News:Gamestorming For Bioinformatics
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9.2 years ago

I am creating a collection of "gamestorming" techniques that can be applied to bioinformatics and research groups.

The word "gamestorming" is used to describe a series of techniques used to make group meetings more interesting and productive. Most of these techniques make use of whiteboards, post-its and drawings as a way to document the meeting. The word itself comes from a book published recently, "Gamestorming" by Gray, Brown and Macanufo, but some techniques are very old.

I think that it is common knowledge that most group meetings in the academic world are very boring and unproductive, so it may be useful to see if somebody has tried to apply gamestorming to real research life. I know that a group in Uniprot uses it for improving the web interface, and they are quite happy with it. My proposal is to use this discussion on Biostar to collect examples of gamestorming in bioinformatics: so, if you know any other technique, or if you have tried something similar in your group, please post about it here.

Note: I've described some techniques on a post in my blog, but I suggest to answer here on biostar.

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very nice post on your blog.

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thank you :-)

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Hi Giovanni, I work at EMBL-EBI (along with the colleague who works in UniProt, actually!), and I use Gamestorming, Innovation Games, and similar, home-made structures a lot in workshops. As it happens, I am facilitating one tomorrow on ontologies.

I'm also involved in a Cambridge gamestorming group (currently on hiatus) where a range of (usually UX people) get together to try out differen tgame structures in a "safe" (i.e. non-operational) environment.

Really busy right now but happy to discuss it all sometime.

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I am going to move this to the news section - it fits right in next to Rosalind.

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Interesting concepts - come to think of it some of these could be applied within lectures

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Agreed. These are great ideas. There is a whole field of research in scholarship of teaching and learning about using "active learning" approaches like these sorts of games in lectures.

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Hi again,

Yes, the Gamestorming book is popular with certain people here at EMBL-EBI. I also like the Innovation Games book for similar techniques. In addition, there are things that I or my colleagues (particularly the two others who are involved in user experience design) have come up with that we know work.

I have some favourites (in no particular order): 3-12-3 for brainstorming (sometimes adapted to 5-15-5, to be honest!); The 4 Cs, for breaking down problems; empathy maps (for better understanding users, funder, other stakeholders); what I call NVA: nouns, verbs, adjectives, again for breaking things down; the speedboat game, to identify things that are holding back an idea of project; basics like post-ups, affinity mapping and dot-voting, of course; I use speed sketching to help people explore design issues (especially UI issues) together; draw the box is a great exercise for working on the "vision" for something; elevator pitch is then very useful for helping people describe it; various kinds of ice-breaker;

Enough?! :)

// Francis

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Hello Francis, thank you very much for answering! If you want, you can copy the answers below, so people will vote you for them.

I am glad to know that other scientists use these techniques and that they are useful. I practiced the elevator pitch in the past, and use a lot of post-its and maps. I definitely have to try the 3-12-3 and the 4Cs :-)

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Dear Francis, Are all of these techniques you mention found in the Gamestorming book mentioned above?

//Genbio64

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Hello,

Sorry for the very long delay in response! No, they aren't all in Gamestorming.

See also the Innovation Games: http://innovationgames.com/

I describe speed sketching here: http://ebiinterfaces.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/speed-sketching-diy/

I should probably write a description of NVA, too! It's very simple. You have a kind of "focus group" to discuss a particular topic or design problem. As facilitator, you listen to the discussion, perhaps prompting and questioning occasionally. Filter the discussion for nouns (the things the group are talking about), verbs (actions that may take place), and adjectives (descriptions of things or actions)... write all these up on a big whiteboard or flipchart. It gives the group a way to visualise what they are discussing... I suppose it is a bit like generating a word cloud! Do that for a while (20 - 30 mins, maybe), and then discuss the words you have picked out. The group can begin to explore and prioritise things some more, and it can lead you into other "game" structures.

cheers, Francis

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Hi Giovanni, here something about gamestorming: Four Articles & Papers Defining this thing called #Gamification: http://tinyurl.com/c7c3twm

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Thank you for the comment mvschneiderg! Although gamestorming and gamification are slightly different. Gamestorming is more about how to organize group meetings, while gamification is more about designing user interfaces inspired by games. Thank you anyway!

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9.2 years ago

Coding Dojos and Katas

Coding Dojos and Katas are short sessions where programmers meet to solve a simple programming problem. Katas are usually very short, about 15 minutes, while Coding Dojos can last a couple of hours.

Game: one person chooses a programming problem to solve. It is usually something very easy; here a few examples of topics for a coding kata:

  • how to create a line plot in R?
  • how to calculate p-values from a given distribution?
  • how to write a test for a function?

Then, people meet in a room where there is only one big monitor and one keyboard. In turn, people explain how they would solve the problem. There are many variants on how to do this: the most common is to have person at the keyboard, and another person explaning what he would write, for 5 minutes; when the time has passed, the person who was explaining takes the place of the person at the keyboard, and somebody else takes it place.

The biggest advantage of Coding Katas and Dojos is that programmers in a group get to know the coding style of each other. It is a good way to know which libraries other people would use, how they write documentation and testing, and much more. This is important in a group, because it makes it easier for programmers to talk and exchange scripts, reducing the problem of redundant code. Plus, it is also a way to learn how to program better.

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9.2 years ago

The “please leave me a feedback post-it” poster game

This is a technique that I applied to a poster presented at the ECCB conference this year.

Basically, when you design the poster, leave a section where people can give feedback on the poster. The best thing is to ask three different questions, because this makes it easier for people to reply.

enter image description here

To do this game, it is very important to be gentle and educated. Explain your poster to the people who are interested, as you would do normally; but once you have finished, ask them to leave a comment on the poster, using a post-it.

When I tried this at the ECCB, it had a huge success.. I got a lot of feedback from many people.

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9.2 years ago

The “post-publication feedback” game

After a paper is published, researchers usually proceed to the next project, and do not speak too much about what has been done. This is unfortunate, because much can be learned by discussing what has gone well or wrong in the paper, and what can be used to make the next publications better. The “post-publication feedback” game is a way of getting feedback from the authors of a paper, without taking them too much time and without boring them.

Participants: This game should be done after one or two months after a paper is published. All the authors of the paper should participate, although other members of the lab can come as well.

Game: In the game, the group leader or the facilitator splits a blackboard into a few sections. You should choose only three or for section titles from the following list (explanation of section titles is given within parenthesis):

  • Message of the paper (Can you resume the most important message of this paper, in a sentence? Sometimes, authors of the same paper may disagree on this, and it is interesting to know if it is the case)
  • What would you change? (What would you change if you had to start this work from the beginning?)
  • What analysis will you keep? (Which analysis/method/type of visualization did you find so useful that you will use it in other projects?)
  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What’s next? (What is the next thing to do to continue this work?)

After the blackboard has been splitted into section, the facilitator should give three post-its to each person. After giving 5 minutes to everybody to write, each person is asked in turn to post a post-it to the blackboard, in any section. Each person will be given 2 or 3 minutes to explain what he wrote, and then the turn will pass to another person.

After finishing the game, it would be a good habit to copy all the contents of the blackboard and put them into an archive.

Notes: This game must be very quick, and should not last more than half an hour. There are three reasons to keep this short. First, we want to avoid to create discussions between members of the group (your results are all wrong! I could not finish my part because you didn’t give me the materials! etc..). If someone talks for more than 5 minutes, the group leader or the faciliator should interrupt him and proceed to the next person. Second, if people are aware that there it will be no discussion on what they will say, and that they won’t be forced to explain much of what they wrote, they are more likely to give negative comments, which is what we want to get. The third advantage of making this game quick is that people won’t get bored after the meeting, so it will be easier to propose them to do the same after future publications. In theory, members of a group should get the habit of making one such meeting after each publication, and not be depressed by it.

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9.2 years ago

The “What would Sabeti think of this manuscript” game

This is a game that I applied to improve a manuscript and a poster. Pardis Sabeti is the name of a renown iranian population geneticist, and one result I got from the application of this game is an idea of what she would think of a poster I prepared.

Participants: you can do this game by yourself, or invite other group members, if they have time. If you can ask somebody else to fill the names and the situations for you, it will be better.

Game: Take a piece of paper, split it into many little pieces, and write one of the following names on each piece:

  • Pardis Sabeti
  • Kimura
  • Stephen Wright
  • your boss
  • the names of some of your collaborators
  • your grandmother

You can substitute Sabeti and the other names with scientists known in your main field of work

Take another paper, split it in many little pieces again, and write some random situations on each:

  • at a conference
  • before getting to sleep
  • after a bicycle ride
  • reading papers early in the morning
  • at the end of the day, after a very long meeting
  • while eating chocolate

Once you have finished, mix the two sets of pieces, and extract combinations of person/situations. For each combination, try to fill a table containing the following columns:

  • What is the Principal Message?
  • Doubts
  • Which section would he/she skip?
  • What would he change if he had to do the poster?
  • What would he/she do after reading the poster?

Here is an example of what I filled for a poster of mine: link to image

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I think is excellent!!

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9.1 years ago

The "Best beginning sentence for a Discussion" contest

The objective of this game is to make a list of nice sentences to start the Discussion section of a paper.

Participants: all the members of the group, or a group of PhD students

Game: People are invited to compile a list of beginning sentences in the Discussion section of papers in their discipline. Basically, each person should take about ten papers, copy the first sentence, and add a short description of the paper and of the main results.

After a week, all the participants meet again, and present the sentences they have found. To make things a bit more entertaining, the best ten sentences can be written to a whiteboard or a document, and people can be asked to vote for the best one.

At the end of the game, people will have obtained a list of good ways to start the Discussion section of their papers.

Alternatives: there are many alternatives to this game. Instead of listing the first sentence of the Discussion, people can focus on the Abstract or the Introduction. Also, people can discuss other details: how many paragraphs should the Discussion contain, what is the ideal lenght of the Introduction, and much more.

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