Virtual Conferences

Due to the COVID situation, I have, in the past 2 weeks, been approached by several people whose conferences are being cancelled asking me for advice on how to organize a virtual conference. For the past 7 years, I have been vocal about the OpenSimulator Community Conference, a purely virtual conference held in a 3D virtual environment similar to Second Life (for those who remember what that is). I wrote a blog post about the first one back in 2013. The conference has been held every year since then, and it’s always one of the highlights of my yearly online life.

This post is meant to shed some light over the largely uncharted territory of online conferencing — that is, uncharted for most of you who may read this. Online conferences have been happening for a long time in niche communities, such as the OpenSimulator community, disability communities, and communities that don’t have a lot of money to travel. Since I’ve experienced it first hand with OSCC, I’m going to explain how they work, primarily from the point of view of what it takes to organize them, and make them successful.

I finish this introduction with the bottom line: virtual conferences are less about the technological platform than they are about rethinking and retargetting the things that organizers and participants do into the new media. From the organizational point of view, it’s the same, but different! Continue reading

Posted in conferences, social software systems, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Virtual Conferences

How Many Trees Will Redeem My Lifetime Miles?

I have a very conflicted relationship with airplane travel. On the one hand, my lifestyle — both personal and professional — depends on it and, in particular, on long-distance flights. On the other, I hate that airplanes are so damn bad for the environment, and that there are no signs of them getting any better any time soon.

Recently, due to inevitable family circumstances, I came into possession of a relatively large piece of land in Portugal, some of which had been woodland before a series of fires completely ruined it. I’m looking at this at as opportunity for redemption. If I replant these areas, will it be enough to offset my lifetime CO2-e due to my frequent air travel? That’d be really nice.

To answer my question, I need two estimates. The first one is the estimate of how many miles I flew in airplanes so far. That can then be converted to CO2 emissions (CO2-e) using one of the many calculators out there. The second one is an estimate for how much CO2 a tree absorbs over its lifetime.

Here are the calculations. Continue reading

Posted in life, simulation | Comments Off on How Many Trees Will Redeem My Lifetime Miles?

Programming Journal: Call for Essays

The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming journal is teaming up with the Onward! conference regarding essays. In this year’s Onward! Essays’ Instructions for Authors, authors are given the choice of publication venue. They can either do it as before — i.e. publish the essay in the Onward! proceedings book, published by the ACM; or they can submit the essay to a special issue of the Programming Journal, and present it at the Onward! conference. The submission deadline for this special issue is April 23, 2018, and the issue is scheduled to be published in September, 2018.

In other words, the live event Onward! will feature oral presentations of essays from two publications: an ACM conference proceedings monograph and a special issue of the Programming Journal.

Why this?

Continue reading

Posted in academia, conferences, publications | Comments Off on Programming Journal: Call for Essays

To Big Or Not To Big

Giraffe koure niger 2006

Big data is everywhere. Not surprisingly, it has come to our neck of the woods, too: research in software engineering, programming languages, and computer science in general. I’ve done a fair amount of work with it, and I suspect that will not stop. But do we really need big data? When is “big” really necessary and when is it, well, just a showoff? Here’s a reflection on this topic, just to reinforce the point that more is not always better. It all depends on what we are trying to achieve.

Continue reading

Posted in research | Comments Off on To Big Or Not To Big

Walk the Talk

Ba b747-400 g-bnle arp

This post is primarily targeted at the Computer Science research communities that surround the ACM and the IEEE, but it applies to all tech communities that gravitate around conferences. I believe that an overwhelming majority of people in these communities is concerned about the effect that global warming is having on the Earth’s climate; many of us also know the urgency of the necessary measures. The question is: are we ready to act on what most of us believe, and reduce the amount of air travel we do for conferences? Or are we going to continue to live as if it doesn’t matter?

This post makes a radical proposal: let’s reduce and limit the number of physical conferences  organized by the ACM and the IEEE down to a reasonable number. Something like one physical conference per SIG per year. Read on.

Continue reading

Posted in computer scientists, conferences | 10 Comments

Divide by Zero! and Other Propaganda

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this incredible moment in history. In trying to wrap my head around it, I’m turning to what I know best: programs, programming, and software-intensive systems. And their flaws. This is a mini-essay on how the line between software systems and social systems is completely blurred, and how what we know of software can inform, or explain, the hyper-connected, information-rich world we live in.

Continue reading

Posted in commentary, life, social software systems | Comments Off on Divide by Zero! and Other Propaganda

Laws of Performant Software

Learning how to write performant code is hard. Here are a few simple laws that I hope will convey the core of the matter. I’m calling them…

Continue reading

Posted in advice, engineering, research | Tagged | 17 Comments

The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming

I’ve been relatively low key about something that I’m very excited about, so, after several months of planning, and a first, somewhat quiet, submission deadline, it’s time to release my enthusiasm. A group of us have started a new conference called <Programming>  associated with a new open-access journal called The Art, Science and Engineering of Programming. Here are some FAQs about this initiative. Continue reading

Posted in academia, conferences, publications, research | 3 Comments


Google's Lexus RX 450h Self-Driving Car

As a computer scientist specializing in programming, the social consequences of software-for-business-efficiency are worrying me more and more. Here at home, we’ve been having a conversation about what post-capitalism would look like in the face of quasi-universal automation, in the best case scenario. It’s really hard to tie all the loose ends of such a vision. It’s sort of like Communism, but where people don’t need to work in order to have a decent life; the machines do all the work for us. There would be no money. All basic needs would be available free of charge. Food? Free. Transportation? Free. Housing? Free. Health care? Free. Education? Free. Justice? Free. Law and order? Free. No need to work, other than voluntarily. Everything would be provided by an automated production system powered by intelligent software.

Continue reading

Posted in commentary, fiction, life, social software systems | 3 Comments


This post comes from an email conversation going on related to programming languages vs. libraries. The story goes that these days, the major productivity gains come not from new languages but from the existence of libraries that already do almost everything for you. That is unquestionable. These days people don’t choose programming languages as much as they choose libraries and frameworks that already do most of the work for them, and that happen to be written in some programming language or another. One can argue that these powerful libraries and frameworks stand in the shoulders of a lot of work in programming languages that became invisible by design. But that work has already been done, to the point that these powerful libraries are already out there.

So where does this leave programming languages? Are we done yet?

Continue reading

Posted in research | 10 Comments