TITLE: 3 Out Of 5 Ain't Bad
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: February 12, 2007 8:15 PM
... with apologies to
Last week, I
accepted the Week of Science Challenge.
How did I do? On sheer numbers, not so well. I did manage to
blog on a CS topics three of the five business days. That's
not a full week of posts, but it is more than I have written
recently, especially straight CS content.
On content, I'm also not sure I did so well. The
on programming patterns across paradigms, is a good introduction
to an issue of longstanding interest to me, and it caused me to
think about Felleisen's important paper. The
on the beautiful unity of program and data, was not what I had
hoped for it. I think I overreached, trying to bring too many
different ideas into a single short piece. It neither needs to
be a lot longer, or it needs a sharper focus. At least I can
say that I learned something while writing the essay, so it was
valuable to me. But it needs another draft, or three, before
it's in a final state. Finally,
my last piece of the week,
turned out okay for a blog entry. Computer Science -- at least
a big part of the varied discipline that falls under this
umbrella -- is science. We in the field need to do a better
job helping people to know this.
Accepting the challenge served me well by forcing me to write.
That sort of constraint can be good. Because I had to write
something, even if not borne away by a flash of inspiration,
it forced me to write about something that required extra
effort at that moment, and to write quickly enough to
get 'er done that day.
These constraints, too, can boost creativity, and help build the
habit of writing where it has fallen soft in the face of too many
other claims on time. In some ways, writing those essays felt
like writing essay exams in college!
I think that I would probably have wanted to write about all of
these ideas at some point later, but without the outside drive
to write now I would probably have deferred them until a better
time, until I was "ready". But would I ever? It's easy for me
to wait so long that the idea is no longer fresh enough for me
to write. An interesting
Writing Down The Bones-like
exercise might be for me to grab an old ideas file and use a
random-number generator to pick out one topic every day for a
week or so -- and then just write it.
As for the pieces produced this week, I can imagine writing
more complete versions of the last two some day, when time, an
inspiration, or a need hits me.
As I forced myself to look for ideas every day, I noticed my
senses were heightened. For example, one evening last week I
listened to an
podcast with Scott Rosenberg, author of
Dreaming in Code.
This book is about the many-years project of Mitch Kapor to build
the ultimate PIM
During the interview, Rosenberg comments that software is "thought
stuff", not subject to the laws of physics. As we implement new
ideas, users -- including ourselves -- keep asking for more. My
first thought was, I should update my piece on CS as science.
CS helps to ask and to answer fundamental questions about what
we could reasonably ask for, how much is too much, and what we will
have to give up to get certain features or functionality. What are
the limits to what we can ask for? Algorithms, theory, and experiment
all play a role.
Maybe in my next draft.