Portugal trip, part 2

Today is the second day of the ICDCS conference. My talk to the DEBS’06 workshop on Tuesday went well, despite not being steeped in the technical detail that some of the other speakers opted to go for. It didn’t need to be, as it was sufficiently different from everything that had gone before it. The opening keynote speech for the conference was by a Willy Zwaenepoel, on why academic research rarely makes an impact in the real world (in the sense of producing something that people actively use, as opposed to industry and programmers turning out a new application then academia studying it for the next few years). His argument was that the review process requires that a paper is complex to get accepted, and this makes the core idea inaccessible to almost all but the authors of the paper. Papers get slammed during the review process for not being technical enough (despite simple ideas often being the best), for being “mere engineering” (despite that being so closely tied to our field of expertise), or for being “too incremental” (despite incremental advances in an idea toward a simplified model being a worthy contribution; think of the simplication of proofs in mathematics as a good example of this). I enjoyed this talk a lot, because it made perfect sense. The talks which followed were, as expected, steeped in technical detail and often boring. I may have fallen asleep a couple of times.

There appear to be a couple of academics here who are unashamedly advertising their recent book publications. Having not written a book, it hadn’t even dawned on me that someone might use a related conference to peddle their wares on the people, but I suppose it makes sense. I have, so far, deftly avoided buying the books.

Some advice for anyone planning a trip to Lisbon: beware of maps of Lisbon; they’re not very good! I spent over an hour hunting for one street which turned out to be in a different place than what two maps suggested. Half the problem is that the maps don’t chart the exit points of the subway system, the other half being that street names sometimes aren’t marked, or are marked in the wrong place. This makes things pretty difficult to track down fairly frequently.

I’m pleased to say that the weather hasn’t been as overpowering as I expected it to be. Temperatures have rarely risen higher than 25C (though it’s a lot higher than that in direct sunshine). It’s typically cloudy earlier in the morning, though today there isn’t a cloud in the sky today. I got rained on while walking to the workshop location on Tuesday morning. Changeable, just like Glasgow.

I’m just over the half-way mark of this trip. 4 days done, 2 days to go. I fly back early on Saturday morning.


Posted by Stephen Strowes on Thursday, July 6th, 2006. You can follow me on twitter.

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