Menus in Minutes: A recipe info. system for home cook enthusiasts

May 30, 2007

“Menus in Minutes” was the name of my group’s final project in “Systems Analysis and Design” in Winter 2007. Tonight I had intended to write a postscript that includes my personal reflections, comments received, and new insights I have gained as to how our project could be improved if we had another 10 weeks to work on it.

However, I realized that I never posted a single blog entry, so in order to correct this, I will post a few entries that will cover the following topics:

  • What the project was and how it all came together into the form you can see (you can download the written report).
  • Comments we received from Professors Agre and Borgman, as well as comments received when interviewing for internships in April.
  • New insights I have gained from new classes and a considerable amount of reflection.

All of this is in retrospect of course, so my new found 20/20 vision will be mixed in with my group’s thinking at the time.

Let me know what you think!

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Skills Needed for Informatics

February 12, 2007

Very often I am asked what informatics is when I  tell people that I am studying informatics.  Really, it concerns itself with the non-technical side of computer science (if you will).  When I began this program, I wasn’t sure what skills and knowledge I would need to have, but as I’ve gone through this program, I believe there is an ideal skillset.  So what is that ideal skillset?  Well, as long as you have developed good critical and analytical thinking skills, you shouldn’t have a problem.  However, I do believe there is an ideal background.  This is what I belive that background is . . .
1.  Well-rounded academic background (I hope you paid attention during those general requirements courses during undergrad years).

2.  At least a couple of upper-division courses in all fields of study:  humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, arts/performing arts.  This will give you insight into the “culture” of each of these academic areas:  how information is created, how their practitioners think, how they use information, their values, work practices, etc.

3.  Competence in computer programming, networking/data communications, office productivity software, and arts/design software (DreamWeaver,  Photoshop, etc.)  Although informatics is about the non-technical, you will be required to interact with techies in your future informatics job.  It’s a good idea to know what they are talking about . . . also it’s a good idea to be well-informed of the abilities and constraints of technologies (after all you are designing these info. solutions).

4.  Any job/career experience.  As you take classes and are exposed to theory, career experience will get you thinking abot the information problems, technological impacts, user needs, information problems, etc. specific to your former profession.  As a former teacher, I am always thinking  about the impact of technologies on the teaching profession, its impact on student learning, information problems, possible IT solutions,  etc.  It’s nice to have a point-of-reference.

5.  A course or two in statistics.  Surprisingly, many academic subjects rely heavily on statistics to validate information.  Scientists will not say that they know anything for sure . . . it’s all a matter of statistics, and the statistics suggest that their hypothesis is correct.  You can’t seriously think you can properly evaluate information if you don’t have any competence in this area.


Health Outcomes Project

February 8, 2007

For my “Information Architecture” class, my group and I took on a project created by the School of Public Health here at UCLA. They are trying to crate an information system that provides Health Forecasting similar to the economic forecasting business schools like the Anderson School of Managment (UCLA) conduct. They envision that public health advocates (lobbyists, community activists, etc.) in California could use the forecasting models they create to advocate for funding of certain health programs for their community. For example, a public health advocate could use the demographic data the IS system has for thier community, zip code, etc. to calculate/model the effects of eliminating vending machines from elementary schools on Body Mass Index (BMI). Another example could be the effect of increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in local grocery stores on coronary heart disease 10 years from now. These projections will  be for their specific communities because the database will eventually have demographic data for small geographic areas (the forecasts could be for the entire state of CA, or for a specific county, or even a specific community within a city).   The advocates could then use these projections when applying for grants or when lobbying for legislation.

If this system is successful, public health advocates in California will have a tremendous advantage over others when applying for grants. In addition, they will have reliable evidence specific to their community to support their argument.

My teammates and I are very excited about this project. It is one of those projects that we feel will really make a difference, especially for low-income communities. I will write more about this project as we continue to work on it.


Digital Information Behaviors

November 1, 2006

I have started to work on my digital information behaviors. So what are digital information behaviors you may ask? Well, to be honest, I only have a vague idea of what it means. To put it in concrete terms, it means how a person uses digital technology (either hardware or software) which can range from how one searches for info. on Google . . . to how one tags their photos on Flickr . . . to how they participate in online communities like Wikipedia . . . to how well they use a digital camera and Adobe Photoshop. . . etc. What I am working on right now is becoming proficient in using Google (beyond the search stuff), experimenting with social software like Flickr, and contributing my “expertise” to wikipedia (I put some information about the IS program). Besides the fun I am having, I think it is also important for an aspiring information professional, like myself, to become familiar with the different ways people are behaving digitally.