Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

the rest of CHI and Vienna

My first post on CHI is here. Continuing on (better late than never) ...

The last morning of CHI I went to a talk on professional usability in open source projects, which was a pretty good, though simplistic, summary of the various papers and blog rants I've read on the topic over the years. Before lunch, I heard about an analysis of participation and moderation on Slashdot. I've sworn off Slashdot (I always hear about the most interesting articles from David or others anyway), but despite my aversion I would be interested in further investigating the demographics and norms of the Slashdot community (or others, but Slashdot is particularly big and fanatical), how they evolve, and how various users react to it. During a break, I saw this hilarious book. Neuro-linguistic programming ... for dummies!?

Lunch for the student volunteers the last day of the conference was tasty and particularly greasy: weinershnitzel (which is not sausage as I thought, but pounded, breaded, deep-fried pork), french fries, and the ubiquitous cold salads. Breakfasts and snacks were the usual pastries, dark tea, and juice. I ate more pastries at CHI than I have for years.

After lunch, A.J. presented our paper on remote usability studies as part of the "Truth, Lies, and Usability Tapes" session, the very last session of the conference. The closing plenary was given by the CEO of IDEO, who talked about industrial design and the creative process. After the plenary the students gave out commemorative CHI stickers, which soon became a hot collector's item among HCI students ("Collect all nine!"). That evening, the student volunteers reconvened one last time for a student volunteer party at a place in downtown Vienna that sells everything by the centimeter.

The hostel that the student volunteers stayed in, Wombat's, was really awesome. It's super-clean and very trendy, with abstract murals on all the walls and its very own bar. Unfortunately they didn't have wireless - internet was available for €1 per 12 minutes. I switched rooms the first night from the room with the snoring folks to a room of female CHI SVs, then I switched again the night after the conference ended, as more CHI folks left Vienna and we decided to consolidate.

I spent Friday walking the ring around the central city (it used to be the city wall, but was transformed to a beautiful ring lined with parks in the mid-nineteenth century) and going to a CHI-organized tour of the Freud museum with several other Berkeley folks. The tourguide was a philosophy student at a nearby university and had some interesting theories on Freud and Jung. For example, he claimed that the east coast of the USA was more aligned with Freud's theories, with its focus on neuroses, sex, and shame (as exemplified by Sex and the City). In contrast, the west coast of the USA was more Jungian, with its focus on mysticism and collective experience (as exemplified by The X-Files). I also learned that Freud escaped the Nazis to London, that he had back problems, that he was extremely ambitious, that he had severe mouth and throat cancer (you can see one cheek disintegrating in later photos), and that he died by euthanasia. Later that evening, we wandered through Stephansplatz, where a festival (apparently celebrating a holiday like the USA's Labor Day) was gearing up. We watched some street acrobats and a cheesy magician before wandering off, eventually to bed.

Freud's ergonomic chair

streetcars in Vienna

detail in St. Stephen's cathedral

Mozart's a celebrity

On Saturday, three of us ventured up the Danube to Krems and Melk, ogling decrepit castles and hills of grapevines along the way, hacking the automatic rotating function on ananananananana's camera (it's done with a gravity sensor), and even getting caught in a thunderstorm.

Vienna flowers

overgrown castle

On Sunday, we toured some beautiful gardens (including a hedge maze) and went to the high-tech, immersive Music Museum, and on Monday we rented bicycles from the hostel to tool around the city and spent the evening watching a ballet of As You Like It at the famous Vienna opera house (standing room tickets are only €3.50!). I couldn't really follow the plot of the ballet, but it seemed to involve the usual Shakespearean comedic elements of disguises, mistaken identities, and A loves B loves C pretends to love A but really loves B, etc. My flight left at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Viennese seem to love geometric hedges

Hedge maze

See if you can solve it too: get from the "+1" bottom center to the dot in the middle by horizontally or vertically moving number of squares specified by the number on your current square. Bonus ("for experts"): end up with a sum of zero, if you add together all the values of the squares you visit (this is what the pluses and minuses are for). Hints: for the first challenge, work backwards, and for the second, find a cycle.

Stairwell of the music museum

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