Why I Supervise

Back in 2004, I posted an explanation of why I teach. Today reminded me of why I supervise summer interns. Our Samsung high-definition TV still won't talk to our Samsung high-definition DVD player, despite three visits to Downtown Dupont Electronics1; the meeting I came in for2 was canceled, and it turns out that the audio recordings we did during our usability testing sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday were cutting in and out. So what did I do to cheer myself up? I went and talked to our summer students:
  • Xiaoyang Guan has finished building a wiki-format previewer for Mylyn (an Eclipse plugin that lets you work with tickets and other resources in web-based project management portals like Trac) and is making good progress on a second tool for editing wiki pages inside the IDE.
  • Tony Balkissoon has solid first drafts of four of the white papers he's been working on, and is well on his way to finishing a fifth. He wouldn't say that reading lawyerese is "fun", exactly, but he's learning a lot that will be useful when he heads off to law school in September.
  • Alex Krizhevsky and David Wolever have (almost) finished a Trac-to-DrProject conversion tool to go with the DrProject upgrade script they built last week. This is a lot more than I was expecting, a lot sooner --- unless something goes horribly, unexpectedly wrong, we should be able to deploy DrProject 2.0 for internal use two full weeks ahead of schedule.
  • Jeff Balogh and David Cooper had a working drag-and-drop form editor for tickets running for the usability tests earlier this week, and will have a more-or-less complete description of how it all works up on the web by the end of the day tomorrow. We're not going to try to integrate this into the 2.0 release --- there just isn't time to polish the rough edges, and integrate, and test, before the end of August --- but it's already enough to convince me that this is the right way to go, and it'll definitely be in the next major release.
  • Tony Yiu and Martin Williams3 have the tabbed interface for OLM working. As Karen Reid said, it now looks like an application rather than a web page --- thanks again to Radiant Core's Jay Goldman for all the good advice.
  • Pardis Beikzadeh has finished the install/uninstall scripts for UTest. Unless something goes horribly, unexpectedly wrong, we'll be able to deploy a prototype this fall --- w00t!
  • Florian Shkurti can pull the data he needs out of OLM and into Eclipse; after wrestling with automated GUI testing tools for three days, he's ready to switch tracks and actually implement the ability for students to view the comments on their code inside the editor.
Most importantly, every single member of the summer team is doing valuable, productive work. They're building things that people are actually going to use, things that do something useful, and they're having fun doing it4. It's hard not to be upbeat after talking to them, so, er, thanks --- I needed that ;-).
  1. Samsung's authorized support center in Toronto. Despite its name, it's 45 minutes from downtown when the roads are clear, and twice that in traffic. We called a couple of days ago to point out that their most recent (expensive) set of "repairs" still hadn't fixed the problem; their reply was, "We don't guarantee our work." No bonus points for guessing that the TV and DVD player are now two weeks out of warranty...
  2. By streetcar, on the hottest day of the year so far, with a smog advisory, listening to two drunks argue over whose bottle it was while the driver did his best to not hear the language they were using.
  3. Who was away today, test-driving U of T's solar car.
  4. Anyone who attaches a rear view mirror to his monitor so that he won't miss any of what's going on in the lab must be having fun, right?
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