Category Archives: Academia

Washington Post, Take Down This Article!

WaPo

The Washington Post just published an article from a kid claiming he graduated at the top of his class at Penn State in Computer Science but couldn’t find a job. But his description of Computer Science classes is completely disconnected from reality. Turns out, he graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems (a business degree) and not from the Penn State any reasonable person would assume, but rather a satellite campus. All this info is right on the dude’s own LinkedIn page and a previous version of the article from Sept. 2013. Washington Post, Take Down This Article!

[This was initially publicly posted on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/EmeryBerger/posts/10102236661609092]


Update – I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post. They did not choose to print it, though they did partially correct the article.

 

Dear Editor:

A recent op-ed article by Casey Ark (“I studied computer science, not English. I still can’t find a job.”, August 31) is deceptive and misleading. Ark says he graduated at the top of his class at Penn State in Computer Science but found himself unable to find a job. All of these claims are false. An accurate headline would read “I studied business, not English. I had job opportunities, but I turned them down.”

Ark’s descriptions of his class experiences — non-rigorous, memorization-based, and non-technical — sound nothing like a Computer Science degree, and here’s why. A visit to his LinkedIn page (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/casey-ark/23/194/668) shows that he graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems, a non-technical business degree that has little to do with Computer Science and is decidedly not a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field.

Ark also fails to mention that he attended a satellite campus rather than the more prestigious flagship University Park campus of Penn State, a fact included in an earlier version of this article that appeared on PennLive in September 2013
(http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/09/heres_why_why_more_and_more_college_grads_are_tossing_aside_their_resumes_and_embracing_entrepreneur.html). Regardless of its quality, leaving out the location leads readers to believe he graduated from the main campus.

In this earlier article, Ark describes having chosen to not take two entry-level job options, but instead deciding to become an entrepreneur.

I am surprised and chagrined that this op-ed made it through whatever fact-checking mechanisms exist at Washington Post, when a few moments with Google sufficed to discredit the central claims of the article.

Professor Emery Berger
School of Computer Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES

Professor Stephen A. Edwards
Department of Computer Science
Columbia University in the City of New York

Asst. Professor Brandon Lucia
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University

Associate Professor Daniel A. Jiménez
Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Texas A&M University

Assistant Professor David Van Horn
Department of Computer Science
University of Maryland, College Park

Assistant Professor Santosh Nagarakatte
Department of Computer Science
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

Assistant Professor Swarat Chaudhuri
Department of Computer Science
Rice University

Associate Professor Dan Grossman
Department of Computer Science & Engineering
University of Washington

Professor Michael Hicks (B.S. Computer Science, Penn State ‘93)
Department of Computer Science
University of Maryland

Associate Professor Matthew Hertz
Department of Computer Science
Canisius College

Associate Professor Landon Cox
Department of Computer Science
Duke University

Associate Professor Benjamin Liblit (B.S. Computer Science, Penn State ‘93)
Department of Computer Sciences
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Associate Professor John Regehr
School of Computing
University of Utah

Professor Jeff Foster
Department of Computer Science
University of Maryland, College Park

Kaushik Veeraraghavan
Facebook


Some comments from the Facebook thread posted by my fellow Computer Science colleagues:

Daniel Ángel Jiménez This kind of garbage causes lots of confusion. At my last job, almost all of the complaints from local industry about our CS graduates turned out to actually be about morons from the business school.

Shriram Krishnamurthi “Correction: An earlier version of this story’s headline misidentified what the author studied. It has been corrected.” They changed “engineering” to “computer science”. Thanks, WaPo!

Rob Ennals It seems that whenever I read a media article about something I actually know about, there is something fundamentally wrong with their understanding of the situation. This makes me worry about the accuracy of the information I’m getting about things I’m not knowledgable about.

Emery Berger He laments “they’re looking for employees who can actually do things – like build iPhone apps…. I wish I’d been taught how to do those things in school, but my college had something different in mind.”

PSU offers CMPSC 475, WHICH TEACHES iOS PROGRAMMING.
http://bulletins.psu.edu/und…/courses/C/CMPSC/475/201314SP

Tao Xie Another very important piece of information (from the original earlier post: http://www.pennlive.com/…/heres_why_why_more_and_more…), “When I graduated from PSU’s Harrisburg campus in May, ….” This kid graduated from PSU Harrisburg Campus, **NOT** the State College campus!! There are 24 campuses of PSU (http://www.psu.edu/academics/campuses). Note that the Washington Post article (carefully?) “rephrased” the above quoted sentence to be “When I graduated from Penn State a year ago, …” smh..

Stephen A. Edwards Breathtaking naivete on display in this column. I have no idea what he was studying: any CS graduate shouldn’t have any idea about the difference between advertising and marketing. His lament about all the programming languages and tools I learned were years out of date is also laughable. Of course they’re out of date: everything in CS is more-or-less instantly. The thing is to make sure you understand the basic concepts so you can learn the new stuff faster. But I really got a chuckle about his suggestion that we be more lax about academic standards and hire better businesspeople. Absolutely that will improve the quality of your education, no question.

Take a Stand for Double-Blind Reviewing!

I have long been a proponent of double-blind reviewing. People suffer from expectation bias, and double-blind reviewing is a tried and true approach to combat it. I adopted double-blind reviewing when I co-chaired VEE 2010 and just recently for WoDet 3, and have decided to take a stand to sway more program committees to implement it. Join me!

When asked to serve on a PC, agree only if double-blind reviewing is used.

This approach doesn’t always work, but the fact is that most program chairs simply had not considered it and are happy to adopt it. My advisor Kathryn McKinley‘s case for double-blind and Mike Hicks‘ fantastic FAQ on the topic make excellent ammunition. I suggested it to Todd Mowry and he implemented it for ASPLOS 2011; P. Sadayappan did the same for PPoPP 2012 (I am grateful to both for their patience!)

But there has been some backsliding; double-blind reviewing is not going to be used for POPL 2013, despite the overwhelmingly positive response of the POPL 2012 committee members.

So the next time you get asked to serve on a PC, at least bring it up. Let’s help make this a standard practice across our community.

The Evolution is Televised

I was just at POPL and got a very nice compliment on a talk I gave on Grace from someone who watched it on-line (!). That talk was the first in my on-going efforts to eliminate all text from my slides. My latest talk has no text whatsoever, except for the titles (not here, though – haven’t given it at MSR!). Anyway, thanks to Microsoft, you can watch the evolution (talks ordered from most recent to oldest).

Sheriff: Detecting and Eliminating False Sharing

Grace: Safe Multithreaded Programming for C/C++ (paper)

Exploiting Multiple Cores Today: Scalability and Reliability For Off-the-shelf Software (Flux, DieHard)

Garbage Collection without Paging (paper)

latexdiff: Superb diff tool for LaTeX

I am shepherding a paper for ASPLOS, and the authors kindly sent me a PDF highlighting all changes between the previous version and the next. They used latexdiff. I just used it to see some updates made by a student to a paper, and it is fantastic.

Here’s a sample of what the results look like:

(and no, this is not my paper or the ASPLOS paper).

If you are using a Mac, you can easily install it with MacPorts (just sudo port install latexdiff).

Generally, you will want to invoke latexdiff as follows (assuming you are in the directory with the latest version):

latexdiff --flatten /path/to/old/version/main.tex main.tex > diffs.tex

(the –flatten argument makes latexdiff recursively operate on any included .tex files.)

One trick: if, like me, you break your LaTeX documents into separate files, you need to put the preamble into your main document (it’s also automatically generated by latexdiff, but only for a main document). Reproduced here for your cut-n-paste convenience.


%DIF PREAMBLE EXTENSION ADDED BY LATEXDIFF
%DIF UNDERLINE PREAMBLE
\RequirePackage[normalem]{ulem}
\RequirePackage{color}\definecolor{RED}{rgb}{1,0,0}\definecolor{BLUE}{rgb}{0,0,1}
\providecommand{\DIFadd}[1]{{\protect\color{blue}\uwave{#1}}}
\providecommand{\DIFdel}[1]{{\protect\color{red}\sout{#1}}}
%DIF SAFE PREAMBLE
\providecommand{\DIFaddbegin}{}
\providecommand{\DIFaddend}{}
\providecommand{\DIFdelbegin}{}
\providecommand{\DIFdelend}{}
%DIF FLOATSAFE PREAMBLE
\providecommand{\DIFaddFL}[1]{\DIFadd{#1}}
\providecommand{\DIFdelFL}[1]{\DIFdel{#1}}
\providecommand{\DIFaddbeginFL}{}
\providecommand{\DIFaddendFL}{}
\providecommand{\DIFdelbeginFL}{}
\providecommand{\DIFdelendFL}{}
%DIF END PREAMBLE EXTENSION ADDED BY LATEXDIFF

Rank

The Times of London has just released its latest ranking of the top Universities in the World. The list is behind a paywall, but here are some fun data points.

* Harvard is #1, CalTech (?!) is #2
* The University of Massachusetts is ranked #56.
* The University of  Cincinnati is ranked #190.

Why mention the University of Cincinnati? Just to point out that my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, is not even on the list. making it clearly worse than the University of Cincinnati. Though I think the Times just forgot to put UT-Austin on their giant dartboard.

Not to single out the Times. For years, UT-Austin was ranked #5 in Databases on the US News rankings, with exactly one faculty member doing database research. US News also currently has a separate ranking category for “Programming Language” (sic). Cornell is high on that list, but the two big guns in PL (Pingali & Morrisett) decamped years ago, and another failed to get tenure, so there’s only one PL faculty member left standing.

It now occurs to me that UWashington is also high on the list, and also had exactly one faculty member in PL…the trick, apparently, is to be the last guy standing.

But Mike Ernst has now joined UW, so obviously it will fall out of the rankings, and I’ve got my eyes on that spot.

Hey, Eliot and Yannis, sorry guys, but it’s either you or the rankings — I’m sure your families will understand…