acm - an acm publication

Innovators

2011

  • On experimental algorithmics: an interview with Catherine McGeoch and Bernard Moret

    Computer science is often divided into two camps, systems and theory, but of course the reality is more complicated and more interesting than that. One example is the area of "experimental algorithmics," also termed "empirical algorithmics." This fascinating discipline marries algorithm analysis, which is often done with mathematical proofs, with experimentation with real programs running on real machines.

  • Honesty is the best policy---part 1: an interview with Rick Hayes-Roth

    Untrustworthy information is an increasing threat to decision making in information environments. Rick Hayes-Roth has been studying how to detect and filter away untrustworthy information and base decisions on well-grounded claims that can improve outcomes. We interviewed him to find out more about this problem and get advice for our readers. Although there are many subtleties in the shades of truth and the intentions of speakers and listeners, Hayes-Roth finds the essential core of what you can do to ward off untrustworthy information.

  • Honesty is the best policy---Part 2: an interview with Rick Hayes-Roth

    Untrustworthy information is an increasing threat to decision making in information environments. Rick Hayes-Roth has been studying how to detect and filter away untrustworthy information and base decisions on well-grounded claims that can improve outcomes. In last week's installment of this two-part interview, we focused on the problem and the principles that help ameliorate it. In this installment, we focus on the means to implement the principles in our information environments.

  • An interview with Richard John: the politics of network evolution

    Richard John is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, and a historian of communications networks in the United States. His most recent book, Network Nation, won the inaugural Ralph Gomory prize from the Business History Conference and the AEJMC prize for the best book in the history of journalism and mass communications.

  • Empirical software research: an interview with Dag Sjøberg, University of Oslo, Norway

    Punched cards were already obsolete when I began my studies at the Technical University of Munich in 1971. Instead, we had the luxury of an interactive, line-oriented editor for typing our programs. Doug Engelbart had already invented the mouse, but the device was not yet available. With line editors, users had to identify lines by numbers and type in awkward substitution commands just to add missing semicolons. Though cumbersome by today's standards, it was obvious that line-oriented editors were far better than punched cards. Not long after, screen oriented editors such as Vi and Emacs appeared. Again, these editors were obvious improvements and everybody quickly made the switch. No detailed usability studies were needed. "Try it and you'll like it" was enough. (Brian Reid at CMU likened screen editors to handing out free cocaine in the schoolyard.) Switching from Assembler to Fortran, Algol, or Pascal also was a no-brainer. But in the late '70s, the acceptance of new technologies for building software seemed to slow down, even though more people were building software tools. Debates raged over whether Pascal was superior to C, without a clear winner. Object-oriented programming, invented back in the '60s with Simula, took decades to be widely adopted. Functional programming is languishing to this day. The debate about whether agile methods are better than plan-driven methods has not led to a consensus. Literally hundreds of software development technologies and programming languages have been invented, written about, and demoed over the years, only to be forgotten. What went wrong?

  • An interview with Bob Metcalfe: Bob Metcalfe is going meta on innovation

    Bob Metcalfe thinks we are in a bubble, an innovation bubble, seeing that the word "innovation" is on everybody's lips. To help ensure that this bubble does not burst, he has embarked on a new career path as Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin. This is his fifth career, building on his work as an engineer-scientist leading the invention of Ethernet in the 1970s, entrepreneur-executive and founder of 3Com in the 1980s, publisher-pundit and CEO of InfoWorld in the 1990s, and venture capitalist in the 2000s. As General Partner with Polaris Venture Partners, he has invested primarily in cleantech and currently serves on the boards of five companies: Ember, Sun Catalyx, 1366 Technologies, Infinite Power, and SiOnyx.

  • An Interview with Peter Denning: the end of the future

    Ubiquity is dedicated to the future of computing and the people who are creating it. What exactly does this mean for readers, for contributors, and for editors soliciting and reviewing contributions? We decided to ask the editor in chief, Peter Denning, how he approaches the future, and how his philosophy is reflected in the design and execution of the Ubiquity mission. He had a surprisingly rich set of answers to our questions. We believe his answers may be helpful for all our readers with their own approaches to their own futures.

  • Ubiquity symposium: What have we said about computation?: closing statement

    The "computation" symposium presents the reflections of thinkers from many sectors of computing on the fundamental question in the background of everything we do as computing professionals. While many of us have too many immediate tasks to allow us time for our own deep reflection, we do appreciate when others have done this for us. Peter Freeman points out, by analogy, that as citizens of democracies we do not spend a lot of time reflecting on the question, "What is a democracy," but from time to time we find it helpful to see what philosophers and political scientists are saying about the context in which we act as citizens.

  • An interview with Melanie Mitchell: On complexity

    Melanie Mitchell, a Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, has written a compelling and engaging book entitled Complexity: A Guided Tour, published just last year by Oxford University Press. This book was named by Amazon.com as one of the 10 best science books of 2009. Her research interests include artificial intelligence, machine learning, biologically inspired computing, cognitive science, and complex systems.

  • Resurrecting the bullet point: the return of an old and valued friend

    PowerPoint has come under attack in recent years. Well known figures such as Edward Tufte have castigated PowerPoint for corrupting minds and numbing thought. Some sociologists have condemned it for luring people away from listening to each other and communicating effectively. Scott Adams (author of Dilbert) often depicts PowerPoint as a facilitator of office dysfunction. From all this, you might think PowerPoint has badly wounded us and our society with its barrage of bullet points.

  • Ubiquity symposium: What is information?: beyond the jungle of information theories

    Editor's Introduction This fourteenth piece is inspired by a question left over from the Ubiquity Symposium entitled What is Computation? Peter J. Denning Editor

    Computing saw the light as a branch of mathematics in the '40s, and progressively revealed ever new aspects [gol97]. Nowadays even laymen have become aware of the broad assortment of functions achieved by systems, and the prismatic nature of computing challenges thinkers who explore the various topics that substantiate computer science [mul98].

  • Ubiquity symposium: Biological Computation

    In this thirteenth piece to the Ubiquity symposium discussing What is computation? Melanie Mitchell discusses the idea that biological computation is a process that occurs in nature, not merely in computer simulations of nature.
    --Editor

  • An Interview with Joseph F. Traub

    Joseph F. Traub is the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University and External Professor, Santa Fe Institute. In this wide-ranging interview, he discusses his early research, organizations and other entities he has created, and offers his view on several open-ended topics on the future of computing.
    --Editor

  • Ubiquity symposium: Natural Computation

    In this twelfth piece to the Ubiquity symposium discussing What is computation? Erol Gelenbe reviews computation in natural systems, focusing mainly on biology and citing examples of the computation that is inherent in chemistry, natural selection, gene regulatory networks, and neuronal systems.
    --Editor

  • Ubiquity symposium: Computation, Uncertainty and Risk

    In this eleventh piece to the Ubiquity symposium discussing What is computation? Jeffrey P. Buzen develops a new computational model for representing computations that arise when deterministic algorithms process workloads whose detailed structure is uncertain.
    --Editor

  • An Interview with Mark Guzdial

    Mark Guzdial is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). His research focuses on the intersection of computing and education, from the role of computing in facilitating education to how we educate about computing. In this interview with him, he discusses how we teach computing and to whom, especially his contention that a contextualized approach is a powerful tool to teach everyone about computing.
    --Editor