Ludo Lunch: On the Grass

June 8th, 2015 by WEARN Nia

So I suppose Ludo Lunch was a point of convergence – Family life and professional life in one place. Back in September Simon Roth and I joked about running a relaxed family friendly conference about games, to be held on picnic blankets with baked goods. We were stood in London South Bank University for Women in Games 2014, reminiscing about when Game Camp was help in Paypal’s HQs.

Anyway sometimes silly ideas follow through and Ludo Lunch was born ( – And it was lovely – We held it on Christchuch’s Colleges Meadow in the center of Oxford, it was sunny, people brought snacks to share, someone passed around choc ices and we had talks and workshops at a very relaxed pace. Actual, since Will didn’t turn up it was entirely female speakers; running interactive fiction workshops talking about research, or localisation (all about the text box size) and at the same time a board game jam, and games being played.


Since it was family friendly, people brought their children – we had bubbles and balloons, craft items etc and time again I had people coming up and thanking me for hosting something everyone could some to. As an industry that’s growing up – that means there’s needs to be more events where people can bring the family – not hidden away in pubs or in stuffy conference centers all the time. It also means conferences need childcare options if they are going to stretch over the weekend – as they increasingly do (The Recent Google I/O Conference in London had this) . I’ve seen the difference in the people that turn up to Afternoon Play (The board game group I co run in Birmingham) by hosting that in coffee shops, not pubs. That also has a well attended annual picnic. I think the promise of baked goods is the way forward (See also Gamerbake)

Official Artist rendition of LudoLunch: On the grass™

Official Artist rendition of LudoLunch: On the grass™


Me and Brit (@bcwearn) doing out talk

I spoke about what having a baby had done to my ability to play strategy games and how at the time when I was most bored, with waiting around for hospital appointments (or indeed in hosiptal) I had the most free time I’ve ever had, but no one in the games industry thought that maybe advertising their games to me was a good idea. There’s a reason have so many players and I hope there’s still a place for me in the games industry when I next have chance to play something.

Will we host another one? Probably – I think Simon calculated it cost about £15 to put on – and that was mainly the raspberries for his cupcakes. I also hope other people do similar things – head outside, bring the family and don’t worry about the wi-fi password is for once…

Update – There’s a nice article – The benefits of a family-friendly conference at Ludolunch

‘Present Day Nia’ is a little bit angry with ‘Past Nia’

June 2nd, 2015 by WEARN Nia

I’m usually pretty good and organised but I’ve spent 4 days dealing with more spreadsheets than I care to count splitting up data, moving data around, making sure everything was right and then combing back into an excel spreadsheet to mail merge it and send it out to the students.

There are a few things that didn’t make this an easy task:

SITS outputs the people on the module just fine (although marks pro-formers and class lists output the data slightly differently, but it’s formatting instead of anything else). What SITS doesn’t add to that is e-mail addresses / usernames. Neither of these were available to me in September that I can remember – Septmber does seem a long time ago.

Blackboard does include usernames (that I can turn into e-mail addresses using my newly learned power of ‘Concatenation’ – amazing) but it outputs data in a slight different order from SITS- one sorts by user numbers, the other by surname I’m guessing – which is fine when you have a handful of students, it’s less useful when you have 300. This means I can’t just copy and paste the username data from Blackboard into the data from SITS


I know that’s not how you spell it

Now this is also a super complex module, made up technically of 5 codes worth of students (2 on campus & 2 Distance Learning and one set of students that join in on the module and are marked elsewhere) so for ease of marks inputting the mega list of students is no good and it needs to be split up into 4 separate sheets – one per code. That’s ok, but the work the students are handing in is a group work, and a group document – so they need to be shifted through and the right info put against the right student on the spreadsheet – Ignore the fact there were a dozen different people marking on the module – the actual collection of grades and feedback was pretty pain free and the marks were in on time. We also got together to mark some aspects of the games and another team combed through them for specifics. This however went onto a separate group marks sheet so it didn’t get lost.

This module also has a peer assessment aspect – for which we put our trust in WebPA – we have for years, it works great – and it takes it’s information for the module from Blackboard. Now we had a slight glitch with Blackboard this year – since we use a community to manage this module – and it included in the community for some reason the information for a load of students who had graduated – probably my own fault for being keen to sort out registers etc in September – I’ve learnt that lesson! – anyway it means WebPA had a whole section of junk students – usually fine, tucked away in a group but still there when I run the reports – and obviously still there on the Blackboard community when I outputted the data.

So, I have spent the best part of 2 days with 3 excel spreadsheets open

  1. The data downloaded from Blackboard (because it had the e-mail addresses) – one big list
  2. The Spreadsheet with Feedback on it (that all of the staff added too) – on 4 sheets
  3. The spreadsheet with Final Individual Grades (Including group marks and peer assessment) – on 4 sheets
  4. and also The WebPA groups section to check if a student was a junk student

… and I’ve done a lot of copying and pasting.

I’m sure there must have been an easier way to do this, I know the pitfalls of this year and I’m keen not to repeat them. I’d have just copy and pasted the grades and feedback into Blackboard if the grade center allowed enough characters but it doesn’t. I also don’t mind mail merging it out, but it means it falls on me to deal with complaints and issues when all I did was collate it.

I increasingly find work arounds within the tools I need to do my job efficiently this time of year (excel, word) through things my peers mentioned. If anyone does know of a way I could have done this more efficiently please let me know (or if there’s a way I can get e-mail addresses out of SITS – that would be lovely). I can however rest assured that all 300 people had a provisional grade and some feedback, in their inboxes. I’ve no idea if they will read it – I hope the mail merge didn’t mess up but it’s done, and now it’s onto the next one.

Virtual Office Colleagues

April 23rd, 2015 by WEARN Nia

Since coming back from Maternity leave in March I’ve found it a little difficult to get back on track – a little out of the loop on a lot of things (not having project students etc) and not all of my office colleagues are in all the time, or they’re off teaching or what not. So I’ve been catching up no the phd stuff I stupidly though I could do on maternity leave, but couldn’t get my brain in gear when I came across a tweet that mentioned a group for parents studying phds – Since I now tick that box I though I’d join, and I’m glad I did.

Its very nice to have a big group of people, doing a similar thing to you, that you can call on for advice, enter into discussions with a generally get along with. There’s shut up and Write Sessions, questions on the true nature of pedagogy, lots of discussion on methodology etc (what’s also nice that unlike real office colleagues you can ignore them if you want to focus on something else) – I’m much more on board with what I was doing, and I’m starting to find the headspace I need to write.

It’s part of a trend I can see of more and more things drifting into the sphere of Facebook – group projects, staff groups, interest groups are all there and used, daily – which means switching off from everything else is increasingly hard. I don’t want to make a separate staff account. I like being able to interact with students, and it’s so useful when they don’t check their e-mails. I just can’t help wondering at what point it will all come crashing down?