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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Osmos nominated for IGF Grand Prize!

Osmos, a zen-like game put together by my friend and former roommate Eddy Boxerman (with help from other former kommune-ists Dave Burke and Andy Nealen, and some people I don’t know but who I assume are cool), has been nominated for three awards at the Independent Game Festival, including Grand Prize! If you don’t know indie games, well, this is huge. The IGF Grand Prize nominees are some of the coolest, funnest, most original games anywhere.

If you’re a Windows-y person, you can download it here, and if not, here’s a video to watch while I bug Eddy to port it to the Mac.

My Thesis Year

timeline_snip.jpgHappy New Year/Christmas/Festivus/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah, everybody!

If I were to sum up 2008 in a word — and I am about to — it was my “Worio” year. I spent the year working full-time with the Worio team on the web-page recommender system, and we have something I think we’re all fairly proud of. We demoed Worio at NIPS 2008 and got a good reception, we’ve received a bit of cautiously positive bloggage, and I’ve been awarded my first patent, for work I did with Worio.

Now it’s 2009, and I’m planning to make it my thesis year. I’m still involved with Worio, but as of January 1st, I’m no longer a full-time employee, I’m a full-time PhD candidate. Just before I went on leave to work with Worio, I defended my PhD proposal. A proposal is, essentially, an outline of what the thesis will be, and a schedule for finishing it. The idea is that if I do what I said I was planning to do, my committee has to grant me my PhD. Of course, the reality of research is ideas that seemed brilliant sometimes end up being harder that you thought, or impossible, or have already been done by other people. And at the same time, you have new ideas, or get unexpectedly good results from an experiment. So what ends up going into your thesis can look pretty different from what you said was going to go in.

I don’t know how much my thesis will end up resembling what I proposed, but I know the past year working on other projects has given me both some new ideas and also the motivation to buckle down and finish the damn thing. The conventional wisdom is that your PhD lasts until you want it to be over, and as much as I enjoy the grad-student lifestyle, I would like it to be done. I’ve spent years in academia and I’ve spent years in industry and I like industry a whole lot better. I’m also greatly looking forward to spending a while backpacking across Asia, which I’m planning to do after I finish my PhD.

So what are my goals for 2009? By the end of the year, I would like to either be done my thesis or be in the home stretch. I would like to have a couple of papers on their way to publication. I would like to see some of my research work going into a piece of real-world software like Worio, though I have a couple of ideas for projects of my own, too.

And so I may be neglecting this blog while I find a new work/school/girlfriend equilibrium. But my plan is — in addition to any other blogging I may or may not be doing — to have a longish, thesis-related post every month, kind of talking about how it’s going and what I’ve been working on. I’m not sure how interesting it will be to y’all out there, but it should be a useful exercise for me.

winter in saskatchewan is cold and stark

stark landscape, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

I was back in The Skatch for Christmas. I had forgotten what -32C felt like, but stepping out of the airport, it all came back to me in a rush.

more pics