Expanding Our User Base

Yesterday, we distributed 100 smartphones to Antonella di Angeli’s HCI class. And we were still short of approximately 5 phones. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a hectic scene, although we did split the class in two to make distribution easier.

This morning, I arrived to over 200 new messages in my inbox. That’s just our system automatically generating two different messages to all of the new users. Still it was a bit of a shock this morning to see my inbox overflowing like that.

One of the tasks these students will have is to select one friend from outside of the Computer Science department and nominate them for a smartphone so that they can work together on design problems. So that will be another 100 students to add to the trial.…

Smart Campus

The Smart Campus project has been going on for several months now. We have a website, a Facebook presence and are working on getting Twitter presence.

In a nutshell, the project aims at creating an Android-based app that will serve the University of Trento community. It offers ways to organize your university-related information and to know more about the larger community of Trento, and ways to share that information with your friends and the community.

My job is to help with the user interface issues. So now I have a Samsung Galaxy SII and a copy of the app. Time to try out the app.…

A Visit From A Friend

When I first learned that Liz Lawley, who was spending a semester teaching at Dubrovnik, was going to end her stay in Europe with a quick trip through Italy, I got very excited and begged her to come visit us in Trento. It’s not often that you get to see old friends when you’re living far from home. When she said yes, I began plotting like a machiavellian prince.

You see, I know that Liz is a great speaker. And I know that the project that she has been working on for the past few years, Just Press Play, has been a successful attempt at engaging university students. Now it just so happens that, not only is Smart Campus also about engaging university students, but the Smart Campus team has been organizing a weekly set of seminars. While our approach is somewhat different from the playful design approach that Liz and her team have been using, it seemed to me that there were enough similarities that we could learn something of interest. In addition, several computer science students here are interested in games and game mechanics, and this would be a great opportunity for them to see an application of game mechanics to the real world as described by one of the big names in the American scene of games research.

By the way, I love the new term that the Rochester folks are using: playful design. So much nicer than gamification, don’t you think?

Anyway, once I had come to the conclusion that having Liz speak here would be a great idea, I started the wheels rolling on making it happen. Wouldn’t it be great if this well-known American professor would come tell us about her experiences with games and gamification? Liz, would you mind giving a talk about Just Press Play to the folks here?

I felt a bit guilty about asking Liz to do some work while she was on her Italian vacation. Bad enough that I was making her and her son come to Trento, which is on the travel list of pretty much nobody in North America. (Which is a pity, because it’s nice here, although on the other hand, we don’t have much to offer unless you’re interested in ecclesiastical history.) But Liz was nice enough to say yes to both coming here and giving a speech at the University of Trento. And so that is what she did yesterday.

It was, I think, a resounding success. Liz was up to her usual standards with regards to communicating her obvious enthusiasm about her research. I had seen part of her presentation before, but this one went deeper into both what had worked and what hadn’t worked. It was quite fascinating. From a few conversations I had afterwards, people had taken to heart what she had to say and were reconsidering how to integrate game play into their projects. And there might be some longer term ramifications which would be really interesting.

All in …

Questura Herp A Derp

This morning, I had to bring the last documents necessary for my sojourn permit to the questura or the police commissariat. I had an appointment for 9:20, so I arrived around 9 – after getting off at the wrong stop (thanks a lot, Google maps) and walking at first in the wrong direction. A good think I had given myself an hour to get there.

I looked around but couldn’t see any place where I might sign up or take a number, so I sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. By half by 10, I was beginning to wonder what was going on. That’s when I noticed a man waiting to go to the counter; he was holding in his hand the exact same paper I had gotten from the post office setting a day and time. Which is when I realized I was supposed to hand that in and then wait for them to call my name. Herp!

So I did that. Since I was already late, I was called within minutes. Things were going swimmingly with the nice lady who could speak English, and then we got to the taking of the fingerprints. Over and over and over she tried to register my prints on her machine. They just would not take. She sent me off to wash my hands in the hopes that that would work. Nope.

Finally, she gave me over to the polizia scienzia, who has a giant machine for taking fingerprints. Apparently, my fingers were particularly oily as the technician had to clean them before they could get a good reading. It’s not very comfortable, having your fingerprints taken. They kind of push your fingers down to get a good reading, which can be unpleasant when you have arthritis.

Anyway, it’s done now, and it only took, well, the whole morning. And now I have to wait for another month or two before I finally get my papers.…