I’m delighted to announce that my student, Jonathan Lung has started a blog. Jonathan’s PhD is on how we reduce energy consumption in computing. Unlike much work on green IT, he’s decided to focus on the human behavioural aspects of this, rather than hardware optimization. His first two posts are fascinating:

  • How to calculate if you should print something out or read it on the screen. Since he first did these calculations, we’ve been discussing how you turn this kind of analysis into an open, shared, visual representation, that others can poke and prod, to test the assumptions, customize them to their own context, and discuss. We’ll share more of our design ideas for such a tool in due course.
  • An analysis of whether the iPad is as green as Apple’s marketing claims. Which is, in effect, a special case of the more general calculation of print vs. screen. Oh, and his analysis also makes me feel okay about my desire to own an iPad…

As Jorge points out, this almost completes my set of grad student bloggers. We’ve been experimenting with blogging as a way of structuring research – a kind of open notebook science. Personally, I find it extremely helpful as a way of forcing me to write down ideas (rather than just thinking them), and for furthering discussion of ideas through the comments. And, just as importantly, it’s a way of letting other researchers know about what you’re working on – grad students’ future careers depend on them making a name for themselves in their chosen research community.

Of course, there’s a downside: grad students tend to worry about being “scooped”, by having someone else take their ideas, do the studies, and publish them first. My stock response is something along the lines of “research is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” – the ideas themselves, while important, are only a tiny part of doing research. It’s the investigation of the background literature and the implementation (design an empirical study, build a tool, develop a new theory, …etc) that matters. Give the same idea to a bunch of different grad students, and they will all do very different things with it, all of which (if the students are any good) ought to be publishable.

On balance, I think the benefits of blogging your way through grad school vastly outweigh the risks. Now if only my students updated their blogs more regularly… (hint, hint).

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1 Comment

  1. the benefits of blogging your way through grad school vastly outweigh the risks

    So true, blogs are a great place for throw-away code.

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