Sunday, August 8, 2010

Feedback on my CSCW Paper

I submitted my "first" CSCW paper last Friday. (Technically, it's not my first. It just feels like it. I co-authored a paper with Don Patterson a couple of years back, but it was his idea and I was just around to help him with the writing. This time, I was involved starting from the data collection onwards and I was primary author.)

I had set aside the month of July to work on the paper, but I spent the first couple of weeks faffing around. I had been working pretty hard before that, so I needed the break. Two weeks before the deadline, I started work in earnest. Then I was sidelined by a migraine for three days. Not good.

By the Monday before the deadline, I had six pages and I was thoroughly confused. I needed feedback and lots of it. Judy Olson read my paper on Monday and gave me some high level comments. I wrote three more pages on Tuesday and brought it to the LUCI lab "pass around." It's standard practice at LUCI that in the days leading up to a deadline people get together and critique each other's papers. I gratefully took advantage of their generosity.

Here is a summary and paraphrase of the feedback that I got.
Judy Olson: Is your point that you think people should be using narrative to coordinate their work?
Paul Dourish: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Silvia Lindtner: Why is this a CSCW paper? You need to be more specific about articulation.
Gillian Hayes: Great data, but it needs to be more "together."

They were all absolutely right. But how to incorporate all their great comments?

I spent Wednesday reading some papers and by evening I started the re-write in earnest. It was crazy, but I made it. On Thursday at 9pm, I was re-analyzing the data on my kitchen table. I had little pieces of paper, index cards, highlighters, paper clips, and post-it notes. I had a complete draft by 9am. I took a small nap and went back to editing. It was submitted by 4:30pm.

Whew. It was exhausting, but man, was it fun. I find that the more confused I am in the middle of writing a paper, the better it turns out in the end. This time, I knew there were problems, but I couldn't put my finger on what they were. I probably would have figured it out in the end, but it was much quicker to get feedback. I also find that if I really hate a paper by the time I submit, it's probably a pretty good paper. It means that I have worked on the paper for so long that I see only the flaws. It's a bit like looking at your own face in the mirror and seeing every pimple, freckle, and blemish. In both cases, you overlook the beauty of everything all put together.

Thanks to everyone who read my paper. It really helped.

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