Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acceptance Rates and Impact Factors

For those of you who do publish at computer science conferences*:

1) On your CV/Biosketch/Website/etc. list-of-publications, do you include conference acceptance rates?

2) If you do, what  is the threshold for you to mention it? (e.g., 50%, 30%, 10% ?)

For those of you who don't publish at computer science conferences:

0) Hey, why aren't you publishing at CS conferences? We're cool people, and we start counting at zero.  

1) On your CV/Biosketch/Website/etc. list-of-publications, do you include journal impact factors?

2) If you do, what is the threshold for you to mention it? (e.g., do you list IFs for startup journals)?

And for anyone willing to share their field / subfield, I'd be interested to hear that as well. I'm planning to assemble this information into a longer post on the topic in a few weeks.

* This includes anything which has archival proceedings, like some workshops, symposia, summer/winter/fall/spring schools, etc. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ada! [CSEdWeek]

Today is the great Ada Lovelace's birthday. In case you have't noticed my icon, she has always been my favorite computer scientist, so I was delighted to see today's Google's doodle:

Ada's birthday celebration also helps kick off Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) which, as a computer science educator (and friend of NCWIT), I am honored to support. CSEdWeek is a worldwide effort to increase interest and participation in the awesomeness that is CS. Lots of great resources on the CSEdWeek website, go check it out.

Finally, in other exciting FCS news, it turns out yesterday was Grace Hopper's birthday! Two famous FCSes were born one day apart. I think that's really cool. Any of you share birthdays with Grace or Ada? This is actually a fun math problem, and, indeed, forms the basis of a cryptological attack called the the birthday attack.

See! Not only is CS everywhere, but:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seeing sexism in academia - moving up the ranks opens the eyes

A few years ago I remember reading an article about the fact that as women become more senior in their disciplines they start to encounter more sexism. For a long time I've been trying to figure out how that worked - was it that senior women encountered senior men more often, and were thus encountering old attitudes?

Recently, after a particularly upsetting incident, I realised what it is. It is that as we become more senior and have more experiences, we simply see sexism more. We are more aware. As junior women, when we encounter a microaggressive comment, it's just one papercut. Maybe it's one of those very subtle papercuts that you don't even notice until a few days later when you use rubbing alcohol.

But as you become more senior, you become more aware. You start counting these comments, and noticing them more and more.

"What's the big deal? Who cares what they say?" the well-intentioned male colleague says. The big deal is that at work I am Scientist first, Woman second. Men that treat my science as secondary (or even peripherally) to my gender insult my intelligence and insult my years of hard work to get to the place I am at.

Furthermore, the fact that these comments are unequally delivered is particularly infuriating. If, when my male colleagues had newborns, people said, "OMG! How will you survive as a professor??? How will you keep your research program afloat?! AUGH!!!", it would be ok. If, when my male colleagues wore colorful clothing, their senior colleagues stopped them in the hallway and said, "Please don't take this in the wrong way, but that shirt really brings out the color of your beautiful eyes.", it would be ok.

But it's not equal. Women-as-mother, women-as-sexulized-object - these take first place. Women-as-scholar, woman-as-professor is in the back seat.

So what do I do in these situations when they happen to me? First, my heart starts pounding. I think, "This is A Moment! I am supposed to Say Something!" Then, I stop. I realize this person is just clueless. They have no idea that they are saying all this dreadful stuff only to women and not men. They honestly have no earthly idea. Finally, I ask myself if this is a Teaching Moment or not. It usually is not, at least not right then. 

These attitudes are so ingrained in our culture, they are just a part of how many people think. Publically humiliating the offender will not suddenly make them change their ways. But sometimes I desperately want to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Signal Boost: Help get GoldieBlox off the ground

This is absolutely, positively awesome.

It's called GoldieBlox, and is a new engineering toy marketed to 5-9 year old girls, developed by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford. It's meant to inspire girls in the same way legos and erector sets inspire boys, and uses storytelling to do it. (Reminds me a little of Computational Fairy Tails, actually :-))

I think it's brilliant. I always hated the "pink aisle" at the toy store, and agree that we definitely need more toys geared toward girls that engage their spatial and problem solving abilities.

She has a KickStarter campaign to get her toy into production, and is 25% toward her goal. So go watch the video, then donate some money if you are able. Even $5 could go a long way.

And, Debbie - kudos for a great idea. I wish you lots of luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My how things change

Before you are a professor:
"OMG, I cannot believe the professor's slides have typos in them. And a boring PPT template. And looks like it was written in 1983. Oh, and, like, OMG, don't they know we don't use gopher anymore??"
After you are a professor:
Hmm... will they notice the mustard stain? 
Yeah. It's that bad, folks. I have typos! Spelling errors! Ugly slides that are from 1983! And despite my best efforts, large parts of my lectures are BORING!

My dear professors of yesteryear, I am sorry for judging. I get it now.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Houston, we have an image problem

I was at a novelty store a few months ago, and came across a board game called "The Mad Professor Science Kit". I noted that the mad science professor looks nothing like me at all.

I've written a lot about how journalists and artists and other media people need to get the memo about what professors and scientists look like, in order to help change images in the minds of the younger generation. 

Alas, we still have a ways to go. Here is my unscientific analysis.

Method: Clip Art Google Image search, Screenshot of page 1 of results.

Term 1: professor

Results: 8% owl, 92% male, 0% female. Only one person who may be of asian or latino descent. (Note: Page 2 has a whopping two female professors - wowie! And one person of color.) 

Term 2: scientist

Results: 80% male, 20% female. No owls. One person of color. Page two has owls, and a few more women.

Term 3: engineer

Results: Of 19 humans and gendered characters (Mickey Mouse), 90% male, 10% female. No people of color.

Term 4: "computer scientist"

Results: Of the three humans, 33% are women! And it's Grace Hopper, baby! No people of color, though we do have a link to "African Americans in Science and Technology", which is nice. An a Pi symbol, cat, Connect 4, and some cool geek pride T-shirts. 

"Software engineer" and "programmer" do not yield very positive results, but I am pleased to say "computer programmer" yields several women, including a woman of color and this awesome coloring book page: 

I know it seems like a silly thing, clipart, but a heck of a lot of people use it when preparing presentations.

Any artists out there want to start a revolution? Or maybe work on an NSF proposal? I think this would be a great STEM education thing. And easy as anything to do. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kudos to Margo Seltzer

Margo Seltzer, fellow FCS, profesor at Harvard, and well known in the CS blogosphere, was featured in a great article in Txchnologist about women in CS. You can read the article here.

I love just about everything about the article, in particular Margo's comments on polo shirts:
Txch: The computer science community may not be able to control the way programmers are portrayed in the press, but it can at least control the image it projects. What are the big things they shouldn’t do if they want women to apply?

MS: Here’s my favorite. I was chatting with a group of university reps from a very large high-tech company. The reps were both men and women, and they were bemoaning the fact that they found it very difficult to attract women programmers. I looked at them and I said to one of the women, “Are the company shirts you’re wearing men’s polos or women’s polos?” She said, “Oh, it’s a men’s polo shirt.” I said, “Why? Why don’t you buy women’s polo shirts? They would fit better.” And she says, “Well, there aren’t very many of us and it would cost more.”

Now, this is a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I looked at them and I said, “I run a company of 25 people, and you know what? We buy men’s and women’s polo shirts. You’re sending a message that says men are the norm and women are second-class citizens, so we have to put up with what they give us.” I’m sure not many women look at the polo shirts and say, “This isn’t for me,” but I still think it sends a very strong subliminal message.

The other data point is—look at the big annual events that these companies hold for all their customers. How many of the featured speakers are women? The answer goes from zero to one, amidst twenty or thirty speakers. You see this over and over. I think it sends a message that says, “We’re a guys’ company.” There are little things that a company could do to send a message that says, “We’re gender agnostic. We actually hire both boys and girls.”
And her comments on how sexism is less of a big deal to companies than racism:
Txch: Does it behoove companies to narrow the gender gap?

MS: In the same way that we would not tolerate an environment that was blatantly racist. That would not be tolerated in any company in America. And yet we have these pockets in cultures of companies that really are very hostile towards women. People don’t seem to find that nearly as offensive.
I believe I've written about this topic before, where it's strangely acceptable to be sexist and ableist, but not racist. We really need to work on that if we have any hope of making progress.

In any case, kudos to Margo. Go read the article and check out her blog!

Friday, June 22, 2012

But wait there's more!

One thing I find really interesting is when a journal/conference/grant submission system does not restrict the "errata" an author can tack on to the end of their manuscript / proposal. Sometimes this is useful and important information, like budgets and collaboration letters, but often it is far too much information which does not help the authors.

The longer you are in academia, the more critical reading and reviewing you have to do. Not just academic service reviewing, but the work of your students, colleagues, college administrators, etc. Though our brains don't get any bigger to accomodate the additional text - it still takes a long time to critically appraise this stuff. So when I see superfluous errata, the only thing I want to write in my review is "LESS IS MORE. LESS IS MORE. LESS IS MORE"

(Well, ok, maybe just once, since three times kinda makes me a hypocrite.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Advice to people submitting things for review

Dear Author(s): 
Generally, when editors/PC members volunteer hours of their time to read your paper, read reviews of your paper, and give you helpful comments to improve your work, you should be polite, kind, and thankful toward them. That way, if your paper is borderline, we are far more likely to cut you a break.  
If you are a big jerk, and your science is suspect, there is little hope for you.  
I am always shocked when authors say, "I am brilliant, u r dumb" to people in a position of power over the fate of their paper / grant. As if that will really help their case.

Now, there are certainly cases where reviewers are wrong, or they ask something that's well outside of scope of a minor revision. But this is the exception, not the rule.

I am reaching the conclusion that "be a good citizen in the scientific community" classes might be beneficial during new student indoctrination. (Along with some sort of professional writing course that includes a unit entitled "'Yo Professor!' and Other Letter Writing Atrocities.")

Monday, May 14, 2012

What the hell, Dell?

Last month, Dell ran a summit in Copenhagen with over 800 attendees, including Michael Dell himself. As an MC for the event they hired Mads Christensen, who apparently is well known in Denmark for making racist, sexist, and other sorts of remarks in bad taste.

Christiane Vejlo was in the audience and tweeted and blogged about some of the comments Christensen made. He started out by noticing the majority of people in the crowd were men and said:
"The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy". 
Then he points out the very few women in the room and says, "What are you actually doing here?" 
After the break Mads Christensen shares with us his whole “show” about the bitchy women who want to steal the power in politics, boards and the home. “Science” he calls it and mentions that all the great inventions come from men. “We can thank women for the rolling pin,” he adds.  And then the moderator of the day finishes of by asking all (men) in the room to promise him that they will go home and say, “shut up, bitch!”.
The worst part is apparently Dell's response to complaints were along the lines of, "But, of course we support women! We were just trying to be funny. Ha ha. Can't you take a joke?"
I guess they realized this wasn't a good reply, so then they said something along the lines of, "We're sorry if we offended anyone." That "if" suggesting it is a woman's (or man's) fault if they were offended.

Molly Wood at CNET recently wrote about the event, and noted that apparently Dell has a precedent of being rather anti-women. In 2009 they had a marketing campaign suggesting women only used computers for dieting and shopping (you forgot knitting!), and it also settled a $10 million lawsuit over pay discrimination.
Dell, I am shaking my rolling pin at you. (Which I can do when I'm not baking your face off.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May CACM: Women Say What?

So I was reading the May issue of Communications of the ACM* today, and came across one of those lovely field naval gazing articles, "An n-gram analysis of Communications 2000-2010", by D. Soper and O. Turel. You don't really need to know what n-grams are for this blog post, suffice to say it's a way of analyzing gobs of text to try to figure out word usage patterns.

The tagline in the magazine for this article is, "Applied to almost 3,500 articles [this article] reveals computing's (and Communications') culture, identity, and evolution." This description is pretty apt - as I said, lots of field naval gazing.

So I get to the point in the article where the authors start discussing changes in writing style in the magazine over the past 10 years, and came across this nugget:
Our n-gram analysis also revealed changes in Communications' use of gender-related terms from 2000 to 2010. On average, masculine pronouns (such as "he", "his", and "him") appeared 277% more often than feminine pronouns (such as "she", "hers", and "her"). Moreover, the gap widened from 190% in 2000 to more than 290% in 2010. One possible explanation is the gender gap between male and female computing professionals also grew and was wider in 2010 than it was at any time in the previous 25 years.
Say what?

A far more likely explanation is writing bias. In 2012, the primary staff columnists at CACM are men (10 of 13) and the primary editorial board members are men (9 of 10). How often do the staff columnists call female computer scientists for quotes in articles? How often do they profile the research of women? How often does the editorial board correct authors who use gendered language in their contributed articles?

I agree there is a gender gap in computing, but I do not believe that explains Soper and Turel's pronoun results very well.

* For the non-Computer Scientist readers out there, Communications of the ACM (or CACM) is a monthly magazine put out by our primary professional organization. In addition to the typical society magazine stuff, it also contains peer-reviewed research articles.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to get started with programming

I am often asked:
How can I teach my kid to program?
How can I learn to program?
I'm glad you asked! I probably should have answered your questions during CS Education Week, but it appears I'm about 5 months too late for that.

For kids, two of the best resources I know of are Scratch and Alice. I also think Computational Fairy Tales and Computer Science Unplugged are excellent resources for kids.

For girls in particular, there is Dot Diva, for girls of color, Black Girls Code.

For older kids and grownups, and those with a perchant for Art and visualization, I highly recommend Processing.

For grownups, I recommend Udacity.

This should be enough to get you and your kids up and running. Have fun!

Friday, April 27, 2012

When a talk is just a talk

In academia, before you have a full time position you are often given the cautionary advice, "every talk is a job talk". This is often true, though not always in the short term.

Once you have a position, you are also told this, and "every talk is a funding pitch", i.e., to program officers, potential grant reviewers, etc.

There are other types of talks too. There are the "I might want to come to your university and am testing you out" talks, and also there are the, "We may want you to come to our university so are testing you out" talks. There are "tenure tour" talks, which is when TT professors travel to other universities to show off their steak knives and court letter writers. Sometimes this works in reverse, where junior faculty invite potential letter writers to their university to give talks.

Sometimes people give talks due to geographic convenience, or because they want to start a collaboration/friendship/etc with someone at that university.

I suppose sometimes a talk is just a talk, but I suspect that's the exception to the rule.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stress, baking, and a new venture

The stress of being a professor has been absolutely brutal on me. With the teaching prep, grant proposals,  research group management, departmental/professional service, and all the other things I do - I really feel like my head is going to explode. I can't think of a time I've ever felt this stressed, except maybe as an undergraduate in college, or when I had a colicky newborn.

Since it's generally not socially acceptable for professional women to show any emotions other than joy, I started taking my work stress out on bread. As soon as I get home, off goes the smile and out comes the flour. I douse the counter, grab all my ingredients, add water, and knead. They say 8-10 minutes, I usually go for 30-40. To me the end product is not so much about making a delicious, well-proportioned, beautiful loaf of bread as it is about beating the crap out of my enemies.

About six months ago, after a particularly bad day at the office, I decided to start making my dough resemble particularly troublesome colleagues before I kneaded the heck out of it. At first it was just little motifs here and there - a jutted chin, a moustache, glasses. Then I started getting more elaborate, with different kinds of food dye for the hair and eyes, sprinkles for whiskers, etc.

I got pretty good at these "bread sculptures". In fact, so good, that I couldn't bear to destroy them. The best thing I could do was bake them, photograph them, then place them on the porch for the small animals to nibble upon.

Here's the thing: I *love* this. I enjoy bread sculpting so much, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. This professor thing is just a sham, a veil hiding my eyes from the real world: the world of people-shaped bread.

So I told my chair I needed a leave of absence for "personal reasons" (I suspect he thinks I'm pregnant). I went down to the bank, took out a small business loan, and rented a store in the center of town.

No emails. No meetings. No websites. Just bread.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

That's what she (really) said

Great post from Jessamyn Smith on the Geek Feminism blog. You should read the whole post for how she brilliantly countered a bunch of male colleagues telling her to "lighten up" about a joke she didn't find very funny. Here's an excerpt:
I work at a startup, and most of the time, I enjoy it. Compared to most tech companies, and certainly most startups, we have quite a few people who are relatively clueful. There are relatively few moments of “brogrammer” culture. There is, however, one thing that has been bugging me for months, ever since it was introduced. 
I took it for granted that everyone was familiar with the “That’s what she said,” joke, but a recent conversation with a consultant friend made me realize some industries don’t feature it on a daily basis. For those who haven’t heard it a million times, the idea is that when somebody says something that could remotely be turned into a sexual joke, e.g. “I’m trying to solve this problem but it’s really hard!” you say “That’s what SHE said,” in a lascivious tone. 
Now, I admit to having made this joke myself, at times. Once in a while, I even find it funny. What I don’t find funny is a bot we have in our general IRC channel at work, that has some basic AI devoted to determining when to interject TWSS into the conversation. 
I asked a number of times to have that bot function turned off, but got the usual combination of being ignored, being told it’s funny, and being told I should lighten up. I tried explaining once why it was objectionable, and managed to get the guys saying variations, e.g. “That’s what your DAD said,” for an evening, but that was about it. 
Last Friday, the bot went a bit crazy and started throwing TWSS into the conversation with no apparent rhyme or reason. Finally, I had had enough. And then it came to me: I would write my OWN bot, that responded to TWSS with a quotation from a notable woman. If they are so keen on what she said, why don’t we get educated about what she really had to say. And so the “whatshereallysaid” bot was born. It might annoy the guys into shutting off the TWSS bot, or we might all learn about notable women. It’s a win either way, in my books!
Kudos, Jessamyn! Well played. I only wish I could be half that clever when encountering such situations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vanity, Thy Name is Academic

As I navigate my way through the strange political maze of academia, I've been trying to categorize different personality types as I encounter them as a means for better understanding how to work with (near) them. I've decided if I can talk with someone and figure out what motivates them, I can better adjust myself to have a more positive conversation with them.

One personality type that can quickly be spotted is The Vain Academic. This is a person who boasts about their high impact publications, frequently drops names of their famous friends, and speaks disdainfully of others (particularly students). If you're familiar with Harry Potter, in my mind I usually think of this person as Professor Slughorn.

Sometimes, a vain person can be appeased with flattery and encouragement. You can quietly smile and nod your head at the right times, gently fanning their ego while occasionally making intelligent quips of your own so they still consider you a respectable peer. You do not dominate the conversation.

However, Vain Academics are people you need to tread carefully around, particularly as a junior person. Their egos are extremely fragile; much of their self-esteem is wrapped up in their accolades and connections. If they perceive any hint of false flattery or mocking behavior, the relationship will sour quickly. Furthermore, if you over-elevate them, they will then view you in a contemptuous way, which becomes difficult to recover from.

On the other hand, The Vain Academic also seeks approval from all, so even if you commit a gaffe (which you surely will), you can probably recover from it. Especially if you are a peer or superior, they will want you in their fan club.

Remember that old advice, "At dinner, you can judge a person by how they treat the waiter"? It's the same with academics; in particular, how they treat students. This is probably the biggest tip off.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today was a a ____ day to be a professor

At the end of every day, I make a statement like, "Today was a good day to be a professor", or, "Today was a bad day to be a professor". (And some days are partly cloudy.)

It's interesting to reflect upon which activities bring me the most joy, and which are the most frustrating. So, let's see:

Favorite thing: Meeting with my RAs. They are just good kids. They are sweet, fun, and brilliant. I love sitting around and bouncing ideas around with them and solving problems together. They impress the heck out of me with all they've accomplished thus far.

Least favorite thing: Drama and politics. Every sphere of this job involves some of each. For drama, I process it on a case by case basis, and try to be as fair and understanding as I can.

For politics, I am usually completely clueless. Sometimes I'll talk to someone, and hours later realize there were hidden subtexts beyond my ability to comprehend and quickly respond to in the moment. I'm not sure if I'm poorly socialized, aloof, or both, but frankly a lot of the politics surrounding this job positively baffle me.

Unfortunately being successful as a professor seems to require political savviness, in a way very different than in industry. I felt like in industry the rules were clearer; perhaps because everyone was working toward the same goal (e.g., please the customer). Academia is more like a collection of small empires. We all have shared goals of Furthering Education and Advancing Knowledge, but go about them in very different ways. We have frequent encounters with other Dukes, where we must broadcast our land's contribution to the Kingdom at every turn.

Post the PhD level, anyone with motivation and drive can learn to prep and teach a class, acquire external funding, effectively manage a research group, and publish lots of papers in good places. Political savviness, however, is another beast entirely.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Achoo! Work life balance is a myth.

I am allergic to conversations on work life balance. Basically, they make me feel uncomfortable and guilty, which make my eyes red and itchy. (And allegra doesn't seem to make the deadlines go away...)

So I was happy to see this article in Fast Company by Craig Chappelow, "Work/Life balance is a myth; here's what you can do about it." There was no real news in the article, but I liked this a lot:
Here’s what I tell [executives]: work-life balance is a myth. That myth compels many of us to view an ideal life as a set of perfectly level scales. On the tray on one side is your personal life. On the other side is your work life. With heroic efforts, you can keep both trays exactly level. If one starts to tip too far, you make some kind of nifty move that balances them again.

In reality, that perfect balance almost never occurs, except for those rare, fleeting moments when the trays pass each other on the way up or down--and we’re too frazzled to appreciate that brief moment of self-actualization anyway.
In professional life (both academically and previously in industry), I tend to find it's feast or famine. There are times when everything is going nuts, and there are times when things are calm, peaceful, and somewhat boring.

In personal life, things are usually calm, peaceful, and somewhat boring with occasional intense, dramatic moments. Some of these dramatic moments are quick and minor (flat tire, broken furnace, lost filling, puking child), some of these moments are lengthy and painful (health decline / death of family members, financial worries, etc).

It is not possible to predict when dramatic moments will occur in real life, and it's only a little bit possible to predict when fires will happen in professional life. So I tend to agree that having work life balance is a bit of a myth.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kudos, Zach Weiner!

Today's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal totally made my day.


Monday, February 6, 2012

My favorite Google easter eggs

Teaching prep is killing me this semester, so I think it's time for cheap thrills. Here are my favorite Google easter eggs:
1) Search for "do a barrel roll"

2) Search for "tilt" (or "askew")

3) Search for "anagram"

4) Search for "recursion"
The last one is my favorite. More to come in t-minus 53 days!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to be black

I really liked today's "conversation" in the Washington Post, "How to be black" Baratunde Thurston. He's a comedian and writer, and wrote an auto-biographical book, some of which is excerpted in a slideshow on the WP website.

Worth a look. I really loved #11 "How to speak for all black people", and #13 "How to be the black employee", because I think they are also applicable to being a woman or other underrepresented person in technology. (I think I had a post on this?.... ah, yes, I did.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

My student is so good you can't have them

It's been positively fascinating reading recommendation letters for prospective graduate students. The majority are fairly normal, but a few are kind of clingy.
"Ms. Hopper is awesome and will do great at your university, except I really don't want her to go there, I want her to stay with meeeeeeeee."
Sometimes, the clingy professors will trash the student too, sort of like in the way I tell people, "this chocolate cake is TERRIBLE, you definitely don't want any."

While it's true good students are hard to find, and showing some level of adoration and commitment toward them is a good idea, clinging too tightly is bad practice professionally and managerially. And in fact, I've heard some stories of clingy advisors that cross me as borderline abusive.

Maybe in other fields this sort of thing is tolerable, but a graduate student in CS, even a bad one, can get a job anywhere, and make 5 times as much as they would as a PhD student. So it doesn't cross me as particularly clever to treat them poorly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paper top 40 predictions

I've decided I am absolutely terrible at predicting which papers will be "a hit" and which papers will never get cited or read.

Like most academics, I'm usually working on several papers at the same time. In my mind as we're preparing and submitting, I often place bets on how the reviews will come back. Formulating my prediction involves not only the content of the paper, but also the publication venue, who I expect the reviewers might be, and other misc. variables.

I'm nearly always wrong.

And post-publication, the papers I am most proud of are never cited. The papers I am most ashamed of are frequently cited. I am considering employing reverse psychology as I write.

Either that or switch into mobile computing. Those people are so connected every paper has a gazillion citations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Signal Boost: Stop the Internet Blacklist Bills

If you went to,, wikipedia, or dozens of other sites on the net today, you may have noticed they have been blacked out in protest. This was done to bring the public's attention to two bills before congress: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).

Why the protest? Well, these bills were intended to curb online piracy and copyright infringement (good), but did so in a really technologically uninformed and dangerous way (bad).

In addition to these bills not actually helping curb online piracy, they grant an incredible amount of leeway to allow the government and companies to arbitrarily censor and monitor the communication of people using the internet, both in our country and abroad. A few fun nuggets about the PIPA bill, quoted from :

  • PIPA is overbroad. By including "information location tools," it makes nearly every actor on the Internet a potential violator.
  • PIPA is bad international precedent. By sanctioning government interference with DNS, it would be used as justification for other countries to hinder freedom of expression of online.
  • PIPA is ripe for abuse. By creating a "private right of action," rights holders could directly go after payment processors and ad networks.
  • PIPA speeds fragmentation of the Internet. By targeting DNS, it could lead to a fragmentation of the Internet, running contrary to the U.S. government's commitment to advancing a single, global Internet.

There is a lengthy list of reputable organizations protesting these bills, including legal scholars, human rights organizations, industry groups, and engineers. Also, Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and fellow CS blogger, has a great post summarizing this issue, as does Trevor Trimm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I urge you to take action and urge your congress members to reject this bill. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

More thoughts on unsolicited professorial advice

One other thing you get a lot of advice about as a new professor is how to run your show.

"Don't spend too much time on teaching"

"Write every day"

"Don't take too many grad students your first year"

The thing is, like anything, do what works for you. You want to spend 14 hours on making Teh Perfect Slides for your first class, do it. You want to get up at 4am and start writing, go for it. Want to relax all weekend playing Facebook games while occasionally picking at your grant proposal, sounds grand!

The trick is to know what makes you happy and know your own style, and work that way. You have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, the trick is figuring out how to best structure it so you're most productive. And to factor in recharging time, for whatever that means for you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fun with Google

You know that game where you type something into Google and note its wacky suggestions? I have no idea why, but I tried it today with 'Professors are'. This is the result:

So it would appear I am a candy bar, overpaid, and super-mean. Excellent! Ready for the Spring semester to start.

I also tried 'Computer Scientists are', and this is the result:

I suppose 3/4 ain't bad (I kind of like the blank one...)