Visualizing “When do students submit assignments?”

Last week Florian mentioned, that it is quite interesting to see when students submit their stuff for an assignment. I thought this was quite interesting. To answer this question visually, I used data from the courses “Introduction to Computer Networking” and “Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing”. Both courses had assignments over two weeks and a deadline set to Monday, 8:00 AM. The data consists of 811 submissions over a total of 8 assignments.

The data is exported from the ILIAS submission system. It is then parsed and an SVG is generated. The code I wrote therefore and the datasets are available via GitHub. After playing around with different styles and layouts I ended up with the above punchcard visualization (Benjamin deserves credit for bringing up the punchcard visualization idea).

It is interesting to see that students in fact submit stuff the whole night before a deadline. Interesting peaks are at midnight and between 7-8 AM. Especially the hours right before and after midnight are quite heavily frequented. To me, the most suprising fact was that students actually really do submit their stuff during the whole night :-).

Informatiktage 2013 in Bonn

I spent the last few days in Bonn at the Informatiktage 2013. The event was quite nice and I got the opportunity to meet some interesting people. I attended a two-day workshop by a big tool manufacturers IT manager. The workshop was about scalability and shifting some non-crititcal components into “the cloud”. Though I am quite sceptical about the cloud-thingy, the workshop held quite some insights for me. The thing that stuck most with me was their strict implementation of the design principle “design for failure and nothing will fail“.

As part of the event a three-page paper/summarization of my bachelor thesis was published within the proceedings (first time something of me got published — yay!) and I held a poster session (the poster is linked below). For me, the exchange with other students/activists/hackers is very important. Often just simple thoughts or hints on technologies I didn’t know about, inspire new ideas and projects. During the last 2-3 year I have attended a lot of meetups, BarCamps and other events and I took something from each of them.

Open Data Hackathon February 2013

On February the 23rd the datalove university group participated in a global Hackathon centered around Open Data. We gathered within a room at the university and worked on different projects all day. At peak level we were around 17 people: university students and personnel, students by the university of applied sciences and local politicians. We organized enough food, coffee and stuff for everyone and spent a nice day working on many different projects. Mainly to highlight:

  • Falco worked on updating the LiveMap, which we have created about two years ago in an 48hr hackathon. For most of us this had been the first bigger node.js project and so it was time to correct some faulties. To paraphrase Stefan: “While looking for better ways on how to do such a project, I only found other people who forked our stuff.” Well, we are not entirely certain, if that is a good thing ;).

    Some Open Data activists from Cologne are currently adapting the project to their city: schienenliebe.de. It is always very nice to see other people being able to build upon your work!

  • Benjamin took use of the shape files (= geodata of local city districts) for Ulm. We gathered this data under a free license about two years ago, but never had any use for them — until now!
    Check out Click that ‘hood!
  • I took the time to work on an idea which I had in mind for a long time: visualizing different facilities within Ulm which are currently open, on a web based map. This can be used to e.g. find out which bakeries in the inner city are still open on a Saturday evening. The application is online via oeffnungszeiten.ulmapi.de.

    The opening hours data is gathered from the Open Street Map project. I plan to regularly export it from there, although I first have to manually correct some of the entries, since not all of them are valid. I also plan to add new opening hour entries to the map, though I am not yet entirely sure about how to approach that.

  • Stefan is working on visualizing the household budget of Ulm. The respective data has been made available to the public under CC-BY in the meantime. If you have any knowledge on Doppik calculations, I am sure he would appreciate help!
  • Some friends were brainstorming about network visualizations considering the university. When I heard of the idea I was quite enthusiastic and went to talk to the local network administrators. As a result we got a nice data treasure: sanitized log data of all (~360) access points on the university terrain over the duration of one week. Under ODbL v1.0. _This_ is quite nice. The data is available here. I spent nearly all of the Hackathon writing a parser for the data. When you have 76 MB ASCII stuff (> 500 000 entries) a database is worth it. In the meantime the parser is finished but we are still missing geolocations for the access points. For this purpose I wrote a very simple web application to crowd-source the process of collecting geolocations for all access points. But this (and the resulting visualizations) are material enough for one separate blog post, once the project is finished!

The sourcecode for most of the projects described is available online via GitHub, either on github.com/UlmApi or on github.com/cmichi.

OpenCityCamp 2012


The last two photos were shot by stk, who also wrote an article on the event.


To quote phil: “Isn’t it a little bit late to write about this?”. Yeah I know it is, I am just catching up with some stuff which I didn’t get around to write down so far.

About 1.5 years ago we founded the datalove group at university. In the meantime members of the group have met up with people from the city, created some projects and even participated in consultations with government representatives. datalove fellow stk has even participated in the writing of a book. The LiveMap, which we did create last year, has been shown at the CeBIT ’12 as part of OpenData initiatives within Germany.

In May our efforts culminated in the organization of a BarCamp around Open Data. One week before the BarCamp Benjamin and I were guests in the local radio program “Plattform” at Radio Free FM. We talked about Open Data in general, Open Data within Ulm and about the OpenCityCamp. The recording of the show is online and can be found here (in German).

The BarCamp itself was pretty interesting. We managed to get a pretty decent sponsoring which resulted in awesome Catering and a really nice event. We didn’t really know if people would show up to give a presentation, but in the end everything went fine. We were able to have two parallel sessions most of the time. The whole event had about 50-60 participants.

There were several things we did, which I haven’t seen on other BarCamps. Most notably: Etherpads for each session. Nowadays you can most certainly say that within each session of a BarCamp there is probably at least one person with a laptop. People attending the sessions started to note opinions, interesting stuff, links and questions there. This worked pretty good! Even now you can look the pads up (here).

Second most notably: Hanging a huge plain sheet of paper at the wall, so that people could note their thoughts there.

The whole event took place in the university. This enabled us to use the equipment there (to spontaneously bake apple pie for example :)).

The BarCamp was also a good opportunity for some people to push the development of a local Freifunk community. Visit http://ulm.freifunk.net for more information on that.

MediaGoblin instance running

From April to June I have been occupied as a student assistant at an institute at university. My task was to help in moving the old website to the universities Typo3 instance (new website). While doing so I replaced the header photos with new ones. I took this as a chance and asked the administrators of the universities computing centre to take me with them to the local bwGrid node, a computing grid for scientific calculations. The photos came out pretty good and in the meantime have been reused by other people for all kinds of things.

I was also asked to take some photos for the website of another institute. I am quite satisfied with the photos, though they have been shot in a way that they look good as a small picture slice on those websites. So intentionally some of them won’t make good fullscreen photos.

To make those and the other photos I took/take online accessible I decided to set up a MediaGoblin instance. MediaGoblin is a GNU project that aims to build a flickr/deviantart/etc. alternative (see Wikipedia or the official website for a more detailed description). I have been sitting on the dev mailinglist since two or three months and silently been experimenting with the software. So time to publicly link it now: http://media.micha.elmueller.net/.

For now the instance has registration disabled, since I want to be able to adapt the installation to my own needs. I hope to be able to find some time in contributing something to the project.

Lucky Peak

This is just a personal note to me on stuff I have been thinking about for the past months. I always want myself to remember this. My life for the past few semesters has been on an amazing high. I haven’t been this lucky at any other point in my life. Everything is so good at the moment, that I don’t want to think about how it could get any better. I feel, as if I have constantly made the right choices for the past years. I feel, as if I have met the exact right people at the exact right time.

Most of this partly relates to having a social peak for the past semesters. Haven’t had relations to that many people at any other point in my life. In conjunction with the rather small university this makes a perfect social atmosphere for me at this point in my life.

I feel as if I am, maybe for the first time, doing with my life what I really want to do. I am very happy and I love each day.

University project: Route planner for the university terrain

At my university every bachelor student of a computer science degree has to do a project in a team. For one semester you plan the project, do requirements engineering, etc. in a team of 3 students. In the next semester you actually code the project in a team of 6 students.

All teams had to implement the same project. The project was to build a route planner for the university terrain from ground up.
There were some things that were quite tricky: Things like multiple floors on top of each other.

About the routing: Usual algorithms for routing problems (Dijkstra, Bellman-Ford, etc.) take the approach of a weighted graph. Our team decided to go for a graph-based NoSQL database: Neo4J. Since we were going to build a route planner we might as well use a database that is inherently constructed using a graph.

Many of the other teams had problems with the routing algorithms.
If you were going to use some relational database, this was going to get quite ugly.

Don’t choose your technologies just because it is the only technology you happen to know! Choose the technologies based on the fact that it fits the job best.

As a web application framework we decided to go for Vaadin. Vaadin is a framework on top of GWT that enables you to write web applications like you would write a Swing application in Java. A cross-compiler converts Java code into JavaScript, HTML & CSS. Since most members of our team were familiar with Java, this was an easy choice. The framework worked quite well, very fast development cycle.

We also wrote a standalone desktop application for uploading and editing maps. But since we splitted the tasks I was only involved in the synchronization with the web app (which we did using git, see my article Git as an Update mechanism).

Other technologies involved: For printing PDFs we decided to go with LaTeX. We used node.js to scrape the university address book. This way we gathered a large amount of reasonable data for the database.

The student-projects will not be used productive. However the institute works on an example implementation that will be used.


Unsere Gesellschaft zerstört Kreativität.

Das Turbo-Abi macht unsere Kinder zu Lernrobotern – sie schaufeln den Stoff in sich hinein und spucken ihn für Noten wieder aus. […]

Wir müssen Fächer streichen und die Lehrpläne auf ein Mindestmaß reduzieren.
Notwendig ist das eigenständige Lernen in Projekten, in denen unsere Kinder die Kompetenz entwickeln,
die sie für die Zukunft brauchen: Teamfähigkeit und soziale Verantwortung statt Ellbogenmentalität,
Kreativität und Erschließen von Zusammenhängen statt Fachidiotie, Lernen aus Interesse statt Lernen für die nächste Note.

Ulrike Köllner, in der taz vom 20.8.11

Ich beobachte in meinem Studium häufig, dass Kommilitonen die Fähigkeit fehlt im engeren Sinne kreativ zu arbeiten: Sie können Dinge nicht hinterfragen oder aus verschiedenen Blickwinkeln betrachten.

Unser Gesellschaftssystem ist nicht darauf ausgelegt kreative Menschen zu fördern. Das System belohnt Querdenker nicht. In der Schule wird etwa der Schüler belohnt, der fremdes Gedankengut möglichst originalgetreu wiedergibt und niederschreibt. Nicht derjenige, der sich eigene Gedanken macht oder den Stoff hinterfragt.

Nikola Tesla studierte erst Mathematik, dann unter anderem Physik und Philosophie. Er studierte über Jahre hinweg an verschiedenen Universitäten und wurde zwischendurch sogar exmatrikuliert. Tesla gilt als einer der einflussreichsten Ingenieure unserer Geschichte. Wechselstrom oder Radiotechnik etwa sind seine Verdienste. Heute würde er vermutlich als Langzeitstudent abgestempelt werden. Ihm würden Vorwürfe gemacht werden, weil er nicht rechtzeitig fertig geworden ist, die Regelstudienzeit überschritten hat oder noch nicht in einer Firma arbeitet.

Würde er wohl mit solch einer Vergangenheit noch einen Studienkredit oder BAföG bekommen?

Große Wissenschaftler und Ingenieure waren oft vielfältig gebildet und auf mehreren Gebieten tätig. Oft musikalisch begabt und künstlerisch tätig. Als Schriftsteller oder Maler: Der erste Philosoph, Pythagoras, war auch einer der größten Mathematiker. Im Zuge der Industrialisierung im 20. Jahrhundert fand eine Spezialisierung der Berufe statt. Wer früher ein ganzes Auto bauen musste, muss jetzt nur noch drei Schrauben anziehen können.

Wenn ich heute Leuten erzähle, dass ich Vorlesungen höre, die ich nicht anrechnen lassen kann, können die meisten Gesprächspartner das nicht nachvollziehen. Es macht auf sie einen seltsamen Eindruck. Einige Kommilitonen von mir studieren inzwischen seit mehr als siebzehn Semestern. Ein anderer ist im neunten Bachelorsemester.

Wieso wird so etwas von einem nicht unbeträchtlichen Teil der Gesellschaft als seltsam und negativ angesehen?

In Diskussionen mit diesen Leuten habe ich immer den Eindruck, dass sie denken man würde die Gesellschaft aufhalten. Nicht zum Fortschritt beitragen. Faulenzen, nicht fleißig sein, nicht arbeiten. Den ganzen Tag irgendetwas machen, bloß nicht studieren. Meiner Ansicht nach ist diese Haltung enorm kurzsichtig! Für mich ist Studium genau das: Seine eigenen Interessen verfolgen, herausfinden was einen interessiert, fachfremde Vorlesungen hören, seinen Horizont erweitern, sich mit etwas auseinanderzusetzen ohne ein direktes kommerzielles Interesse zu verfolgen!
Letzlich ist Innovation eben nicht von jemandem zu erwarten, der nur das Nötigste lernt und das Studium überhaupt eigentlich nur hinter sich bringen will, weil er später mal ein Einkommen benötigt.

Unser Bildungssystem ist nicht darauf ausgelegt fähige Wissenschaftler, die selber nachdenken, hervorzubringen sondern Arbeitskräfte für die Wirtschaft, die nur das Nötigste zu wissen brauchen.

Dann wird eben nur gepaukt und nicht studiert.

Wieso fällt es vielen Leuten extrem schwer Dinge nicht nur herzustellen und zu kopieren, sondern komplett neu zu entwerfen. Sich neue Architekturen und Ansätze zu überlegen. Bestehendes über den Haufen zu werfen und einen komplett neuen Ansatz zu schaffen?

Weil sie es nie gelernt haben.

Flyer des Bildungsprotests, entdeckt an der Uni Ulm.
Ich finde ihn sehr passend zu diesem Beitrag.


About Me

I am a 29 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.


All content is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International (if not explicitly noted otherwise).
I would be happy to hear if my work gets used! Just drop me a mail.
The CC license above applies to all content on this site created by me. It does not apply to linked and sourced material.