Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A problem with public discourse

Take a look at this article that appeared in CNN, regarding a speech by Barack Obama about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What bugs me about the article is reading the following:

Obama's nearly 10th-grade-level rating was the highest of any of his major speeches and well above the grade 7.4 of his 2008 "Yes, we can" victory speech, which many consider his best effort, Payack said.

"The scores indicate that this was not Obama at his best, especially when attempting to make an emotional connection to the American people," he added.

Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence "added some difficulty for his target audience," Payack said.

In other words, if a president does not talk to the general population as if they had not yet finished 7th grade, then we will not understand. And if we cannot understand anything more complex than what a 7th grader would understand, exactly why do we claim we can solve any complex problem such as the following?
  • Problems regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, the law that ultimately rules our lives and gives us wonderful things such as the 5th amendment.
  • Problems regarding the workings of financial institutions as well as the workings of our checking account and the national budget.
  • Problems regarding science, such as whether we should allow creationism, or whether we should send people to Mars, or climate change, or renewable sources of energy and raw materials, or whether the latest genetic manipulation will result in food we can safely consume.
  • Problems regarding more politicized issues, such as health care, affirmative action, gun control, law enforcement, media conglomerates, education, and religion.
  • Problems regarding the use of the military and international diplomacy.
See? If we are really a bunch of 7th graders, then we cannot deal with these problems. Consequently, we have to be talked to as if we were not adults capable of reasonably exercising their right to vote. Instead, we have to be talked to as if we were children that can only deal with the world around them in emotional terms. Besides, what do we actually vote for, exactly?

Ultimately, and most disturbingly, there is the implication that the president (or any other figure we listen to) must make an emotional connection with us, rather than engage in adult conversation. Consequently, that means we are not supposed to hear something like "look, we know X, Y and Z, so we can do A, B and C but not D". Rather, we are supposed to hear "yes we can", or "America is great", or "land of opportunity", or "democrat", or "republican", or "liberal", or who knows what else. All sorts of decisions regarding the above problems are possible with 7th grader tools, except good ones.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Smalltalks 2010 Research Track: Call for Papers


4th Argentinian Smalltalk Conference
Research Track: Call for Papers
November 11th – 13th, 2010

Important dates:

Submission (Hard Deadline): September 7th, 2010 (Argentinian time: UTC/GMT -3 hours).
Notification of acceptance: October 6th, 2010.
Camera Ready Submission: October 20th, 2010.

Conference Site:

Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (UTN), Concepción del Uruguay (Entre Ríos, Argentina)

In the past three years the Smalltalks series of conferences have been a lively forum on Smalltalk-based software technologies that attracted over more than 200 people from both academia and industry for three days.

During the first three conferences, the industrial partners showed the applicability of Smalltalk in business, while researches (both students and professors) showed their advances and didactic uses of Smalltalk. The presented approaches and methodologies concerned the language, its implementation technology, its programming tools as well as the software development culture it supports.

This year the accepted papers not only will be available in the website but also the best ranked ones will be published in a special edition of Elsevier COMLAN Journal. Thus, we invite to submit papers in the research track on original scientific research conducted in and/or for Smalltalk in general.

Topics of interest include, but are not restricted to:

• Aspects, Aspect Languages and Applications.
• Ambient Intelligence, Ubiquitous / Pervasive Computing and Embedded Systems.
• Compilation Technology, Optimization, Virtual Machines.
• Educational Material.
• Language Engineering, Extensions.
• Model Driven Engineering / Development.
• Meta-Modeling, Reflection and Meta-programming.
• Programming in the Large, Design, Architectures and Components.
• Programming Environments, Browsers, User Interfaces, UI Frameworks.
• Reasoning About Code (Analysis, Refactoring, Type Inference, Metrics).
• Team Management.
• Testing, Extreme Programming / Practices.
• Web Services, Internet Applications, Event-driven Programming.
• Experience Reports.

Important dates:

Submission (Hard Deadline): September 7th, 2010 (Argentinian time: UTC/GMT -3 hours).
Notification of acceptance: October 6th, 2010.
Camera Ready Submission: October 20th, 2010.


Papers should be written in English, in pdf-format and not exceed 15 pages (including references and figures), using Elsevier journal format.

Templates for LaTeX formats can be found here.

Papers must be submitted through the EasyChair submission web site here.

The accepted papers will be digitally available in the conference website. From accepted papers, selected ones will be published in a special edition of Elsevier COMLAN Journal.

Papers submitted must not have been previously published and must not be under review for publication elsewhere. Papers must strictly adhere to submission guidelines. If you have questions, please send an e-mail to Marcus Denker and Gabriela Arévalo to smalltalks2010-chair (at) fast (dot) org (dot) ar using [Smalltalks2010-RT] as tag in the e-mail subject.

Program Committee

• Alexandre Bergel (DCC, Universidad de Chile, Chile)
• Noury Bouraqadi (Ecole des Mines, Douai, France)
• Gilad Bracha (Ministry of Truth, USA)
• Johan Brichau (, Belgium)
• Johan Fabry (DCC, Universidad de Chile, Chile)
• Alejandro Fernandez (LIFIA - Facultad de Informática – UNLP, Argentina)
• Tudor Girba (Sw-eng. Software Engineering GmbH, Switzerland)
• Andy Kellens (SOFT, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium)
• Michele Lanza (University of Lugano, Switzerland)
• Adrian Lienhard (SCG, University of Bern, Switzerland)
• Damien Pollet (INRIA / Université de Lille 1, France)
• Lukas Renggli (SCG, University of Bern, Switzerland)
• David Röthlisberger (SCG, University of Bern, Switzerland)
• Tom Van Cutsem (SOFT, Vrije Universeit Brussels, Belgium)

Program Chairs

• Marcus Denker (INRIA, Lille, France)
• Gabriela Arévalo (Universidad Austral, Buenos Aires, Argentina)