Category: Development Update

2012 Q3 Update

Yesterday at the University of Washington, I gave a seminar talk of my thoughts on community and alternative currencies. Lots of good, challenging questions. This marks the first time that I presented TraceEval to a group of people, and although I was nervous at first, I was glad that I did it.

I’m also waiting to hear back from  other opportunities to present my ideas. In addition, I want to finish prototyping an easy-to-use implementation that I’m hoping to deploy next year. I will follow-up on the invitation to try Flora as a testbed and continue prototyping for the remainder of the year.


2012 Q2 Update

Really busy first half of the year. Finally, I am able to announce the study results as published in JASSS at the end of June. In early July, I presented a brief summary of the paper at the ESSA summer school in Toulouse, France. I also posted an invitation to a friendly competition next year using social simulation to test proposed currency and reputation systems.

So while there was a break from coding of prototype systems, last quarter was definitely not the usual yearly break where I mostly relax. I was actually busy working on other projects, also involving programming, that I’m hoping will help in the next stages of my personal projects.

I’m planning more outreach for the second half of the year. There is also much work left to develop Flora into a more user-friendly and intuitive simulation testbed. I’m eager to continue working on all these projects, and maybe post updates sooner rather than later.

2012 Q1 Update

I have to qualify the achievement of my goals for Q1 of this year, as far as not being able to broadcast results or videotape a demo of the study prototype. Instead of posting a draft of the study and results, I have submitted a paper to an online journal. It is currently under a second round of review. Once a final decision is reached by the journal editor, I will share the paper online. Email me for a preprint request if interested.

I have also demonstrated a tool for conducting studies of decentralized currency systems at ICTD2012.  It was good to hear positive feedback on the idea and to see so many academics and techies who with a passion for socioeconomic development. Compared to another conference that I attended lat year, I prefer meetings with lots of presentations on case studies and demonstrations. Too bad I did not learn about Unmoney Convcergenc 2012 until it was already done, as it would have been good to experience that event as well.

I definitely feel that I made progress towards my goals for Q1. However, since I have not announced links to the paper and study tool, I have fallen short of being as open as possible with my ongoing work. There is a balancing act of being open and trying to minimize wasting people’s time with poorly baked ideas and prototypes. I believe that by initially limiting sharing to reviewers and conferences, instead of broadcasting online, other’s would benefit by waiting and seeing more polished deliverables.

Looking ahead, Q2 will likely be a downtime for me. Usually I take my break around Q1 of the year, but I have not taken a prolonged break since Q1 of last year. I have been switching between developing work-related auditing systems and study tool/visualization almost nonstop for over a year. I need time to refresh and also plan for an upcoming summer workshop/vacation. I will also use Q2 to catch up on the projects that I follow online.

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!

Personal Website

I’d like to announce an important update on another goal that I have  for this year, which is to clean up and reorganize this site. I have not discussed this goal much since it was really low on my priority list. Actually, it still is.

What I have done is circumvent that task by creating a new blog, My first post there explains my motivation for creating yet another blog. I have updated the About page here to emphasize an easily missed purpose for this blog. When I created, I was really hoping to exemplify how an entity might cultivate an independent currency brand. This involved being as transparent as practical by declaring short-term goals and plainly stating or demonstrating what was actually accomplished or not. I have identified early inspirations such as the Dervaes Institute and PSPad. I even stated a particularly ambitious goal in a post from almost three years ago – “to hire people who are willing to be paid in the currency brand”!

It really has been a mixed bag, with many unfulfilled goals but lots of lessons learned and a few prototypes that I am proud of having developed. I could console myself in thinking that, yes, these experiences are likely to be common to what a ‘currency brand’ start-up would go through. I definitely wish that could have been more successful in convincing others to start a currency brand, but the admittedly rustic information systems and protocols that I have prototyped earlier did not lead to even limited adoption. More capable and polished implementations, like Twollars, was fortunate in eliciting more excitement and at least I got to observe what Prowl – which had a very similar technical premise to Twollars – might have been if I had better skills and resources. Unfortunately, even Twollars seem to be languishing at this point.

On a more optimistic note, the more recent prototypes (NPX and IPP) are just a bit more polished and thought-out, and the code is definitely more maintainable. I am also in the middle of conducting simple studies, which I’m hoping could lead to more effective implementations and collaborations. If you are curious, just email me and I’d be happy to share preliminary results.

That’s pretty much it for now. I’ll post here two to four times a year, but I’ll post more frequently in my personal blog. My next post should include the year-end review, as usual.

Q3 Quick Update

I’m glad to report that I have very preliminary results from my planned studies. Unfortunately, the tests do not involve the NPX/IPP prototype system yet, so I’m holding off giving more details until the end of Q4. Besides, I’ve had to correct serious code error every day this last week — no need to announce unvalidated observations so far.

Still, getting to this point is really encouraging. After holding off for more than a year to get started on this next phase of the project, and after many doubts on when I’ll be able to return to this project in light of my other commitments, I’m relieved to see that the wait has been worth it.

There are also other self-imposed drivers to get results by the end of the year, so I’m highly motivated right now to just get things done. Expect more detailed updates before Thanksgiving (hopefully).

2011 Q2 Update

In the last month, I have been able to slowly ramp up the coding effort to about 8-15 hours a week. The rudimentary code is still exploratory, but I’m optimistic that it’s headed towards the right direction. I’m also relieved to finally be able to rebalance my work/life/personal projects after a very hectic Q1.

So, after some uncertainties in the first half of 2011, I’m looking forward to having a more productive second half. The goal for Q3 is to get actual results to blog about, not just talk about vague, tentative plans like I’ve done for the last nine months or so. The more I read about published research on various computing topics, the more encouraged I get that the approach that I contemplate taking is bound to be a worthwhile adventure.