

The blog posts and news paper articles are written in Bengali scripts, but the Facebook posts or Tweets are not always written using Bengali scripts, most people use the Roman scripts and transliterate Bengali into Roman alphabet, probably due to the Roman Keyboard and the lack of ease to use Bangla writing softwares. First of all, we don't need to install any software to use Roman alphabet, and people who seldom writes in Bangla, might not be interested to use such softwares. 

Another reason is familiarity: we do not have Bangla writing options in cell phones (at least in most cases), so people are already used to text in Bangla using Roman alphabet, and they do the same when they update status in Facebook. 

Moreover, there is no plugin that lets me write Bangla in-place when I update my status in Facebook/ Twitter. I have to type it somewhere else and then copy-paste the text in the status update text-area. 

Also, a big issue is to reach the appropriate audience. Almost everyone understands English ... OK, almost everyone using the internet understands English. So am I loosing some audience when I am writing in my native language? Or may be I can gain more Bangali audience by writing in Bangla. 

Now I come back to the original point, the privileged people may not care about more Bangla content, and the people who need Bangla content the most are living on the edge, so we cannot make a business model depending on that population. Then who are the consumers? If there is some e-commerce website in Bangla how will it compete against the English ones? Or do we even need such websites in Bangla? I am not aware of the current situation of mobile apps in Bangladesh, so I cannot actually tell whether the fishermen or farmers are actually using mobile internet to sell their products or not. But if that scheme turns out to be cost-effective for them, then that's a huge area to develop Bangla mobile apps.

Still, I am optimistic about the use of Bangla in internet. Now we have a full fledged search engine Pipilika (the ant): http://pipilika.com/  where we can search for Bangla contents.  We learn the best when we learn in our mother-tongue, so definitely there is need to have more Bangla contents that will help us learn. And no matter what, we think in our own language, so when it comes to share our creativity, we would prefer our own language. When I see how the Bangla blogosphere is emerging (to the point where government considers to censor it), I feel good about the future of creative contents in Bangla on internet. I mean, aren't we the people who love to write poems and fictions! 

Feb 9, 2013

Activity on #Shahbag in Twitter: the people, what they are talking, what they are sharing. Part 1

As the movement of Bangladeshis is gaining its momentum, more and more Bangladeshis are using social network services like Twitter and Facebook to discuss about the movement, sharing videos, organizing events regarding this movement.

For last three days I am collecting the tweets and the Twitter networks of the people who are Twitting with the hashtag #Shahbag. And many of the tweets are from very new users, those people joined Twitter with the spirit to share the words, to tell the world how they feel about this movement, I could see that they still do not have any profile picture, so Twitter used the default 'egg' icon for their profile pictures. Twitter might notice that how an event like this can increase their user base.

At the end of the day in Feb7, I drew this Twitter network using the Social network analysis tool called NodeXL:
Not that big, few people, and not many tweets, but let's see what happened the next day:
Now we have so many people that I had to use some encoding to keep all the people in the image, so I resized their profile icons: if they tweeted more, I made their icons bigger, and they are also in the middle. If they tweeted less, their profile icon in the image got smaller. And you also see the links between the people: these links indicate that they either retwewted, replied or mentioned each other. So, when A retweets his friend B's tweet, it draws an arrow from A to B.

But, now as you already guessed, there are more participation, more tweets, more people. Today when I pulled the data of all these people, I noticed that the graph looked like a hairball, so I tried to organize the people and their Twitter activity by groups. How is that ? Some people know each other personally or follow each other on Twitter, they reply to their Twitter friends, mention them and retweets each others' tweets, so they are connected with links. For example, you can retweet our friends' tweets,  reshare the URL they share in Twitter. And  your other followers also reshare or retweet the things you tweet or share. So now we all get connected this way. We will notice that now small clusters are formed within all those users. This is waht I got after making the groups of people who are more connected together (Fe 9th, 2013). And inside each group we can see one or two prominent people who are more active within their own group, so they are basically leading their group by creating more useful content that their friends are resharing or retweeting.

Also today's top most shared URL in Twitter regarding the #shahbag movement are as here:


Jan 31, 2013

Presenting Conference Monitor at Social Informatics 2012

This was the first annual social infomatics conference, and it was in DC. I was hoping that my paper will get accepted. I always hope the same for all my papers and all the conference, but this time I was very optimistic, I worked a lot on this. Finally I was very happy after getting the acceptance email and very positive reviews from the committee. My flight for Dhaka was just right after the last day of the conference, so I was preparing my talk at the same time I was preparing my self for my trip to home. I am glad that my colleagues at the HCIL helped me with the practice talk. This is a culture I highly value here, getting feedback from our peer before we actually give the talk at a conference.  After the practice talk, I changed my presentation a lot, and later made a demo video of the tool that I presented at the conference. It helped a lot to show the demo: it made clear what my research was and what the tool does. The conference did not have any separate demonstration session, so I showed the demo of conference Monitor during my talk. I was overloaded with coffee, it was right after the final exam of Information Visualization course, I was the TA of the course. After the final exam, I collected all the exam papers, took the metro to the conference venue and had one more hour before my talk. The talk went better than I expected, I received positive feedback on my research topic, other researchers showed interest on the tool and wanted to use it for their own research. And, above all, no one fell asleep during my talk, what more can you expect ?:) I demonstrated how Conference Monitor can be used to analyze and visualize tweets during an event in real time, and how it can identify the influential and active people in the back-channel communication during an event.

I could not attend the second day, I needed to grade the final exam paper, but at least I could attend the key note by Noshir Contractor. From the keynote speech and the three sessions I attended, I learned about new techniques and metric to analyze social network and people'e influence on a network. After I felt that even though many people are using visual analytics for network visualization, their analysis and presentation could be more understandable if they knew more about netviz nirvana, you can do a lot just by following some principles of removing node clutter and edge overlaps. You can use visualization to make your presentation look flashy and cool,  but that is not the visual analytics. You know how important your research is when you see how other people are not doing it right. And again, I felt as a visual analytic researcher how can we make people realize the importance of using visualization in the RIGHT way?