In which our hero finally finds himself in the midst of the conference which lured him to this faraway town in the first place.

Tuesday morning I felt really fine again. The conference proper started today. I was late again, after a good night of sleep, but I was in time for the Opening Plenary, where I was sitting up front with Mark. I didn't really like the plenary, and I have seen much better one's at CHI. It wasn't the message which both speakers presented, because I agreed with it completely. Their presentation was a bit slow, though, and maybe it didn't contain enough new or revealing bits of information. I don't really know. I just felt a bit disappointed with it.

After the Opening Plenary I went to a panel on "Creative Prototyping Tools". I actually know some of the members of the panel, so it's always fun to see how they do. The panel was pretty interesting to me, because most of the people presented their vision on the next generation of prototyping tools, and for the most part their wishes were in accordance with my research goals! Yes! There is a future in my Ph.D. work.

After this confirmation I had to get back to work. I hadn't worked that many hours, so I had signed up for quick response all afternoon, along with Mark and Birgitte. Usually this means just hanging around, and getting odd jobs every now and then, and I was content with this. However, this year everything seemed to be very well organized, so no jobs turned up at all. This became boring after a while. Mark tried to teach Birgitte and me juggling (at which I was no good at all). We discussed how "rude" those little Microsoft malleable balls could get. You get the picture. (And Mark, they really aren't that rude.)

"Quick response!". Yes! That's us, and finally there was a job to be done. I quickly responded to the call, dragging Birgitte along. "What's the job we need to do?", I asked Chantal. She just smiled at me, and said: "data entry". BOOM! If you look this up in the Student Volunteer handbook you'll see the following description:

data entry A mind-numbing job designed to punish Student Volunteers who have been behaving badly. Usually conducted in a room separate from the conference proper. Consists of punching numbers into the computer.
I felt Birgitte's eyes burn in my back, and cold sweat broke out. Again. I hoped she would forgive me for dragging her into this. But I refused to swallow my pride, and I said "fine". Data Entry. I had heard about it, but I never actually had done it. Birgitte and I went down to the conference office.

We were quickly instructed by the SV who we were to relieve of this job. A huge pile of tutorial evaluations was lying next to the computer. On the computer Excel was running, and we had to type the data on the evaluation forms into the spreadsheet. We didn't need to do the comments, but we did need to do all the numerical stuff. So yes, it was a boring job. However, Birgitte and I decided to make the best out of it. We easily divided work: I would type, and she would read the results of of the evaluation forms. She made me guess states and countries to go along with city names, we devised interesting abbreviations for some of the more common occurrences of codes, and we had a good time reading the comments. We'd like to do a really bad tutorial next time, though, because they have better comments. So I guess data entry isn't all that bad after all. We managed to fill some 3 hours with it in the end.

Part Seven