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Dr Nick Hamilton and Dr David Green

Dr Nick Hamilton and Dr David Green, QCIF eResearch Analysts at the University of Queensland, organise and deliver online training and virtual Hacky Hours. They have provided some tips for researchers to get the most out of the format. 

With many researchers working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, QCIF moved its training program and Hacky Hours online.

If you haven’t experienced Hacky Hour already, it is an informal session for researchers to ask IT experts about research-related technical issues, such as computing (HPC, cloud, virtual machines and virtual desktops), data storage, coding and more. 

QCIF eResearch Analysts Dr Nick Hamilton and Dr David Green have outlined what they’d like researchers to know before they join in online. 

Tips for joining Hacky Hour:

  1. Beginners are welcome. You might think it is a “dumb” question, but chances are many people have had the same issue and the Hacky Hour teams have probably helped them! It’s easy to get stuck on simple things when it is new, and a couple of minutes with an expert can often fix it.
  2. Please visit QCIF’s Hacky Hour webpage prior to the session to check whether you need to email anyone for the virtual meeting ID or link. Some Hacky Hours have their meeting link on this webpage, others require you to send an email to receive it. 
  3. Feel free to let your relevant Hacky Hour team know beforehand what the problem you’d like advice about is and they will try and ensure they have an expert in that area available to help you.
  4. Try and have the problem clear in your head before the session. Sometimes just by getting ready to explain it to someone else you will find you see what the real problem is and what the solution is.
  5. Before you join the session, if you can show on your computer what the problem is, it will save time if you have it set up ready to share. 
  6. If you are not sure if your problem is suitable, join a session and ask anyway. The teams might not know the solution, but they may know someone to put you in contact with who can help. 

General tips for online training (applicable to Hacky Hour too):

  • It helps to see someone via video, but if you are shy feel free to just join with audio.
  • If you have connection/bandwidth problems working from home, try turning off your video and just using sound. Turning off a VPN can also sometimes help.  
  • Good audio is essential. To avoid any issues, please ensure that:
    • you use a headset (earbuds or headphones), or an echo-cancelling speaker and microphone device
    • Zoom is configured to use that audio device for both microphone and speaker functions
    • if you are in a noisy environment, keep your microphone muted except when you speak. Zoom has a hot key combination for mute and unmute.
  • If using video (i.e. your webcam), for best visual results:
    • be conscious of distractions in the background, e.g. other people or pets. (Note that UQ’s virtual Hacky Hour welcomes brief introductions to pets!)
    • try to avoid having strong lighting behind you as this makes you a silhouette. Strong lighting includes overhead lights and unshaded windows.
    • often the glow from your laptop screen or monitor is sufficient front illumination to make you clearly visible. 

More information about Queensland’s Hacky Hours:

More information about QCIF’s training program: