Posts

2017

Moving to UVic

I’m excited to announce I will be taking up a position this fall as a tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at the University of ...

Visual Abstract attempt

In response to Greg Wilson’s challenge, I did a quick attempt at a Visual Abstract for a recent paper.

2016

Day Hikes

A list of long, high vertical day hikes I have done and wish to do. I think looking back the most common theme to all of them was “bring more water”.

Columbus’s Heilmeyer Catechism

I have no idea if Columbus had to have his “India Expedition” proposal peer-reviewed, but here is my interpretation of it according to the ever-popular He...

On SCAM’s new “Engineering Track”

This year SCAM, the Working Conference on Source Code Analysis and Manipulation (located in Raleigh, NC, Oct 2–3 2016) includes an engineering track, as desc...

2015

A Model of Software Quality Checks

Software quality can be automatically checked by tools like SonarQube, CAST, FindBugs, Coverity, etc. But often these tools encompass several different class...

Requirements, Agile, and Finding Errors

It’s a long held view in the requirements engineering (RE) community that “if only we could do RE better, software development would be cheaper”. Here ‘doing...

How Writing Code is Like Making Steel

I saw an interesting keynote from Mark Harman recently, on search-based software improvement. Mark’s lab at UCL also pioneered this idea of automatic code tr...

Garbage In, Garbage Out

My dad had this great cup from one of his vists to COMDEX (ostensibly to keep up with the latest in the tech world, which at the time COMDEX represented). It...

Thoughts from a CodeFest

This past weekend was the Steel City Codefest. The idea is that community non-profits present some problem for which an “app” would help them, and coders spe...

Frameworks, libraries, and dependencies

I’ve been doing a little thinking about frameworks lately. They fascinate me as 1) a realization of the vision of ‘pluggable software’ and reusable component...

2014

2013

Evidence in Software Engineering

This post is spurred by a line in a paper of Walker Royce, son of Winston Royce, he of the “waterfall model” (misunderstood model). He says

The Circle, a novel

The Circle is a novel about the tech/social networking industry, where fictional company the Circle plays the role of Twitter, Facebook and Google combined. ...

13 Great Software Architecture Papers

In the paper “The Past, Present and Future of Software Architecture”, the authors (Philippe Kruchten, Henk Obbink, and Judith Stafford) have a sidebar in whi...

Knowledge and complexity

Somewhat inspired by +Rob England, I tried a mapping of Rumsfeldian terminology to Cynefin (yes, i know this predates the SecDef!).

The fuzzy notion of “business value”

Software development is rife with references to business value, particularly in agile approaches: the Agile Manifesto declares that “Our highest priority is ...

2012

A stitch in time…

This blog post from the excellent complexity blog Godel’s Lost Letter is on the theory behind branch and bound search. One of my favourite things about this ...

Using iCloud and Cisco VPN

UBC uses Cisco’s VPN solution for accessing the network off-campus [1]. For a long time I skipped using it because 1) it conflicted with iCloud and 2) it req...

Cynefin and MDE

Watching Dave Snowden talk about Cynefin (thanks to @dsg22 for the reminder), it occurred to me that this sense-making approach might explain some of my disc...

Requirements tools and tasks

Just read a nice paper by Dan Berry et al. [1] on tools for requirements engineers. It was a position paper that looked at the progress to date in using natu...

The Research Works Act

Here is the text of an email I sent to the President of the ACM, Alain Chesnais (achesnais@acm.org) and the director of the ACM’s lobby effort, Cameron Wilso...

2011

My new gig at UBC

It has been an eventful fall. As I finished my PHD writing in late August, I had two conferences to attend – the Requirements Engineering conference in Italy...

What I learned at UofT

My dissertation is nearing approval (touch wood) and I have started a new position as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow and lecturer at UBC. I wanted to summar...

Impact factors in SE

I confess to not understanding the impact factor in software research. The impact factor for a given year (as used by ISI) measures the mean number of times ...

Big Requirements Up Front?

Big Requirements Up Front are certainly not in favour with the industry thought leaders in software development. But I think the idea of specifying your requ...

2010

IT failure statistics

There’s an excellent IT project dashboard from the US government reporting on success/failure rates, project size, and amount of spending (which is frankly j...

The relevance of CS research

I came across a post by Seb Paquet on Quora.com about the relevance of CS research(ers). Seb’s position seems to be that academics are doomed to failure when...

REFSQ summary

The Working Conference on Requirements Engineering (REFSQ) just concluded. It is a great conference with plenty of discussion and provocative ideas.

Using Freebase

I’m trying to learn how to import data into Freebase, a web site that is like a machine-readable Wikipedia, by way of learning how to use Gridworks, a data-c...

How do you write an algorithm?

It would be interesting to see how different people went about implementing a solution to a particular well-defined yet complex problem.

Task-specific information visualization

I previously mentioned my doubts about general purpose information visualization techniques. Too often these seem to make a pretty picture for a conference, ...

More on open notebooks

I recently posted about what an open notebook in software science might look like. I think I confused life stream (where life == work :) with notebook. From ...

iPhone? Am iMissing something?

It’s not that it isn’t cool, or handy. I get that. I’m into technology, I like new shiny things. But I can’t see the value of the iPhone for someone who isn’...

Open science and workflows

I was talking to Jon Pipitone about scientific computing. For a long time this field was mired in the relatively obscure (yet vitally important) field of num...

Publishing in Computer Science

Clearly I’m inexperienced, little published, and have never served on program committees. However, I find the issues raised by Moshe Vardie in the SIGMOD jo...

The Long Tail and expertise

I attended an interesting talk last night by David Eaves, expert on social media and government (Government 2.0).

Model maturity levels

Part of my research used the Object Constraint Language to provide a model query language. Knowing nothing about OCL a year ago, I am now getting to be more ...

A better scientific notebook

Cameron Neylon is an advocate of open science (along with others like Michael Nielsen). Among other things, open science or Science 2.0 means keeping track o...

Clarity of purpose

No New Year’s Resolutions (well, finish my PhD, but that was also last year’s :)). However, moving my email around brought to light one of my favorite messag...

2009

Stories vs. models

One of the central concepts in various agile software development techniques is the user story. Why go with a ‘user story’ instead of a rigorous requirements...

On goal modeling of sustainability

In a presentation recently, a group of researchers here at UofT showed work they had done on helping the planning committee for ICSE2009 manage sustainabilit...

De-referencing climate claims

Our group of software scientists, informaticians, and modeling experts at the University has been congregating weekly to discuss software scie...

Are we missing something?

As part of my research, I try to keep up with the trends and tools in software development (it has nothing to do with procrastination, either).

Toyota and lean software development

Having just read a book on Toyota Production System (TPS), and following various developments in lean software development, I was curious to know what Toyota...

Pointless: Bike lanes downtown

There’s a proposal out to put bike lanes on Bloor Street, a major east-west arterial in Toronto. My feeling: waste of time.

Biking downtown Toronto

[caption id=”attachment_923” align=”alignnone” width=”225” caption=”The new Railpath, looking north from the Dundas overpass”][/caption]

Blue-collar compensation

What makes me nervous is that while it does seem crazy that a male with no more education than a high school diploma can get a 80,000$ a year job, with full ...

Worldwide game day

Yesterday I partook in Worldwide Game Day, a very clever marketing effort from the producers of Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game. Local game store...

Why a Ph.D. is like ice climbing

For a while, I’ve been following Will Gadd’s blog. Will is a multi-talented adventurer, excelling in paragliding, kayaking, and ice climbing, among others. T...

M.Sc. thesis wordle

Words occurring in my thesis, via Christian Muise. A Wordle. My favorite part is that the word Jambalaya is one of the big ones. Short of Culinary Institute ...

Computer science is doomed!

Well, not really, although that seems to be the worry of some. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth at the Rebooting Computing conference recently. T...

2008

Journalism in Iraq

See here: Deadline Iraq: Untold Stories of the Iraq War. It’s a good documentary, but my problem with it is that I don’t think this type of unnarrated exposi...

Alan Kay on computer science

Talk at the University of Toronto CS department’s distinguished lecture series today by Alan Kay. Kay doesn’t believe there is a discipline of computer scie...

Pastebin

Various code snippets I’ve found useful:

Supporting student coding

Part of a software engineering university education has to be concerned with familiarizing students with the tools and technologies that are used in industry...

Empiricists vs constructionists?

A good read from Hakan Erdogmus in IEEE Software this month. He tries to draw the distinction between those who conduct empirical research on software engine...

Future directions of Agile

I just watched an excellent presentation by David Anderson at the Agile 08 conference. He talked about moving agile to more complex, enterprise-scale project...

Software history

The study of the history of technology is one of great interest to me. I’m particularly interested in software engineering history, namely, how software-medi...

On “Capabilities Engineering”

“Improving change tolerance through Capabilities-based design: an empirical analysis”, by Ramya Ravichandar, James D. Arthur, Shawn A. Bohner and David P. Te...

Management and software projects

I’ve tried to resist being swayed by the ‘softer’ side of software science: business practices, management science, process improvement, etc., all of which I...

Requirements, agility, and stability

Having returned from the Requirements Engineering conference in Barcelona, I’ve been pondering where my own research fits with the talks I listened to. One o...

Repository of software engineering data

On an unrelated Google expedition, I came across the ISBSSG, the International Software Standards Benchmarking Group. Their mission is to collect software an...

Research note-keeping

As a researcher, I’m constantly coming across new ideas, techniques, cool findings, and the like. A common example is listening to a talk and making notes on...

Notes on case study research

Reading Robert Yin’s book on case studies has really opened my eyes. To date the most contentious aspect has been his distinction between statistical general...

Requirements and agility

In ObservedRequirement, Martin Fowler makes the following comment: “the word ‘requirement’ is inherently waterfallish” (in relation to a quote about BRUF). A...

UML - Poised for takeoff?

There has been some talk about the ‘pending death’ of UML. Industry consensus seems to be that it is mainly useful for sketching designs or communicating use...

On Software Schools

Martin Fowler, respected senior figure in software engineering practice, has a post describing ‘schools’ of software development. A school in this sense is a...

Rich Internet Applications

I’m working on a project with my brother. The idea is to be able to visualize results from microarray experiments he has done in the lab. I’m taking an image...

2007

Preserving knowledge in design projects

James D. Herbsleb and Eiji Kuwana. Preserving knowledge in design projects: what designers need to know. CHI ‘93: Conference on Human factors in computing ...

Peggy Nash, M.P., on copyright

I wrote Peggy Nash, MP for my riding of Parkdale-High Park, about the proposed “Canadian DMCA” legislation. Here’s her response:

Publishing in Computer Science

Clearly I’m somewhat inexperienced, having only 2 papers published to date, and never having served on review committees. However, I find the issues raised ...

The subjunctive case and intentionality

The subjunctive case, which has nearly died out in English, is used to express desire in speech. For example, “The Green party should win” is a subjunctive s...

Corporate kudos

While Aldo may be an environmental nightmare, I must give respect to HP. We own a LaserJet 1018 (which is great, btw). The toner ran out the other day, so I ...

Camping in France: some tips

We camped (tent camping, aka ‘real’ camping, albeit car supported) in France (SW, central, and NW) in late September 2007. Here are a few lessons learned.

Smart monkey syndrome

I just returned from the ICSM conference and associated workshops in Paris, France (very nice, thank you). I have many notes on talks I saw, but herewith a f...

Ranking software engineers

I came across a paper[1] via the Nebraska-Lincoln Empirical Software Engineering site that ranks software engineering schools and scholars. The authors asses...

Public and private space

An interesting story caught my attention this morning and prompted me to recall other similar issues. The rugby world cup kicks off September 7 in France (an...

Tracking finances online

I used to slavishly enter bank transactions (credit card purchases, online payments, etc.) into Microsoft Money (and before that, Quicken). But the product i...

Overpackaging

Aldo isn’t doing its part to help the environment. My wife received a gift card in the mail for her birthday from Aldo, a shoe company. Here’s the accompanyi...

Review: shearing layers

@techreport{simmonds_shearing_2000, title = {A Shearing Layers Approach to Information Systems Development }, url = {http://systemicbusiness.org/pubs/2000\_I...

Geography, information, and the web

There is plenty of activity on the open geospatial front. For example, there is a conference (in my hometown, no less) on Free and Open Source Software for G...

Grok, graph patterns and scenarios

@inproceedings{wu_using_2002, address = {Paris, France}, title = {Using Graph Patterns to Extract Scenarios}, url = {http://swag.uwaterloo.ca/\~j25wu/papers/...

What are they hiding?

I recently read an article (pay-wall, :() by R. Timothy Anderson. It was in the National Post, as part of their series on “The Deniers”, a collection of essa...

Python and Java: an experience report

I’ve been coding a program that will parse a set of Python files into an Abstract Syntax Tree, walk that tree with a Visitor, and then turn relevant parts in...

Finally…

Since my days as a GIS Specialist in the BC Ministry of Environment, I thought the governmental policy that required agencies to sell the public back its dat...

Microsummaries

There’s a new feature in Firefox 2 that is perhaps undeservedly unheralded. Microsummaries are changing descriptors of the most current information on a webs...

Movie recommendation

I watched Pan’s Labyrinth last night, and highly recommend it. Mind you, despite the similarity of the title to the David Bowie movie, I don’t think this mov...

Ubuntu, Firefox, and ForecastFox

Just a helpful hint: If Firefox 2 on Ubuntu (Edgy Eft) seems to be sucking a lot of CPU, make sure you aren’t running ForecastFox. It’s a little extension th...

Rationality

I attended a lecture today on “Rationality”. Speaking was Thomas Schelling, “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel” winner in 20...

Amarok 2.0

Word is the Amarok team will be working on 2.0 release for summer. The reason this is great is that it means Amarok, by far the best music player, will soon ...

If your newspaper won’t offend you …

I think it’s a bad thing when you like what you read in the paper. Honestly, do we really need more opinions confirming what we already think? I feel this wa...

Firefox 2 addons update window

Firefox is pretty cool. It even checks for updated plugins before launch. The silly thing is, if it finds an update, it asks the user if it should be install...

New design

Non-feed readers of Semantic Werks will notice a new style for the site. Basically I realized that I didn’t use any of the advanced features of K2, and was t...

Spolsky and methodology

I read a good interview with Joel Spolsky today. He makes some interesting points about the software industry. One is that:

2006

Secrecy and government

There was a great podcast series from CBC Ideas: “The Cold War Declassified”. In it, historian Robert Johnson examines the state of knowledge about governmen...

Criticality and complex software

A software system is a human-created artifact. And yet, even though humans are in control at every stage in the process, these systems often exhibit unantici...

Things I don’t understand

I moved to the University of Toronto in 2004 for my Ph.D.  I’m somewhat of an exerciser, so I sussed out the gym situation. Part of my 500$ or so in fees inc...

Dennis Tsichritzis

Dennis Tsichritzis, head of Fraunhofer USA, gave a talk on, roughly, directions for CS research programs. GadgetMan gives a detailed summary. I think Dennis’...

Bibtex tip

This problem crops up every so often with my Bibtex files:

Task management app

I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so occasionally, like Arnold J. Rimmer, I feel guilty and disorganized and madly attempt to correct the situation. One way I d...

Why (Not) Agile?

Scott Ambler makes the point that confronting stakeholders with the need to take control scares them. They would rather give someone a million dollars and so...

Stratford — Coriolanus

My wife and I went to Stratford, Ontario, yesterday, to watch the play Coriolanus. In the lead role was Canadian actor Colm Feore, who was one of the reasons...

Mesh day 2

Last day of the mesh conference. Now, it may be that as an academic I don’t have a natural appreciation for business and making money (a sentiment I reject, ...

2020 Science

Microsoft Research Cambridge sponsored a workshop on science in 2020. Participants included physicists and biologists, among others. The results were publish...

Go figure

[nernst@episteme]$ svn blame God svn: 'God' has no URL

LiveClipboard

Jon Udell has an interesting screencast about the Microsoft Live Clipboard proposal. He illustrates how it might work for events, then points out the problem...

Model drift

Say you model an organization, an org chart. As soon as it’s finished (for some reasonably large organization) the chart is outdated (well, it’s outdated as ...

Political blogging is dead

There was a lot of talk in the last U.S. election about how independent bloggers (independent from the traditional media) managed to affect the course of the...

More latex tips

After some more LaTeX mucking around, I’ve collected the following tips. What I wanted was an article with centered sections, no section/subsection numbers,...

No open-source community?

An interesting article by John Mark Walker makes the case for the open-source phenomenon being essentially the product of technological changes inherent in t...

Requirements and context

Greg Wilson describes requirements-as-conversations, where the focus is less on the static specification, and more on the surrounding context for a given req...

My dangerous idea

In line with the “World Question Center”, and despite being a rather unaccomplished pseudo-academic, herewith my personal dangerous idea.

Wine, fine cuisine, and the arts

Many people, and much money, go for a nice wine. We are told a certain wine has a particular bouquet, a ‘good nose’, rich body, etc. etc. Similarly, certai...

2005

The Micro-Brew model

Here’s something I was thinking about last night. Why is it that in Canada we have many industries where consumers are faced with oligopolies? For example,...

World of Warcraft

The evil people at Blizzard had a special offer of 10 days of World of Warcraft for free. WoW is an online multiplayer game, a so-called MMORPG, with graphic...

Robert Lefkowitz: Semasiology

This is one of the best talks I’ve listened to, and I imagine it was just as good, if not better, in person. Lefkowitz defines the ‘storyteller’ style of pre...

Peter Norvig talks at UofT

The departmental colloquium today was given by Peter Norvig, aka Russell Norvig, from Google. He talked about Google’s approach to making information accessi...

ITunes bookmarks

Listening to an audio book is now less frustrating after discovering the bookmark feature in iTunes 6 (pc version). You can right-click a song, select “Get ...

Mik Lamming talks at U Toronto

Mik Lamming from HP Labs came to talk today. He presented his work on ubiquitous, peer-to-peer “Minders”, which are RF-capable devices, small form factor, ...

MASIS: SNAFU

Interesting article in the Toronto Star today (reg. required) about the Canadian military’s inventory management system, MASIS. Apparently the system is way ...

End-user software engineering

Today I stumbled upon a research consortium dedicated to ‘end-user software engineering’. The gist of their research is to put more programming ability in t...

Software research is interesting

This week I’ve met a number of people, both at Massey and at the CS department, and been inspired by their research and interests: from ecology, to law, to d...

Exploring policies in software

Policy is the explicit encoding of common, best practice in some shareable format. Having a policy ensures that common practices are easy to understand and ...

OpenOME research

Yesterday I met with Yijun Yu to discuss potential research work on the OpenOME goal modeling tool.

Colloquium: Pamela Zave

Pamela Zave, of Four Dark Corners fame, gave a presentation on IP telephony and feature interaction today. Some notes:

Trac and me

Greg invited me to participate more actively in the Trac/Argon project he’s running. The project is building project management tools for undergrad programm...

tags useful?

Lots of hype about tagging and folksonomy lately. Trouble is, I’ve never actually found them useful. I throw lots of stuff into del.icio.us, but never used...

Back to work

Well, after a nice trip through the West Coast, I’m back to work. This semester I will be TAing for the Software Carpentry and 494 projects, providing suppo...

the wikipedia

I’ve read a few articles/commentaries from individuals, usually information science types (taxonomists, librarians, etc.) complaining that the Wikipedia proj...

Mehrdad on Views

Mehrdad gave a talk on view merging today in the Early-RE seminar. Here are a few notes:

Kunstler on Google

I’ve been uneasy with Google’s lofty valuations for some time (P/E of 112.50, target around $300); James Howard Kunstler sums up why:

Really Simple Requirements

There are numerous requirements models and frameworks floating around. Often, in a pique of mathematical frenzy, researchers (often with an AI background) w...

Weekly thoughts: Big things

Most of us have difficulty conceptualizing large amounts (or very tiny amounts, which is basically the same thing). For instance, the notion of a light-year...

Complex HCI

Complex HCI is analysis of humans interacting with complex systems.

APIs and messages

I’ve been following the REST vs. WS-* debate for a while, but one thing still confuses me. As Tim Bray mentions, “Web services are an agreement to work with...

RSS/Atom add-on

Is there a way to filter RSS feeds? For example, I don’t own OSX and really don’t want to read about the nifty apps people install on it, etc. I think it w...

GADG: Requirements monitoring

This week we looked at requirements monitoring, specifically papers by Fickas, and Feather. This is an interesting area, because it proposes that requiremen...

Effectiveness and efficiency

Good definition: Effectiveness is whether a process (black box) achieves required results (from Shah, 2003, Public Health and Preventive Medicine in Canada)...

Shirky on ontology

Clay Shirky talks about Ontology and Classification. I use upper-case because I think this is what he is aiming at, the grand vision of an upper level ontol...

CWA notes

Unstructured notes on CWA, principally the Abstraction Hierarchy:

CVS client

I came across SmartCVS the other day, which seems to be a much improved client for CVS. Previously I used TortoiseCVS but it was a pain, sometimes, as it wa...

CWA and Goal Modeling

[i](http://www.cs.toronto.edu/km/istar) is a theoretical framework for modeling non-functional requirements (decision criteria in strategy selection?) in sof...

the Dimensionality of CWA

CWA currently uses 2 dimensions (2.5?) for the work domain analysis component, the Abstraction Hierarchy (AH). Vicente suggest a five level decomposition of...

Newspapers

I’m thinking of stopping the paper for a while. The weekend version has two faults that are affecting me. One, the non-news sections (like Arts, Style, Tra...

More riveting content

Apparently this site isn’t very interesting. I’d buy that. I’d really started this blog as a way of hashing out research ideas - writing clarifies - so the...

Aren’t Saturdays for fun?

Today’s agenda: Morning, breakfast and clean kitchen and dining area. Mop, sweep, vacuum. Noon: drop book off at library, pick-up Dark Age Ahead by Jane Ja...

Grand Problems 1

I’m attempting to start a weekly post on some interesting problems in my area of study.

Notes from GADG meeting

This week we looked at transforming goal models into architectures. A number of interesting issues arise:

Cool page…

Check out random, often controllable webcams here. The world, in moving pictures. Spotter: Wm. Gibson.

Not the Answer, but the Question

Doing a dissertation to me is about discovering what an interesting question is. The first few months of your research, few years even, is all focused on de...