TITLE: 3 Out Of 5 Ain't Bad AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 12, 2007 8:15 PM DESC: ----- BODY: ... with apologies to Meat Loaf. 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 first post, 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 second post, 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 Opening Move 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 Chandler. 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. -----