Category Archives: 7. Opinion

Unwrapping and Experiences with Installing Devolo Home Automation Thermostats

As my first (rather small) home automation project I decided to install remote controlled radiator thermostats. (This is also known as a central thermostat and comes with most modern apartments, but then my new Berlin apartment is rather old and charming. It has no central thermostat, making me run around the apartment every morning to manually adjust the seven radiators.)

I chose Devolo’s “Home Control” thermostats and control center. This is an affordable entry-level product into the space of home automation, though the total of seven thermostats and one (proprietary) control center set me back about EUR 600.

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Making Introductions for Job Interviews

(Cross-posting from http://osr.cs.fau.de.)

As a human being, as a professional, and more recently as a professor, I’m happy to help people find jobs (time permitting). In fact, as a professor we have tagged HR professionals in our CRM database so that we can reach out easily to them. Still, introductions for job interviews require preparation on the side of the job seeker. There are a couple of things to consider.

The most common mistake that job seekers make is to ask me: Help me find a job in software engineering or product management or something else. Even if accompanied by a resume, what am I supposed to make of this? Pass on the resume to every company in the world?

The job of job seeking starts with the job seeker. They must find out where they want to go.

If they can’t, they should at least determine some companies of interest to them and provide them to me so that I can decide whether I can actually be of help.

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Platforms but no Platform Organizations

One result of our recent case study research on inner source is that companies may not always need platform organizations to get to a platform of shared reusable assets. They will certainly need platforms, but they won’t need a dedicated organizational unit to develop and maintain this platform.

You don’t have to read the research paper to come this conclusion; common sense is just fine: Through the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), for example, companies like IBM, Oracle, and SAP are able to collaboratively develop the infrastructure of the Internet. The ASF has almost no employees; all work is done by the participating companies (and a few individuals). If companies like these, who fight each other to the death in front of a customer, can join hands to develop competitively non-differentiating software, why can’t organizational units inside software companies do this?

This is the idea of inner source: You don’t always have to have a dedicated organizational unit to work on a particular component. If the component is of broad enough interest within the company, users of this component might as well chip in and collaboratively develop the component. In the extreme case, and perhaps this is also the best case, no dedicated organizational unit is needed any longer for the development of shared reusable components.

The idea of doing away with a platform organization flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Given that textbooks tell you that product line engineering requires a dedicated platform organization, and leading companies are typically set-up this way, doing away with the platform organization may indeed prove to be too disruptive in the short-term. For this reason, we have developed several solutions that let companies keep their platform organizations.

Read more in the paper or contact us through my group’s homepage for research or my company’s homepage for commercial consulting.

Challenges to making software engineering research relevant to industry

I just attended FSE 2016, a leading academic conference on software engineering research. As is en vogue, it had a session on why so much software engineering research seems so removed from reality. One observation was that academics toil in areas of little interest to practice, publishing one incremental paper of little relevance after another. Another observation was that as empirical methods have taken hold, much research has become as rigorous as it has become irrelevant.

My answer to why so much software engineering research is irrelevant to practice is as straightforward as it is hard to change. The problem rests in the interlocking of three main forces that conspire to keep academics away from doing interesting and ultimately impactful research. These forces are:

  • Academic incentive system
  • Access to relevant data
  • Research methods competence

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Putting on their #Gearface (no Google Daydream)

With all the hoopla on Google Daydream coming up, I thought I’d share two photos of people high on Samsung’s Gear VR. I think Samsung chose a better name for their product. The second photo clearly shows a person with a gearface. Can’t imaging calling this a daydreamface. The future is so bright, you’ll have to wear a mobile.

Lost over Call for Open Access for all Scientific Papers

I’m at a loss over the recent reports on the requirement for all research publications to be open access by 2020. Open access means that the research papers are accessible openly without a fee. There are plenty of confusing if not outright wrong statements in the press, but I’m not so much concerned with poor journalism than with the actual proposed policies.

Sadly, I couldn’t find more than this one sentence on page 12 of the report linked to from the meetings website:

Delegations committed to open access to scientific publications as the option by default by 2020.

I’d like to understand what this means and then how this is supposed work. Specifically, I’d like to know how this is not going to either break free enterprise or make predatory publishers like Elsevier laugh all the way to the bank.

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Follow-up on the Discussions about Knowledge for Knowledge’s Sake

I’ve been enjoying the discussion around Patek’s recent video argument for knowledge for knowledge’s sake in several forums. I thought I’d summarize my arguments here. To me it looks all pretty straightforward.

From a principled stance, as to funding research, it is the funder’s prerogative who to fund. Often, grant proposals (funding requests) exceed available funds, so the funder needs to rank-order the grant proposals and typically will fund those ranked highest until the funds are exhausted. A private funder may use whatever criteria they deem appropriate. Public funding, i.e. taxpayer money, is more tricky as this is typically the government agencies setting policies that somehow rank-order funding proposals for a particular fund. It seems rather obvious to me that taxpayer money should be spent on something that benefits society. Hence, a grant proposal must promise some of that benefit. How it does this, can vary. I see at least two dimensions along which to argue: Immediacy (or risk) and impact. Something that believably provides benefits sooner is preferable to something that provides benefits later. Something that believably promises a higher impact is preferable to something that provides lower impact.

Thus, research that promises to cure cancer today is preferable over research that explains why teenage girls prefer blue over pink on Mondays and are generally unapproachable that day. Which is not to say that the teenage girl question might not get funded: Funders and funding are broad and deep and for everything that public agencies won’t fund there is a private funder whose pet peeve would be solving that question.

The value of research is always relative, never absolute, and always to be viewed within a particular evaluation framework.

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