Archive for August, 2009

Units is out

August 17, 2009

Units is a new library for making Python programs safer. It’s also kind of fun.

For more, check out


Case Study Databases vs. Ethics and Participation

August 5, 2009

Robert Yin advocates the creation of a case study database alongside the publication of  case study. In my interpretation of this idea, the case study database includes the raw data collected, such as transcripts, interview recordings, and documents collected from archives.  The creation of an “analysis-free” data repository allows others to reanalyze the data to reach different conclusions or for new purposes. This potential for reanalysis in turn strengthens the case study.

For my study, that would mean publishing my interview recordings, my transcriptions of those recordings, and the statistics about software repositories that I collect.

Greg points out two issues with this that have caused me to reverse my plan.

  1. This open approach is rare enough that it might have trouble getting through the ethics board. The withdrawal protocols become awkward, for instance.
  2. This might discourage participation. People might not want to be interviewed if the interview recording will be made available.

I think I will try with a new policy:

  1. Raw data (interview recordings) will be kept private and secure immediately after recording. They will be destroyed after publication of an analysis.
  2. Objective data such as interview transcripts will be kept private and secure. They will be destroyed after publication of an analysis.
  3. A summary of the interviews and other derivative data will be publicly available. If a subject requests it, this summary will be anonymized and the subject will be asked to approve the anonymized version prior to publication. Subject withdrawal will result in destruction of the summary if it has not yet been published. If it has already been published then withdrawal is not possible.

Google Calendar Labs “Free or Busy” Should Be IM Integrated

August 2, 2009

Google Calendar Labs has introduced a new feature called “Free or Busy,” described as “See which of your friends are free or busy right now.”

You make a list of people who’s status you’d like to see, and a widget on the side displays their current calendar status based on their privacy and sharing settings.

It’s a neat idea, but in my opinion the calendar is the wrong place to view this information.  I use my calendar to see what I should be doing or to schedule things for later, not to check up on my friends. If I want to see what a friend is up to right now, I’ll check their instant messenger status, or maybe Facebook or Twitter. I already manage my friend lists in those applications.

Instant messengers are still the best tool for distributed presence information. This free/busy widget would make a great instant-messenger plugin.