Saturday, April 25, 2009

Collaborative coding

I would promote this idea to a higher level than just 'snippet sharing'. I can envision something called collaborative coding.

Collaborative coding embraces the uniquely identified code snippets but enhances it with a timestamp of modification and user comments.


/* Calculates the fibonacci number for the parameter
guid: {1c125546-b87c-49ff-8130-a24a3deda659}
date: 2009-04-25 19:00
comm: First version */

int fibonacci(int n) {
if (n<=2) return 1;
else return fibonacci(n-1)+fibonacci(n-2);

/* Calculates the fibonacci number for the parameter
guid: {1c125546-b87c-49ff-8130-a24a3deda659}
date: 2009-04-25 19:25
comm: Can't use recursion as my stack is too small, changed to an iterative version */

int fibonacci(int n) {
if (n<=2) return 1;
int j = 1;
int k = 1;
int ans = 0;
for (int i = 3; i <= n; i++) {
ans = j + k;
j = k;
k = ans;
return ans;

Then tools can show diffs over time of the different versions of snippets, with comments (if available) and be made to push back the snippets to available repositories.

You could actually end up having conversations in code. The identifier should identify function, and diff algorithms can show what has been changed and hopefully why.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I was lucky enough to get funding to go (without having sent a paper nor being an active participant in the research community) to the last day of WWW2009 Madrid!

Lucky indeed as I hadn't been before in such a global and well organized conference. I'm sure there were some problems (the people in charge apologized in the closing ceremony) but I personally didn't see any.

I went to the following talks:

- Invited talk about web infrastructure by Pablo Rodríguez the Internet Scientific Director at Telefonica. He explained the problems current internet architecture which mainly consist of obsolete, generic protocols, where distribution is hard. He suggested to specialize protocols (where you route content, not hosts) and push things down a layer or two (where every router has a terabyte storage to do an akamai-for-the-people).

- Invited talk about web search in web2.0 by Ricardo Baeza-Yates, VP of Research for Europe and Latin America at Yahoo!. He showed a pretty interesting summary of the recent research done by him and his team on searching text/images using mainly user generated content (tags, tags of objects in pictures). Summing up, using user generated content can enhance search results significantly.

And some highlights from the papers presentations:

- Social searching: Porqpine

- Synonym extraction: Ways to detect that queries like "vaio 720 laptop" and "vaio 720" are synonyms in an efficient way

- A framework to manage digital rights: Interesting idea, a good model to license, but sadly it requires everyone to use a centralized website and to download an extra application to access the actual content. It just doesn't pass the grandma test.

- A reference implementation of the web coverage processing service standard, Rasdaman (plus some web tools which use it to justify its presence on WWW)

- Leveraging web search engines to query databases: A clever approach to enhance search results with structured database results, typically useful when searching for entities which are usually in structured DBs (movies, electronic devices and so on)

- YUI 3. I wasn't present at the talk, but looks nice

All in all, it was a very good experience and I now have a CD with 215 pdf files to review (between papers and posters)... that's some hard work! If I manage to do any of it and see something worth, will comment on it. Pics here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bach's passion

It's amazing how a good communicator can inspire. Especially a passionate communicator who shows how much he cares about the subject at hand. If you haven't seen this, you should: James Bach's talk @ Google.

What I found really interesting is the combination of subjects he manages to make relevant for his field. We all should follow his lead and find inspiration and guidance from more than a single discipline.

Learn, not just about technology, but about social sciences which make the technology relevant and also make the development of the technology easier. For example, if you could communicate better and understand people's limitations on what they can perceive, you would be able to gather better requirements, or capture bug reports more efficiently, or just develop humane software (*). Not to mention the applications outside the world of software (love life, friends, networking your career).

In fact, this all points to aspiring to becoming a generalist, the more you can aprehend about different subjects the more you can then combine in different ways under different contexts. Current schooling does not aim to this, but you can always take care of your education (in addition to or instead of the regular, your call). In the words of the great Paul Lutus "do not let your schooling interfere with your education".

(*): More on humane software some day.