The Finnish Top Five

Recently, before the break, I had the opportunity to go to Joensuu, Finland to present one of my up and coming research projects, Studying Sustained Attention and Cognitive States during Remote Programming Technical Interviews”. The workshop was called Eye Movements in Programming, from November 22-24th at the University of Eastern Finland.

This workshop style was a little different from the one I previously attended, but definitely in a good way. The style of the workshop is what definitely encouraged me to write a blog about my experience.

1. World Cafe

As opposed to having all the accepted papers stand up and give talks, there was a World Cafe. During this session there were about 6 presenters. Within this 45 minute time frame each presenter had 3 groups come to their station for 15 minutes each. During this time the presenter gave a small 5 minute talk about their work and the remaining 10 minutes was used for discussion with the visitors at the station. This format was great to have an intimate discussion about your work and get valuable feedback from different perspectives. This was awesome because presenters had time to talk about different aspects of their project with each rotation. It also gave the attendees a great reason to go follow up and ask more questions during a coffee break that they didn’t get to ask during the initial discussion. One side note: I actually received my first best presentation award from this session :).

2. Keynotes

The keynotes were very well selected. Meike Mischo from SMI Vision spoke about some of the eye tracking tools such as the SMI Eye Tracking Glasses that I used this summer and how to use them with other physiological measurement tools.


Dario Salvucci of Drexel University gave a nice talk about applying cognitive models developed for other applications to programming such as the ACT-R model.


Aside from the keynotes, there was a nice selection of 4 interesting talks selected from the paper submissions. Two of them were from PhD students:  one early in their career and one approaching graduation. The remaining two were individuals who have already completed the process, as one researcher was from industry and the other was from academia. They both offered interesting perspectives on interpretations of eye tracking research.

3. Social Activities

20151123_193241   20151123_192904

This is the first workshop I’ve attended that had planned social activities for the attendees. On the 22nd we gathered for a casual lunch and got to meet each other. Following the lunch we went for a walk around the city and watched the Christmas Celebration Kick Off with fireworks. The following day we were taught to make Karjalanpiirakat, a finnish rice pastry that you eat with egg-butter, at a local bakery. It was a fun activity and made the conference more engaging.

4. Audience of People there


The audience of people there was refreshing. Due to the small size of the workshop there was plenty of time to mix and mingle with other researchers and ask them in depth questions about their work. The attendees had a strong background in the area but were seeking feedback from others on how to tackle and emerging project. With that being said, everyone there had an open mind which really helped during the brainstorming session where we came up with confirmed theories from the research that should be reflected in the Distributed Collection of Eye Movement Data in Programming found online.

5. Location


Having the conference in Finland at the University was a good choice. There were many attendees who don’t often travel to conferences in the U.S. that I was able to network with. The amount of relevant eye tracking projects that adapt to the programming environment is amazing. This year’s workshop intentionally followed the ACM 15th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research held in Koli, Finland.  In the future I may however recommend having the conference be collocated with another Computing Community, perhaps ICPC (International Conference on Program Comprehension). There may be a different audience, perhaps more familiar with programming theories and how novice and experts actually code that provide grounded theories on what the eye movements reflect.

Overall Reflection

Overall, it was a great experience. This was also only my second formal presentation so I’m still fairly new to the community. On top of that my advisor was not there so I was a little nervous at first but the organizers did a great job of making everyone feel welcomed.  The feedback I received from the workshop was very helpful and the comments that I received after supported that this project is a problem worth investing in.

I recently was tweeted from CoderPad and Netflix developers in support of this work.

So we will see where this project goes but I’m definitely excited to have people support that my research problem is ACTUALLY a problem!

If you’re interested in learning more about the work and other projects you can check out my official research blog; I recently posted an piece about this work, “The FUTURE of Technical Phone Interviews”. The Presentation is now available on slideshare and the final version of the paper will be available on the EMIP workshop website ideally by February 2016.


One thought on “The Finnish Top Five

  1. Very nice article, Denae and what a wonderful experience realized for you. I know Chrystine is smiling so proudly front heaven and we are doing the same here on earth. Go girl!

    Liked by 1 person

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