Looking Back and Forward

The last quarter of 2011 has been productive as I have been able to devote more of my time conducting simple studies. I have generated a lot of preliminary data from prototype tests, but unfortunately, I am not prepared to share those results yet. I am still sifting through the data and familiarizing myself with relevant analysis techniques along the way.

I am enthusiastic about my progress and of having the opportunity to learn many things along the way. Although a lot of analysis work remains, it feels good to accomplish my main goal of performing at least one study this year. It was not easy switching gears midyear to code a prototype system for conducting studies, and then again to refactor the prototype in November to improve the efficiency and reliability of getting results. The wait throughout the first half of 2011, while settling in at a new workplace, was really worth it. Amazingly, I was able to use — and is still using — many of the lessons I’ve learned from my new work responsibilities.

For example, I ended up using a JSON-based datastore since MySQL seemed too heavy for coding a quick prototype at work. This shortcut proved really handy when I began to work on my personal project again. It really helped me see why different tools are often necessary for different prototyping tasks. MySQL is not a good choice for a research-oriented database system, at least in my case, so I dropped it and everything went more smoothly with simple JSON-formatted output files.

More importantly for my continued productivity, being in a research environment helps cultivate my skills and motivation. Even the daily routine of commuting to work requires a certain level of discipline to make my spare time count, a challenge that I find rewarding. I should also mention that I tried Erlang along the way and also Git, but the learning curve made me go back to the familiar PHP and the simpler(?) Mercurial. The research/coding workflow that I have developed around performing studies really ties in well with a decentralized code versioning system. I’ve also accomplished the goal of creating a new site, actually a new blog, as mentioned in a previous post.

So, after a productive 2011, I have the following goals for 2012:

  • Finish analyzing and share the results by end of Q1
  • Demonstrate the study prototype in Q1
  • Improve the study prototype to handle more sophisticated test scenarios by Q2
  • Seek out potential collaborators throughout 2012

Looking forward to a great year!