12/17/2013

Ostzonenprogrammierung

Einträge aus dem gefälschten Tagebuch eines Zonenprogrammierers um Weihnachten '88


Ralf Lämmel, 17.12.2013, Redevorlage für eine tierisch ernste Weihnachtsfeier


Vorwort


Derartige Text generieren mitunter gehässige Leserkommentare, welche dann hinterfragen, wie es sein kann, dass Beamte dieses Landes ihre Zeit auf solchen Quatsch verwenden. Deswegen soll hier ich pro forma betonen, dass ich diesen Unsinn zwischen den unbezahlten Überstunden an einem Wochenende durch grobe Vernachlässigung etwaig empfohlener Schlafmengen erstellt habe. Auch möchte ich erwähnen, dass ich als geborener Ostzonenprogrammierer ja nur durch geschichtliche Verwicklungen in diesem System gelandet bin, dessen Überlegenheit ich aber allein schon an der Menge und der Qualität der verfügbaren Bananen ablesen kann.


Wir versetzen uns zurück in das Jahr 1988, also dem Jahr vor 1989, also dem Jahr vor dem Jahr, in dem die Mauer viel -- wie man so sagt. Eigentlich ist die Mauer ja erst viel später vollständig weggetragen worden und bis dahin standen durchaus noch diverse Mauerteile; sie lagen also nicht rum bzw. sie waren nicht schlagartig umgefallen; auch waren sie nicht alle umgefallen worden. So einfach lies sich diese Mauer nicht fällen bzw. umwerfen.


Es ist Weihnachten 1988.


Ein gewisser Gefreiter der Reserve, Ralf Lämmel, geboren in Korl-Morx-Stodt (der Stadt mit den drei “Os”), aufgewachsen in Rostock, militarisiert in Stahnsdorf bei Potsdam, zum Studium der Informatik nach Rostock zurückgekehrt, befindet sich im ersten Semester. Er hat aus unerfindlichen Gründen unlängst und angeblich begonnen, ein Tagebuch zu führen. Hierzu sei erwähnt, dass es zwar keinen Strom und keine Bananen in der Zone gab, aber Papier und Bleistifte waren rationiert verfügbar für politisch konforme Staatsbürger. Im folgenden erlangen wir empirischen Einblicke in die ostzonale Programmiererpsyche durch die Betrachtung ausgewählter Tagebucheinträge um eben Weihnachten 1988 herum.


Tagebucheinträge


Sonntag, 18.12.1988



Der Meli-Club gestern war einfach cool. Meine Freundin schaute gut aus. Auch habe ich ein neues Getränk entdeckt -- so ein Wermut, der sich Gotano schimpft. Damit entsage ich “Dozentenblut” und “Bretterknaller”. Es ist so schade, dass ich nicht auch donnerstags im Meli-Club sein kein, aber die Vorlesung “Dialektischer Historischer Materialismus” beginnt schon 7:15 Uhr am Freitag. Es gibt wohl eine Hausarbeitsoption für das Fach. Damit könnte ich donnerstags auch in den Meli-Club gehen -- so wie es für meine Freundin und die anderen Grundschulpädagoginnen kein Problem ist.


In dem synaptisch erweiterten Zustand des Gotanogenusses beschlossen XYZ (Name geschwärzt) und ich, eine Forschungsidee im Kontext natürlicher Sprachverarbeitung zu entwickeln. Dazu dachten wir zunächst tiefgründig über den gerade hörbaren Text von Marianne Rosenberg’s "Er gehört zu mir" nach, welcher zu einem Meli-Club-Abend so gehört wie der Name an der Tür.


Erste Strophe von Marianne Rosenberg’s “Er gehört zu mir”:


Er gehört zu mir, wie mein Name an der Tür,
und ich weiß, er bleibt hier,
nie vergeß ich unseren ersten Tag,
Naaa naa naa na, na na na
denn ich fühlte gleich, daß er mich mag,
Naaa naa naa na, na na na
ist es wahre Liebe (uuuhhhuuuhhuuu)
die nie mehr vergeht (uhuuuhuu)
oder wird die Liebe, vom Winde verweht?


Wir definierten folgende Forschungsfragen, welche durch eine Analyse mittels natürlicher Sprachverarbeitung bzw. Corpusstudien auch unter Einbezug sozialistischen Liedgutes zu adressieren wären. Auf jeden Fall würde Prolog in diesem Projekt zum Einsatz kommen.


Forschungsfragen:


  1. Gibt es charakteristische Elemente in diesem Text, welche dieses Lied als eine Ausgeburt des Klassenfeindes entlarven? Ist dies vielmehr ein unentscheidbares Problem bzw. ein Problem, was nur durch die sogenannte "starke Artificial Intelligence" gelöst werden kann?
  2. Welche subliminalen Elemente führen zu der mysteriösen Massenpsychose in dem sozialistisch geprägten Studentenclub so dass sich politisch gebildete Studierende und andere sozialistische Persönlichkeiten diesem imperialistischen Gedankengut zuwenden?
  3. Ist Marianne Rosenberg eventuell dann doch verkappt revolutionär?
  4. Liefert der Text einen Beleg für die imperialistisch etablierte Verhaustierung von Mãnnern?


Ultimativ führte das Lied uns gegen Ende des Abends, also am frühen Morgen, zu allgemeinen Reflektionen über unser beginnendes Informatikstudium und das Leben an sich:


Weitere Fragen:


  1. Warum müssen wir in Pascal und C programmieren? Diese Sprachen sind doch ganz offensichtlich ungeeignet, um einen klaren Gedanken zu fassen? Kann die sozialistische Gesellschaft auf Dauer erfolgreich sein, wenn sie solche degenerierten (imperativen also imperialistischen) Sprachen favorisiert?
  2. Wie erklären wir unseren Freundinnen, was wir denken? Gibt es notfalls auch hinreichend gut aussehende Informatik-Studentinnen und hinreichend viele dergleichen? (Später zugefügte Anmerkung auf dem Rand des Tagebuches: Weitere empirische Untersuchungen suggerieren, dass Mathematikerinnen auch in den Suchraum aufgenommen werden sollten.)


Im Nachhall dieser Überlegungen habe ich gerade einen Brief an die Kreisleitung der SED gesendet, um die politische Integrität unserer Professoren überprüfen zu lassen hinsichtlich der systemfeindlichen Auswahl von Programmiersprachen im Curriculum.


Freitag, 23.12.1988



Ich wurde mit dem Weihnachtsgroßeinkauf beauftragt. Die Ente hat meine Mutter schon ergattert so dass nur noch Grundnahrungsmittel zu besorgen waren. Hier ist der Kassenzettel:


  • 100 Brötchen zu je 0,05 Mark, insgesamt 5,00 Mark
  • 7 Leckermäulchen zu je 1,00 Mark, insgesamt 7,00 Mark
  • 1kg Kaffee = 8 Packungen zu je 8,75 Mark, insgesamt 70 Mark
  • 10 Flaschen Club-Cola zu je 0,42 Mark, insgesamt 4,20 Mark
  • 1 Schlager-Süßtafel zu 0,80 Mark
  • usw.


(Siehe weitere Preisbeispiele aus der DDR.)


Kaum bin ich zuhause, sehen wir unter auf der Strasse jemand mit Orangen. Ich mache mich dementsprechend wieder auf den Weg in die Kaufhalle. Solche Schnelligkeit zahlt sich aus. Man hat mir dann 1kg Orangen verkauft; mehr gab es nicht pro Person.


Schliesslich durfte ich noch in das Kaufhaus eilen, um ein paar Jahresendflügelfiguren als Schmuck für den Endjahresbaum zu kaufen sowie ein paar Endjahrespuppen ohne Flügel aber mit Mütze und Bart und aus Schokolade -- also zum Verzehr bestimmt.


Montag, 26.12.1988



Das ist ein ganz besonders schrecklicher Montag: Rechenzentrum geschlossen, Freundin bei den Eltern, Alternativen nicht zugreifbar bei geschlossenem Meli-Club, polnische Flugente zu trocken, Orangen ungeniessbar. 

Die Kuba-Orangen sahen lecker grün aus in der Kaufhalle, aber die Drängelei, das Anstehen und das viele Geld waren es nicht wert; die Orangen sind voll mit Kernen und total sauer. Vielleicht ist etwas dran an dem Gerücht, dass die Kuba-Orangen Fidel Castro's Rache sind.


Auch politisch fühle mich ein wenig alleingelassen. Wie war es doch noch schön, als wir bei der Fahne im Verband der Kompanieeinheit ab und an den “Roten Montag” hatten, der uns für das Vaterland mobilisierte. In dieser Situation der totalen Trostlosigkeit verliere ich mich versehentlich beim Westfernsehen. Das ist aber voller Lügen. Die lassen es so ausschauen, als wenn es dort leckere Orangen und Bananen gibt. Die Wahrheit sieht anders aus, wie wir es aus der NVA-Bibel "Vom Sinn des Soldatseins" wissen (Seite 35 in der mir vorliegenden Version):


“Den Lebensinteressen der Völker entgegen steht die Herrschaft des Imperialismus. Auf sein Konto kommen [...] Armut, chronische Unterernährung und hohe Kindersterblichkeit. Die Geschichte hat ihr Urteil über diese historisch überlebte und dem Untergang geweihte Gesellschaftsordnung längst gesprochen.”


Das zeigt doch ganz deutlich, dass es dort keine Orangen, keine Bananen oder sonstige vitaminreiche Kost geben kann. Ich danke Marx und Lenin, dass sie uns eine Alternative gebacken haben. Bei uns gibt immer leckere Äpfel und Möhren. Der Sozialismus hat den Skorbut besiegt.


Freitag, 30.12.1988



Es ist schon eine eindrucksvolle Koinzidenz, dass die aktuelle Hausaufgabe in der “Einführung in die Programmierung” die Warteschlange thematisiert, während Silvester vor der Tür steht und damit das alljährliche Ritual des Knallererwebs ansteht. Am Mittwoch habe ich mich ordentlich gegen 23 Uhr an die Warteschlage angehängt. Das war zu spät! Das Kontingent an Knallern war 42 Minuten nach Ladenöffnung, also um genau 9:42 Uhr erschöpft. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt konnte ich die Ladentür nur nicht einmal sehen.


Allerdings war die Zeit in der Schlange nicht ganz vergebens. Ein Thema in meinem Schlangensegment war die prekäre Wohnungsfrage. Es scheint immer noch geltende Praxis zu sein, dass man entweder bis etwa zum Alter von 30 Jahren bei Muttern leben soll oder man heiraten und ein Kind kriegen soll, um eine Wohnung zu bekommen.


Allerdings scheint das bald besser zu werden. Ein netter Parteifreund konnte mit einem Zitat aus Erich Honecker’s Autobiographie “Aus meinem Leben”  aufwarten (Seite 304 in der mir vorliegenden Version):


“Unser Zentralkommitee beschloß im Oktober 1973 ein Wohnungsbauprogramm, um bis 1990 in der DDR die Wohnungsfrage als soziales Problem zu lösen.”

Sobald meine Freundin wieder vor Ort ist, werde ich ihr mein Aktvitätsdiagramm zur Lösung unserer persönlichen Wohnungsfrage demonstrieren. Das Diagramm enthält ein Fork/Join zur Maximierung der Optionen zum Erhalt einer Wohnung. In einem der parallelen Abläufe vertrauen wir auf Erich's Versprechen und hätten damit spätestens am 31.12.1990 eine Wohnung ohne weiteren physischen Aufwand. Parallel könnten wir aufgrund gesunden Misstrauens auch ein Kind in die Welt setzen und damit eventuell schon im Herbst 1989 eine Wohnung zugewiesen bekommen. Das Diagramm ist in Prolog ausführbar. 

Es bleibt zu hoffen, dass die Betonklötze von Professoren nicht doch wieder ihr C-ähnlichen Gebrechen zur Lösung derartiger Probleme pushen. Nicht alle Professoren sind aber so reaktionär. Prof. XYZ  (Name geschwärzt) hat unlängst von der Sprache Hope erzählt und ich habe noch nie soviel Hoffnung verspürt. Die funktionale Programmiersprache Hope kann Funktionen höherer Ordnung gut ausdrücken, Fallunterscheidungen über Datenmustern beschreiben und sie ist stark getypt. Ich werde meine Westverwandten antickern, mir mehr Informationen dazu zu besorgen. Hope soll bald zu mir gehören, wie die Türklinke zur Tür.


Nachwort



Wer etwas Ernsthaftes über die Geschichte der Informatik in der DDR lesen möchte, dem sei der Artikel Integration der Informatik-Standorte der DDR in den Fakultätentag empfohlen.

12/02/2013

Install Mac OS X Mavericks from USB

It's really easy.

Why would you do it?

  1. Do it on many machines without downloading Mavericks time and again.
  2. Do it on a machine that it not working proper in terms of its Mac OS X install.
  3. Do it on a machine where you want to flatten the old Mac OS X.
  4. Do it on a machine that refuses to install in the normal way so that you like to flatten.
For instance, I had a 10.6 machine where the installer would fail because the existing partition was found to be non-usable. Apparently, this is a common problem also covered by the Apple KB. My partition was a standard one, as far as I can tell.

How to prepare a USB install drive?

A somewhat verbose story is given elsewhere:

If you know sudo, then it is trivial:
  1. Format the USB stick with Disc Utility; call it "Untitled" say.
  2. Just download Maverick (as if you wanted to install it).
  3. Run the following sudo command that prepares the USB drive in a few minutes.
sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app --nointeraction

So basically, the installer has this great API to create an install drive!

How to install from the USB drive?

  1. Insert the USB drive into the computer.
  2. Boot and press "option" to see the list of boot devices.
  3. Select the USB drive.
This would launch the installer.

How to reset and install?

If you want to run disk utilities (in order to flatten the previous system), press the "R" key right after having selected the USB drive. This would start the recovery partition on the USB drive, which gives you access to the disk utilities. In this manner, you can, for example, format the old drive and thus prepare for a fresh install of Mavericks leaving the past behind.

10/24/2013

With two friends, I participated in a "Dinner for one" online quiz last night.

Quite proud of our combined insight.


Urkunde: Auswertung für den Test
Dinner for one
Super! Sie wissen was Miss Sophie und James jedes Jahr tun!

Sie haben 10 von 10 Aufgaben richtig beantwortet.
Im Durchschnitt haben die 1912 Surfer, die das Quiz gemacht haben, 6.77 richtige Antworten gegeben.
 
Auch das Quiz Dinner for one spielen?

10/19/2013

Undergraduate reading material on SLE

What is SLE?
You can shop around for definition attempts.
... on the websites of SLE conference series.
... in the guest editors' introduction to the IEEE TOSEM 2009 special issue on SLE.

As a matter of fact, we don't have a proper, generally accepted and adopted definition.
This indeed also showed at last year's SLEBOK workshop at SLE 2012.
There is quite a few people (including me) who think that this needs to be fixed.

On a related account, it is not even particularly clear what the core or extended set of SLE concepts would be. This makes it hard to properly cover the subject in teaching. I somehow have managed in my SLE class, but I do not claim to be very consistent and palatable as to the use of terminology (ontology) in the course.

This semester's edition of my SLE course will feature reading (and corresponding presentations and discussions by the students) with one reading slot focused on basic SLE literature. I have started to collect a richly annotated bibliography of "fundamental SLE papers", which I released at OOPSLE 2013 (at WCRE 2013) in Koblenz earlier this week.

Please have a look:


I hope it may be useful for others. 
I also look forward collaboration on the subject.

Regards,
Ralf

9/30/2013

Short note on syntactic sugar

Bran Selic, during his #models13 tutorial on modeling language design, mentioned the notion of "syntactic sugar" in passing, and he sort of stated, as far as I understood, that he isn't too happy with the term, as it seems to belittle those constructs; they are certainly important presumably for those who want to benefit from these constructs, for as long as we assume that the constructs do indeed capture valuable domain concepts. (Sorry if I am getting him wrong.)

This got me thinking in that I wanted to hypothesize profoundly why this stuff is called "syntactic sugar". I was always assuming (and I think this is not controversial) that it simply classifies a language construct such that it can be eliminated from the language syntax by "desugaring", i.e., by a syntactic translation to core constructs.

Of course, people use the term syntactic sugar in a somewhat more flexible manner. That is, they may also use it for constructs that do require a bit more effort such as some sort of type analysis. This is a slippery slope. Whether or not such extra analysis is needed may also depend on quite technical details regarding type system and semantics.

What I find slightly more interesting here is the fact that the term is maybe usefully deployed in technical discussions among language engineers, but the question arises why the term should leak into the pragmatics or overall end-user picture of the language. This is happens, for example, in much communication aiming at teaching programming languages.

The end user is certainly not meant to fully appreciate the term for as long as the simple, macro-like nature (or feasibility) of these constructs is not transparent to the end user. Arguably, it is useful though for the end user to understand quickly that a given construct is not yet another major concept, but it rather is a simple pattern for using existing constructs.

Thus, better term sought after.

Ralf

9/03/2013

An Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography on Software Language Engineering

I am very happy to provide the keynote of OOPSLE 2013 at WCRE (The first workshop on Open and Original Problems in Software Language Engineering). Here is the title, abstract, etc. Looking forward the meeting in October in Koblenz. Greetings from Neustadt a. d. Weinstrasse.

Speaker

Ralf Lämmel, University of Koblenz-Landau

Title

An Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography on Software Language Engineering

Abstract

Given that OOPSLE is about open (and) original problems on software language engineering (SLE), it does make a lot of sense to look back at somewhat closed (and back then) original problems on SLE. Such look into the (rather recent) past will be provided by this talk in the form of an annotated and illustrated bibliography. Annotations take the usual form of a bit of text that is summarizing the work. Illustrations take the form of capturing terms and principle examples in a declarative language such as Prolog or Haskell. The speaker is working on such a bibliography in the context of developing and maintaining courseware on SLE. The assumption is here that SLE courseware should be informed by a good corpus of papers and suitable illustrations of the main concepts of those papers. A number of open research challenges will also be encountered in this manner. Further, a number of folklore SLE notions will be revealed as being insufficiently linked to suitable papers, thereby calling perhaps for a textbook on SLE foundations.

Bio


8/25/2013

An introduction to language processing

Summary

This is an introduction to language processing.
We classify components of a language definition.
We classify components in language processing.
We illustrate language processing for a simple language.
The processing components are written in Haskell.

Slides

Available on slideshare.

Code

Available on github.
The lecture is heavily code-based.
That is, we will understand language processing through Haskell-based examples.

Miscellaneous

This is a lecture which forms an integral part of my SLE course.
I am putting this blog post up as I am guest lecturing at University of Bergen.
That is, the lecture feeds into Anya Helene Bagge's SLE course.
If you want to share SLE course material, please see the SLECOURSE project.

5/23/2013

Probleme bei der bahn.de Online-Buchung


Does anyone know whether bahn.de is on github?
I need to file an issue or send them a pull request.
Ralf


Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,
liebes bahn.de,

ich konnte heute ebenso wie etwa vor 3 Wochen nicht mehr online bei bahn.de buchen. (Zwischendurch habe ich nicht weiter probiert sondern bin notfalls auf einen Mietwagen umgestiegen.)

In beiden Fällen wollte ich mit meiner Visa-Kreditkarte von der Deutschen Bank bezahlen, die auch in der Vergangenheit funktioniert hat. Bei allen Versuchen erhalte ich am Ende des Kaufs diese Fehlermeldung:

Hinweis: Leider kann die Zahlung nicht durchgeführt werden, da die Autorisierung Ihrer Kreditkarte durch Ihre Bank fehlgeschlagen ist. Da der Autorisierungsprozess direkt zwischen Ihnen und Ihrer Bank verläuft, können wir Ihnen nicht den genauen Grund mitteilen. Bitte setzen Sie sich direkt mit Ihrer kreditkartenausgebenden Stelle in Verbindung um zu klären, woran die Autorisierung scheiterte.

Ich habe heute ebenso wie vor 3 Wochen das Kreditkartenunternehmen mehrmals angerufen und mir wurde konsistent versichert dass a) meine Karte i.O. ist; b) überhaupt gar keine Anfrage angekommen ist. Die Leute bei Visa/Deutsche Bank haben noch weitere Dinge versucht und untersucht, aber es lief immer nur wieder auf a) und b) hinaus. Ich benutze meine Kart fast täglich online und habe keinerlei Probleme bei anderen Webseiten.

Damit ist die Fehlermeldung von bahn.de, wie oben angegeben, definitiv falsch.

Ich habe ebenso heute und vor 3 Wochen auch bei bahn.de angerufen, aber immer nur allgemeine Hinweise empfangen, dafür aber viele. Ich bedanke mich für die Höflichkeit bei all diesen Gesprächen. ("Haben Sie die Kreditkartennummer richtig eingeben?" u.ä.) Es ging auch soweit, dass die bahn.de-Mitarbeiter für mich buchten und ich noch lediglich meine Kreditkartennummer durchgeben musste. Man bekam dann auch die gleiche Fehlermeldung. Vor 3 Wochen blieb dann am Ende der Vorschlag übrig, einfach ein paar Stunden zu warten.

Ich möchte gern wieder in den Genuss des Bahnfahrens kommen.

Hier folgt eine Aufzählung dessen, was ich probiert habe:

  • Benutzung meines Firmenlogin.
  • Benutzung meines privaten Login.
  • Keine Verwendung eines Logins sondern Eingabe aller Daten von Hand.
  • Es handelte sich um verschiedene Verbindungen; die von heute war trivial.
  • 3 verschiedene Browser; keine Pop-up blocker.

Natürlich habe ich auch nach dem Problem gegoogelt und es ist anscheinend nicht verbreitet, wenn man von 1-2 älteren Fällen absieht.

Ich bitte Sie davon auszugehen, dass in meinem Fall kein Nutzerfehler vorliegt, sondern ein Problem mit der bahn.de-Software bzw. ein Problem mit meiner Kreditkarte in Ihrer Datenverwaltung, welches vor dem Kontaktieren des Kreditkartenunternehmens entsteht. (Meine Frau kann mit ihrer Zweitkarte zu unserem Konto buchen.)

Dementsprechend würde ich mich über eine Analyse des Problems freuen und stehe gern zur weiteren Auskunft zur Verfügung auch telefonisch.

Danke und MfG
Ralf Lämmel
Professor für Informatik, Universität Koblenz-Landau
http://softlang.wikidot.com/rlaemmel:home

5/09/2013

A note on bogus/fake conferences

"Change log": The post remains unchanged as released 5/9/13 9:54 PM, Central European Summer Time, modulo fixing typos, and summarizing the responses from WORLDCOMP; see past the disclaimer below.

In this post, I am concerned with the topic of bogus/fake conferences which has received attention specifically across the computer science community. If necessary, run this Google search to get some data points.

Disclaimer: Please, apply personal judgement when drawing conclusions. Avoid premature judgement; take into account that cyber harassment could be behind some of the information you find online.

Actually, I am not in the business of discovering bogus/fake conferences or even working out a solid definition of that notion, but I am affected transitively, as I discuss below. Also,  I may have an opinion about some related phenomena. For instance, IMHO, the notion of fake/bogus conference, as I see it presented online, is too much of a Boolean domain where I think instead that multiple dimensions are actually involved, each one deserving a discrete or continuos scale well beyond information capacity of Booleans. For instance, I have received (and perhaps even submitted) embarrassing reviews for rank B conferences. What do we call those conferences?

In the following, I tell you two non-fiction stories. The first story explains how I published a paper IMHO sub-optimally at PDPTA 2011 (part of WORLDCOMP). The second story details how the "John Peter" dynasty sends threatening emails to me because of some of my tweets related to WORLDCOMP.


BEGIN DISCLAIMER

I am not saying or implying, in any form, that I (Ralf Lämmel) classify WORLDCOMP as fake/bogus conference. In fact, I am grateful for having a paper published in the PDPTA track of WORLDCOMP 2011 and I hope WORLDCOMP can get further beyond all accusations and it can recover further from the alleged cyber attack, which I condemn. Also, I am not accusing WORLDCOMP or its authorized representatives to have sent the messages reported below.  

I do expect a confirmation from WORLDCOMP that indeed they did not authorize those messages. I have contacted WORLDCOMP as follows.

From: Ralf Laemmel
Date: Thu, May 9, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Subject: Fwd: Defamation of WORLDCOMP
To: sc@world-comp.org
Dear Sir or Madam,
I have received the following email from John Peter, who appears to represent WORLDCOMP. I would like to kindly ask whether WORLDCOMP has authorized this sort of email? I consider the form of this email as an attempt to threaten me.
Thank you and with kind regards.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Lämmel
Software Languages Team / Arbeitsgruppe Softwaresprachen
Universität Koblenz-Landau

END DISCLAIMER

SUMMARY of WORLDCOMP response

I had received a response and follow up emails within less than 2 hours after the initial post and my simultaneous email to sc@world-comp.org. I quote from the first response: "Once again, worldcomp would never send emails to any individual or listserv from email addresses other than @world-comp.org or amgsolo@mavericktechnologies.us. [...] The person who sent you the message below is [sic] to aggravate you (with the sole intention of creating enemies for worldcomp)."

More details and arguments were provided to me and based on my current understanding and careful judgement I assume that WORLDCOMP is not involved in the threats discussed below, but rather that the threats are part of the cyber harassment of which WORLDCOMP and some of its representatives have been the victim. In fact, I am looking at documents on a (partly) confidential basis which I would judge as substantiating a very substantial cyber attack that is hard to comprehend. This is even worse than I thought.

5/10/13 0:05 PM, Central European Summer Time

END SUMMARY

The paper "MapReduce with Deltas" at PDPTA 2011



Not listed on DBLP!

As it happens, DBLP has stopped listing (as of writing this blog post) PDPTA events. The last edition listed is PDPTA 2010. Thus, our paper - of which I think highly - is not listed on DBLP, which I find annoying because DBLP is such a useful tool in Computer Science. If a paper is neither listed on DBLP, nor ACM DL, nor IEEE explore, then the paper is much less discoverable and some may consider the paper unworthy of reading and citation. Of course, there are exceptions where great insight or strong results have been published in different ways. 

Disclaimer: Don't read anything between the lines. I am not saying that conferences that are no longer listed on DBLP are potentially fake conferences. Neither am I saying that conferences or events that are continuously listed on DBLP are likely rank A or B (or C or what have you). Neither of these two statements would make much sense, if you understand how DBLP works. 

I am just saying that PDPTA's listing on DBLP was a necessary condition for me to even consider the conference. Now, without DBLP listing (or any other helpful listing IMHO), I consider this paper to be published in a suboptimal way, just on the grounds of indexing. 

Why did I publish with PDPTA?

In early 2011, a research project with my student David Saile came to an end and we were looking for a suitable venue for publication. The project was concerned with a technical and conceptual innovation regarding the MapReduce model for data-parallel programming. Just for the record, data parallelism is a research area in which I consider myself relatively knowledgeable as I would like to substantiate on the grounds of the journal paper "Google's MapReduce Programming Model -- Revisited" which you might know if you are doing research on MapReduce and friends. 

As I was looking around for conference deadlines, I spotted the PDPTA track at WORLDCOMP. Of course, I also spotted several more deadlines of other conferences that seemed to have data parallelism / big data explicitly listed. Quite obviously, we could also have submitted to more generic and well-known venues concerned with programming and data in general. However, we wanted to get in touch with more people interested specifically in parallel distributed programming and big data and the sliding deadline of PDPTA ended up being perfectly aligned with our timeline. So PDPTA made it.

As a more senior researcher, I think quite about where to submit. Some degree of conservatism is involved. (I am not conservative on the scale I observe among my peers.) I want my papers to be exposed to the relevant community and there should be reasonable chances for other researchers to follow up on my work. These are dimensions of personal judgement relying on experience. Clearly, I also prefer better ranked conferences over the others. I am doing research in relatively different areas. So for me, it is natural to look around for venues that I don't know yet.

Back then, I didn't think of our results and writeup as being ready for submission to a rank A conference, also in the view of the need to publish soon, as my student was leaving university eventually. So I didn't consider venues such as ICFPVLDB, or others with the strongest track record. I sensed that PDPTA promised impact well in line with the results and the writeup at hand. Add to this that WORLDCOMP made strong claims about citation-related ranking and selective peer review. So I was hoping that PDPTA would count as rank B conference (eventually). Very briefly, I looked over papers from the previous edition just to see whether they are relevant in terms of topics and format. This looked good. (It happens that we did not reference any prior PDPTA papers.)

There were signs that made me wonder.

Perhaps. a repeatedly sliding deadline is something to feel suspicious about, some might say. Again, I am not very conservative.

Perhaps, the lack of finding relevant, prior PDPTA papers is something to feel suspicious about, some might say. However, during our related work study, we did not go specifically through prior PDPTA editions which, perhaps, we could have done. Rather we applied keyword-based search to literature indexes (DBLP and ACM DL) plus chasing related work from the references of key papers, as usual. We could have hoped for reviews to point out more related work, specifically also from prior PDPTA editions.

I wouldn't recognize anyone on the committee page. That's weird! If you pointed me to pretty much any international conference on programming or software engineering, I would look at the program committee and I would spot some colleagues, co-authors, well-known community members, or some researchers with whom I have worked in some program committee over the years. Anyhow, pragmatism kicked in and I decided to give PDPTA a try.

I would run though a simple Bing/Google search to see whether WORLDCOMP pops up in the context of bogus and fake conferences. SCIgen was an eye opener back then and we are more careful ever since. I would really hate to spend budget and brains on a bogus/fake conference. One can find much online information about bogus/fake conference these days. Even before the online trend to "leak" bogus/fake conferences, I would naturally disregard some conferences as they looked  clearly so unfocused, tourism-oriented, and "hypoglycemic" scientifically.

PDPTA looked pretty focused and scientific. I remember clearly that WORLDCOMP did not show up in any obvious way back then when I was running the search. I do remember finding one critical comment by someone apparently dedicated to the cause of revealing bogus conferences. That comment essentially said "The conference is not classified as a bogus conference as of now, but there may be some suspicious signs so that the conference is on the watch list."

Acceptance aftermath

Just to be clear, I didn't receive reviews for my paper (see the notification above). My student went to the conference and was modestly excited, but then again, it was his first conference. Also, PDPTA may just have attracted great papers over the years! Who knows! With big conferences that combine many tracks, it wouldn't be surprising to hear that quality varies across the tracks. I have heard such statements from people who I trust for the HICSS conference series as well as the SAC conference series. At this point, I don't know anyone senior first hand who is telling me anything substantial about WORLDCOMP. 

I want to believe that PDPTA was a great conference over all the years. 

Some transparency would help here. Anyway, not receiving expert reviews makes me feel uneasy. I consider peer review essential to how CS conferences currently work. I am well aware of the continuos discussion on this matter, as to whether peer review is the only way to go and how exactly peer review should be exercised. PDPTA promised and claimed peer review and selective acceptance. I am not completely convinced from what the evidence that I have seen. Again, some transparency would help here. 

Just for the record, I spotted a citation of our paper on ACM DL, but it is not counted on my bibliometrics page at ACM DL presumably because there is no standardized entry for the paper (such as those coming from Springer, ACM, IEEE, and other publishers and data integration facilities). There is no reliable way to search for other citations, but that's sort of a problem with ACM DL, which works best as an indexing service (not surprisingly) for ACM publications and works well for some other sources but not necessarily for all established ones. If our paper was at least indexed on DBLP, but it isn't.

Anyway, my student and me spent considerable effort on the paper and the underlying research and seeing the paper insufficiently indexed makes me feel sad.

The "John Peter" dynasty

Just hypothetically, suppose, you are suspected of running a bogus/fake conference and there are people (say like me) who spread the word about related suspicions. What would you do? This is not an easy question, certainly not for me, as I have zero experiences with being suspected of running bogus/fake conferences. However, I think I would NOT threaten people who express or share suspicions because I can't see how I would hope to contain the problem possibly this way. 

I would go for transparency and trust. That is, I would look at the claims and comment on them one by one, in detail, and with evidence at hands. For instance, if researchers suspect that the review process was compromised, then I would produce evidence and witnesses to show otherwise. If I cannot do that, perhaps because the claim is true, then I have to face the consequences. Perhaps, if some claims are true and others aren't, then the conference can be saved and the reputation of those involved can be protected, but without transparency all is at risk. 

If you want me to reconsider a statement I made, be it in a tweet or otherwise, please don't threaten me anonymously, rather contact me in a sensible way. Thank you!

Therefore, I want to believe that the following messages from the "John Peter dynasty" are not authorized by WORLDCOMP. Rather, I can imagine that indeed some complex form of cyber harassment is at play here, as possibly suggested by other sources like this.

As evidenced by a discussion on ResearchGate, I am not the only victim of such threatening.

Exchange with John Peter I

(If you don't know Hushmail - it's "Email with privacy".)

Here is an Email from John Peter I.

From:
Date: Sat, May 4, 2013 at 6:18 PM
Subject: Demand to remove your defamatory posting
To: rlaemmel@acm.org
Hi
We are upset to see your posting at https://twitter.com/reallynotabba/status/302889284724224001  about our WORLDCOMP. Your statements are clearly defamatory and we formally ask you to remove this posting within 24 hours from now. Else, we will follow legal actions against you and your institute. Consider this message highly time sensitive.
Sincerely
John

Here is my reply:

From: Ralf Laemmel
Date: Sun, May 5, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Subject: Re: Demand to remove your defamatory posting
To: johnpeter1@hushmail.com
Cc: rlaemmel@acm.org
Hi John,
Sorry if my tweet upset you,
I removed it,
Regards
Ralf

John refers to the following 91 days old tweet: "OMG, #worldcomp is actually a fake conference! A little suspicious it was, but some tracks looked quite good. worldcomp-fake-bogus.blogspot.de". In retrospect, I am indeed not proud of myself for choosing one specific link related to claims about WORLDCOMP because it may be interpreted as if I would have been able to check, to some reasonable extent, the specific claims on the specific linked blogging site. Further, I quickly realized that elements of cyber harassment, were also at play, given all the online pages and the tone used on some of the pages, which I indicated in another tweet shortly after 302889284724224001. So far, John Peter did not complain about the tweet considering cyber harassment. 

Back then, when I shared suspicions through the tweet, I made an effort to search for transparent detailed responses to the accusations some of which would be compatible with my personal experience. I am still looking for the ultimate responses. I would very much prefer an outcome such that the value of my PDPTA publication is reinstated.

No word from John Peter II

Did anyone receive any email from John Peter II?

Exchange with John Peter III

Here is an Email from John Peter III.

From:
Date: Wed, May 8, 2013 at 4:33 PM
Subject: Defamation of WORLDCOMP
To: softlang@uni-koblenz.de
Hello,
Thanks for removing your twitter posting on WORLDCOMP but you came up with another strategy to defame WORLDCOMP. Do not act too smart. I ask you to remove “WORLDCOMP” and any reference to it from all your twitter and other postings. We will directly contact your university officials and will also file a lawsuit unless you comply with our demand within 24 hours from now.
Sincerely
John Peter

Here is my reply:

From: Ralf Laemmel
Date: Thu, May 9, 2013 at 4:56 PM
Subject: Re: Defamation of WORLDCOMP
To: johnpeter3@hushmail.com
Done.
Ralf

The mail bounced, though. John, hello, can you hear me?

This is about the following tweet and associated communication; I have grayed out responses from another twitter user who tried helping me with my effort.



Lessons learned


  • Submit to conferences that you know. ("You" as in yourself or your supervisor, your experienced co-author, etc.)
  • If you want to step on new ground, check whether the targeted conference has a critical mass of people involved who you can trust (personally) that they hold up the scientific quality of the conference.
  • When a conference is labeled fake/bogus in a yet to be defined, affirmative sense, then we should allow people to resubmit their work for peer review, if they published their work with the conference in question just before the news broke, also assuming that it was insufficiently obvious, also in need of a definition or decision by a suitable board.
  • Do not close the door until suitable responses and evidence have been judged properly. Consider the possibility and the role of cyber harassment.

Prof. Dr. Ralf Lämmel
Professor of Computer Science
University of Koblenz-Landau



3/06/2013

Design of a functional programming class

Just arrived in Marburg for Sebastian Erdweg's PhD defense. On this occasion, I will speak about the emerging design of a functional programming class that we will start next semester in Koblenz. It uses and augments the 101companies Project in interesting ways.


Regards,
Ralf


Title: Design of a functional programming class

Abstract: In the classic model, the lecturer takes the students through aspects of functional programming (such as list processing, higher-order functions, monads) and provides slides, samples, and other resources to the students, possibly complemented by a textbook recommendation. In the proposed model, a software chrestomathy becomes the primary source of knowledge and center of activity. Relevant programming concepts, language and technology aspects are documented and associated with a rich and organized set of samples including cross-references to external resources such as textbooks, Wikipedia, and other wikis. We are preparing such a course within the scope of the 101companies Project. In this talk, I present the emerging design and describe the emerging capability of the 101companies Project to serve such course designs.

Slides[.pdf]

Acknowledgement: This is joint work with Thomas Schmorleiz and Andrei Varanovich. Many thanks also for various infrastructural contributions by Sebastian Jackel and Martin Leinberger.