Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday, Starbucks, and Beyond

I just got back to the hotel. I was at a Starbucks this afternoon, updating the OOPSLA wiki and writing the book (248 pages now). But as there was no movement on the wiki page, I thought that people would get in late today so I wouldn't get a chance to see anybody.

Eventually I decided to go to Powells bookstore. I made two blocks on 9th instead of 10th because I decided 10th looks a bit less happy before getting to Powells. I got to a corner, and I saw this guy walking towards me from the other end of the street. Like any other guy. I could have just let him stroll by.

Not this time. I asked him if I hadn't seen him before, perhaps at a Smalltalk Solutions or an OOPSLA. He turned out to be Roger Whitney, who was coming back from buying an AC adaptor for his laptop as the one he had was at home. Needless to say, we had never met each other before. Now I think I got confused with Hans-Martin Mosner, who I had met in STS 2006...

We went back to the Starbucks, we updated the wiki page, and we had an interesting conversation about artful Smalltalk. In particular, Roger teaches Smalltalk at SDSU (as you can see from his link). Here are some interesting things I did not know.

  • Enrollment is way down, there are 4,000 students for about 10,000 places. Computer science, in particular, is down 40% since the dot com bubble bust. This figure is consistent with other campuses.
  • Universities train students into writing comments for even the simplest methods because instructors do not read the students' work. Therefore, comments are perceived as a feature by the instructors who grade work by skimming, reinforcing the notion that even "x := x + 1" needs a comment.
  • Students think that "console output" is enough of a good way to obtain a result out of an object oriented program. Get every 2nd node out of a doubly linked list is interpreted as dumping the stuff into the Transcript. The inspector is unused.
  • A full 25% of the grade Roger assigns to students is based on the comments. Are they bad comments? Sorry, now you get markdowns. Even after careful instruction, on average about 1 student every 40 will do their homework assignments properly.
Welcome to reality --- we really need to do something about that.

So Starbucks was closing down at 8pm. I updated the wiki again because we were going to have dinner at Mandarin Cove. I was putting the laptop away to leave and at that instant John McIntosh walked in through the door. He had arrived with Tim Rowledge a while ago and they were starving.

Off to Mandarin Cove we went and we had a great conversation about the status of our projects. If you were not there, then I am really sorry for you my friend because what you missed is simply too much to be put down in a blog.

What a great start for OOPSLA 2006. More of the same, please. See you tomorrow!


Hans-Martin Mosner said...

Hey, I've got a little more hair than Roger, how could you ever confuse us?

:-) Hans-Martin

Andres said...


I know, you guys are not that much alike! However, I am happy I messed up because I found Roger completely out of the blue on the street.

Hope to see you soon,