Author Archive

Notes on public talks

July 16th, 2014

Massimo and I worked together on two posters about automatic provenance capturing for research publications and we won the ESIP FUNding Friday award. What left unforgettable to me, however, is the great lesson I learnt from giving the 2 minute pitch in front of the ESIP folks.

During the 2 minutes talk, I just could not help staring at the two posters we printed and made on the day before and that morning. Now I know the reason — it’s because I only practiced my speech with one of the posters displayed on my laptop. For the other poster, I have no chance to practice talking about it at all. I became dependent on the presence of the posters in front of me and cannot make the talk in front of people, instead of posters.

Possible solutions to make my eyes move away from the posters when talking? The best I thought of is to get REALLY familiar with the topic I’m gonna present — at least so familiar that I don’t need to look at any auxiliary facility such as a poster to remind myself what to say, better if being able to save some spare attention for the audience — to receive their feedback and adjust accordingly in real time. The need to ignore the audience for a while to concentrate on “what should I say here?” indicates that I’m not familiar enough with the topic.

In addition to the content, presenters also need to get familiar with the way of presenting the content. This could include scrutinizing the practice talk sentence by sentence to make sure “I said what I meant and I meant what I said”. Not until such clarity and confidence are reached can one start thinking about all the fancy stuff like speaking pace, volume variations and eye contacts with audience. Well, those are fancy to me, not necessarily for good speakers.

So there is really a lot to work on for a public talk, especially if it’s the first time for the presenter to talk about the idea. The work is so much that it cannot be done over the night before the talk. We need to work on the familiarity, clarity and confidence of our ideas on a daily basis. It helps to write down what we mean and talk about it often.


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Product Focused vs. Customer Focused Marketing

May 10th, 2014

Someone said my work as a poster presenter is like a marketing job, and suggested me to take a course in marketing, so I took the online course on coursera called “An Introduction to Marketing”. To my surprise, I actually learnt some interesting perspectives that are applicable to my daily work.

The overview talked about product focused marketing vs. customer focused marketing:

… in product-focused market, I’m the expert, and I create the very best product I can based on my expertise. … In a customer-based market, what I’m going to do is look at what the customer wants, and try to create product to meet that customer’s need.

, which reminded me of my experience in EGU, when I was showing the R2R Elda demo to Dr. Giuseppe Manzella, he immediately would like to try the “Search Form” on the Elda page, which I would never use since I use Elda merely as a RESTful service building tool rather than a CMS, so he expanded the search form, input key words, and clicked the “Search” button. I can still remember the disappointment on his face when “HTTP ERROR 404” showed up as the result…

Later I figured out that the problem could be fixed by removing the extra “/r2r” from the address bar (probably with some Apache URL rewriting tricks), but the point is that I was so not expecting that my customers would like to try the search form, even though it so stands out in the Elda page! I put all my attention to the Elda configuration files, the SPARQL endpoints and the Apache configuration files — that is my expertise, everything else is just some irrelevant decoration.

Now I realize I am way too focused on my products, and really need more often put myself in the customers’ shoes. If we look at academic conferences as market activities, we would find that the number of customers is very small, so it’s a wrong strategy to pursue market share, i.e., to focus on improving products and trying to sell as many of them as possible. Instead, we need to pursue customer share — to interest as many customers as possible, to give them exactly what they want, and to build long term relationships.


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AGU fall meeting notes – part 1 – two levels of conversations

January 5th, 2014

I mentioned that I’ve talked with two kinds of people – researchers and managers – during ODIP workshop #2 and AGU fall meeting 2013 in my last post, and here comes the definitions I left out.

By researchers, I mean people who are workers in the community — those who deal with technical details, think of novel approaches to problems, and fulfill ideas proposed by the managers.

Managers, on the other hand, are those who deal with people and make proposals to find social and financial support for workers. They may also do some marketing job to find customers for the products created.

Conversations with researchers (I probably didn’t pick the best word because people called researchers usually do both research and management) are usually very technical — approaches, architectures, frameworks, software, parameters, scalability, maintainability, etc. I currently is very biased towards the technical side of research and feel very comfortable in such kind of conversations.

Quite a lot of times, however, I find myself totally lost in conversations with managers — when they talk about funding, grants, recruiting, outreach, and names of people and institutions I’ve never heard of. I realize I didn’t pay enough attention to the managing side of research, which is equally important, if not more than, the technical side. Managers’ work of building and maintaining the supply chains and sales channels for research products is indispensable for research institutes and the academic community as a whole to function properly.

As a PhD student I didn’t get many opportunities to get involved in managing jobs, but in order to let people use the products that we are developing and we believe useful, I think I need to learn beyond the worker’s part and get to understand how the whole academic business works, and talking with managers at the ODIP workshop and AGU fall meeting certainly is a good starting point!


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ODIP workshop notes – part 1 – a unique viewpoint of data citation

December 20th, 2013

During the last two weeks I’ve been on this exciting journey to attend ODIP workshop #2 plus AGU fall meeting 2013. I’ve been talking with both researchers and managers (definitions will come in a later blog) and taking notes of both what we’ve been talking about and what I’ve been thinking of. This is the first time I feel that I would like to write something so much. I’ll split my stories and thoughts into multiple parts to make each of them really coherent.

So here is the first story, it’s about the process of producing scientific time series data, presented by Justin Buck from BODC at ODIP workshop #2. I cannot find his slides now so I recreated one of his plot in the slides from my memory as follows.


Most of the data are recorded at almost the same time as they are observed, shown as blue crosses in the above figure. Some data are missed at observation time, so they need to be filled in later if possible, shown as green crosses. Finally, corrections are made to the data for various reasons, as the red cross indicates.

Justin presented this data producing process in the context of data citation. He then continued to point out three kinds of data citations based on the ever-changing nature of the data to cite:

  1. cite a time slice, which includes data recording, adding and editing logs within a certain period of time along the time series;
  2. cite a snapshot, which is the “as is” data at a certain time point;
  3. cite the continuum, which includes every change made to the data set up till a certain time.

Very interesting viewpoint of data citation.


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