Virtual Reality is one of those ideas that has been part of the tech folklore for ever, but that haven’t quite taken off. Popularized in the 80s, VR has seen a number of ups and downs, hits and misses, hypes and backlashes — the most recent one being the rise and fall of Second Life. With VR, it’s always been two steps forward, one step back. Suddenly, a programmable, kickstarter-funded $300 headset falls in our laps from out of nowhere, and… it’s another two or four steps forward!
This is the story of Jan Vitek and I approaching the ACM Publications Board with a proposal for publishing the OOPSLA papers in a journal. Even though we did this together, the analysis and opinions in this post are mine alone.
TL;DR: if there’s any lesson to be learned from the ACM Publications Board’s policies on scientific publication is this: pay attention to their policies, then do the exact opposite.
[WARNING: this post is irrelevant for all but academics]
The market of scientific publications is such an organic mess, there’s no end to topics that can be beaten over their heads. This post is about “open access” publications. Lately there has been a push back against publishers that keep their content behind pay walls, coupled with a big favoritism for publishers that offer their content in “open access.” There’s no such thing as free lunch, ever. That’s the case here too. If readers don’t pay publishers of “open access” content, someone needs to pay. Guess who?
Serving as Program Committee Chair of OOPSLA 2013 has been an enlightening experience, and I’d like to share one more insight I’ve gained (I wrote about another one here). Specifically, I want to focus on the acceptance rate.
Some conversations I’ve been having over the past year led me to a deeper exploration of the issue of conferences vs. journals in Computer Science. The debate, so far, seems to be missing a few critical observations regarding scientific journals and our own ACM, and therefore it is somewhat incomplete. This essay lays out my thoughts on it.
Warning: No one except academics cares about this!
Some time ago, 2 of my PhD students were facing the prospect of going away to do their research elsewhere for a few months. In both cases, and for different reasons, it made a lot of sense for them to go. But we needed to stay in touch, and I needed to keep tabs on what they were doing. These days, with tools like Skype and Google docs, collaborating over the Internet is really easy. However, neither Skype nor Google docs are designed for supporting the specific kinds of interactions that go on between advisor and student, and within small academic units (aka “Labs”). First, we need to run them both independently. Second, and more importantly, we can’t really share a PDF or powerpoint document in the way that we do when we are working face to face going through a paper or a presentation — pointing, highlighting, using words like “here”, “this paragraph”, “this picture”, “go to next page”, etc. So I built my own virtual lab.
Recently, a number of women in Tech have come out publicly describing horribly close encounters with misogyny and outright aggression on the Internet. I’m not talking about subtle attitudes of discrimination that don’t hurt immediately but that hurt women’s careers in the long run – those are real discriminators, I’m afraid, and I’ll write about them some other time. This post is about explicit hostility and intimidation of the kind we have seen happening with Kathy Sierra, and more recently with Sarah Parmenter.
I recently watched a TED talk with a fun topic: why is ‘x’ used as the unknown variable in Algebra and beyond? If you haven’t seen it, this 4-min talk is above. The thesis is this: x is used, because the Spanish, who were the first to translate the great scientific and engineering knowledge coming from the Arab world, don’t have in their language the ‘sh’ sound that dominated the original Arabic word, ‘something‘. Hence, by convention, they used the sound ‘k’ as in the Greek letter chi (χ) (pronounced ‘kah-i’ in English); later translations of these works to Latin mapped that to the Latin letter x, because the symbols look the same. The speaker is engaging and confidant, the talk is short and sweet, it’s a great story to tell over a dinner party. Except for one detail: it’s full of historical inaccuracies.