Piled Higher and Deeper

Thanks to geomblog I found out there is such a thing as daily comics about working on a Ph.D. It is pretty funny though I was so among the lucky ones when I wrote my Ph.D.: I was very naïve.

What I want to see is a follow-up where the Ph.D. student actually gets a job!

I read somewhere last night that according to a study, only 15% of Ph.D.s in science working in Québec (Canada) are on a professorship (Canada). It can be either a good or a bad thing. As for myself, after a got my Ph.D., I never could find a decent job offer in Québec that wasn’t a professorship. I know few jobs that are quite good outside academia, but I certainly don’t know many. Where are all those Ph.D.s and are they happy?

Semantic Web Ontologies: What Works and What Doesn’t

Here’s a beautiful paper on Semantic Web Ontologies. The author makes very well the point that most people have gotten by now: ontologies can only have a very limited appeal outside laboratories. If you can include marriage or terrorist in an ontology, then you can’t really do very much outside a very limited scope.

In fact, getting to write ontologies for other people is very much similar to controlling language as in the famous novel 1984 because unlike natural language, ontologies are very limited semantically.

Are the people I’m talking about terrorists or freedom fighters? What’s the definition of patriot? What’s the definition of marriage? Just defining these kinds of ontologies when you’re talking about these kinds of political questions rather than about part numbers; this becomes a political statement. People get killed over less than this. These are places where ontologies are not going to work.

NSERC – Policy on Intellectual Property

NSERC is the main funding body for research in science and engineering in Canada. It has an interesting policy on IP:

NSERC expects that any IP resulting from research it funds wholly or in part will be owned by the university or the inventor, according to university policy. Access to IP should be accorded to other sponsors in recognition of, and in proportion to, the sponsor’s contribution to the collaboration.

Alas, I must say that I violated this rule, against my will, in the past, but I will try harder to stick by it from now on.

The interesting question here is whether things like assigning copyright to a publisher are in violation of the funding body’s rules? Probably.

Academia really needs to get its act together with respect to IP as I’m not the only one who plays with grey areas…

Online courses force a deeper understanding

From eLearn Magazine, I got this quote in a paper by George P. Schell:

Online courses force a deeper understanding of information technology simply because they require immersion in the technology that supports the subject being taught. If students fail to master the technology skills required by the course they ultimately fail the course itself. We’ve long understood that immersion, such as learning a foreign language by living where the language is spoken, is a very effective method for quickly and deeply learning a subject.

Does JavaScript scale?

This post talks about how hard it is to debug JavaScript.

In general, pushing the UI to Javascript makes it hard to develop and debug. There are limited tools, the language is too lenient (no objects, weak typing), and testing involves cycling through webpages over and over again.

Obviously, this statement is false: there are objects in JavaScript and some nice features… JavaScript is not too lenient: there are many solid languages without strong typing and they work just fine. But I must say that, indeed, it is quite hard to debug JavaScript. Incredibly so.

My friend Scott Flinn would say “it’s the browser, stupid”… since he thinks that JavaScript is fine, but that JavaScript in the browser is bad.

That’s why, if I ever attempt to do non-trivial JavaScript, I will try to use command line interpreter. The command line is a powerful programming tool despite what Microsoft and Borland think.

Paquets… ou Seb en français

Seb is now available in French through Paquets… de quoi? Multi-language blogging is an interesting topic I covered elsewhere in my blog. I will eventually open a blog in French, but I’m worried that having too many blogs will kill the fun. I like having one spot to call mine… if I have to run around all over the place, it might get tiring…

My experience so far with Google ads

This is depressing. My blog gets millions of page loads per day (not really). So, being greedy (not really), I decided to put some ads on it. Hence, I put some Google ads following Yuhong’s foot steps. Well, so far, not a single click. Not one of you guys clicked on one of the ads.

I never thought I would make any money, but I still expected a few clicks a week.

To be fair, I think these ads are fairly useless. Right now, I see ads about blogging software. Maybe I write too much about blogging?