Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Blog : Matt Welsh

My colleague at Harvard, Matt Welsh, has started a new blog, Volatile and Decentralized. It will be focused on systems -- primarily sensor networks -- but will also have all of his other interesting insights on teaching, students, being an associate professor, Harvard, etc. Go check out the first few posts!

I've often wondered why more systems people don't blog. I think I asked someone once (Jennifer Rexford?) and was told, "We're too busy." I'm glad Matt's not too busy to share his work and insights with all of us.

6 comments:

adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adam said...

I am a Graduate Student, and I have been reading your blog for a while now. You occasional link out to other people in the community who are blogging. Your suggestions on others bloggs is right on point and the bloggs are always insightful, funny, and informative.

I was interested in your thoughts on blogging and its relationship to academics in general. I think that it is a great benefit, and a way to keep up with and hear voices you wouldn't otherwise.

Stefan Savage said...

I've often wondered why more systems people don't blog
I think Jen's answer is true (that we have no time), but not sufficient to explain the situation.

Actually, I think the question is inverted. Why has Theory managed to make blogging work so well?

From an outsiders perspective, TCS really seems to have developed a unique culture around blogging, starting with "Computational Complexity" and spreading outward... its not just that the members blog (which is necessary, but not sufficient), its that they read each other's blogs and congregate there. A few systems people blog or have blogged, but they may as well be diaries for all the interaction they get from the rest of their community. There's a marginal bit more activity on the security side (e.g. Ed's Freedom-to-tinker) but it seems to encompass a much smaller subset of the security community than TCS has of its own. Indeed, I'm not aware of any other branch of CS in which there is an equivalently significant involvement in blogging.

I'd love to understand why this happens since I think what you guys have is pretty cool... but I suspect its tied up in issues of culture and critical mass that are pretty hard to replicate on demand.

systems grad student said...

Computational Complexity has a lot of meta-type posts. These get the most discussion, much like happens on this blog. Come to think of it, on the SIGCOMM blog as well (all 4 posts!).

That's just natural: everyone has an opinion about meta-issues. Only a fraction of a community cares about specific research issues, and I suppose very few
care (to comment) about personal
issues.

Do systems people blog on "meta" issues? Which other systems people actively blog AT ALL?

I know of Dave Andersen (not too many meta posts) and David Molnar (but his blog's almost dead).

systems grad student again said...

Oh, gossip (ranking conferences/schools/papers, who got which award, etc.) also generates a lot of interest.

David Molnar said...

Michael: Thanks much for the pointer to Matt Welsh's blog. It's a pleasure to see him writing about his research work and his "taste" in problems.

Systems grad student: OK, I get the hint. Thanks for the mention. I have a post or two half-finished I'll push out. In particular, I had the pleasure of seeing Eva Tardos give a talk in December at Princeton on selfish behavior in games. Part of her talk was a fascinating example where computationally limited players managed to _avoid_ an undesirable Nash equilibrium seemingly due to the fact that they couldn't compute the strategy required to be "trapped." So that's a fascinating potential example of computational limitations affecting practice...usually we have to cheat and "bake in" an instance of a hard problem (e.g. factoring, discrete log) to see such a result.

On the more systems side, I'm excited by what we might be able to do with on-demand computing applied to troubleshooting systems problems. My research has been trending in this area recently, I think it's just starting.

I am also going through the job search right now, which has the usual set of meta-issues. I am too cautious to post my reflections on that process, however.