Archive for April 2014

Crossing the Is and doting on the Ts

 

Last week at the the CSEE&T conference in Klagenfurt (the conference page is here, I gave a keynote), a panel discussed how universities should prepare students for software engineering. Barry Boehm, one of the panelists, stated the following principle, which afterwards he said he had learned from Simon Ramo, co-founder of TRW. In hiring people, he stated, it is better to avoid candidates with an I-shaped profile: narrowly specialized in one topic that they have explored to exhaustion. Better look for a T: someone who has mastered an area in depth and then branched out to learn about many others.

I started playing with the variants. One should avoid the hyphens, or em-dashes, ““: people with a smattering of everything but no detailed knowledge of anything. Boehm said that this is the reason he always argued against establishing such undergraduate majors as systems engineering. A variant of the hyphen is the overline ““: graduates who supposedly are so smart that they can learn anything, but whose actual knowledge is limited to abstract notions.

Along with the T we should consider the “bottom” symbol of denotational semantics: . It corresponds to people who have a broad educational base, for example in mathematics, and have deepened it by focusing on a particular topic. The T and can be combined into an H turned on its side, H on the side: acquiring a solid foundation, specializing, then using that experience to become familiar with new areas.

Extending the permutation group, I am not sure what a “+” profile would be, but in a discussion last night Rustan Leino and Peter Müller suggested the “O”, ability to to circle around topics, and the umlaut, knowing a thing or two; in fact, exactly two.

 

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Would they?

If you use the Swiss lounge at Zurich airport and have the effrontery of asking for Internet access, you are given a voucher, valid 24 hours. It works (well, if you are ready to watch a Mercedes ad for a full thirty seconds, no early escape unless you want to restart from scratch). Otherwise I could not be writing this article.

The voucher shows the code you musts enter into the browser. It also shows your name, your flight, your seat number. These pieces of information and the connection between then are, then, in the system. Anyone with access to that system can precisely track what you did online.

Of course I am fantasizing. No one would ever do this. Why would they?

Predictably, many people leave their vouchers lying around when they leave for their flights. So you could use someone else’s voucher to engage in some dubious or downright illicit Internet practice, and shift the blame to the other person. But no one would ever do this. Why would they?

 

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