Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Foo Camp, ECOOP, And Conferences

I've just attended another marvelous Foo Camp in Warkworth. As always, it was a great opportunity to meet people doing interesting things who are mostly in New Zealand. One interesting attendee this year was Dave Dobbyn, who I didn't get to talk to, but I was very pleased to hear him introduce himself as "follower of Jesus".

I do feel a bit drained after each Foo Camp. It's not so much the late nights, but the effort required to talk to people I don't know very well. Wandering around trying to figure out who might want to talk to me or which conversation group I should try to break into, I feel socially inept. This is all fine, since talking to people who are doing strange but cool things I know nothing about is one of the best things about Foo. I do, however, find other conferences easier --- conferences that are related to Mozilla, or academic computer science conferences where I can expect almost everyone to share my interests.

Speaking of computer science conferences, I've just finished reviewing my share of the papers for ECOOP 2012 --- I'm on the program committee. It was quite a lot of work but it has been very interesting. It's encouraging to see how much research attention is being given to Javascript and browser-related problems nowadays.

Just recently, the PLDI 2012 accepted papers list came out. I was very pleased to see that Brian Hackett's paper on his Javascript type inference infrastructure was accepted. It's great to see cutting-edge technology actually shipping in browsers being recognized by the academic community.

I'm also glad to see "Race Detection for Web Applications" was accepted. For a long time it's been obvious that Web applications make unwarranted assumptions about DOM events firing in a particular order, and when those assumptions are violated you often get nasty nondeterministic bugs. This is the cause of a lot of the "random orange" test failures we see on the Mozilla test farm. For a while I've thought it might be possible to adapt well-known techniques for dynamic data race detection in multithreaded programs (where I did research, once upon a time) to find these bugs in single-threaded, but nondeterministically event-driven, Web applications --- and nagged researchers to look into it. Now Manu, Julian, Martin and Boris have looked into it and have shown that this can work. I hope I can take credit for suggesting the problem to Manu; however, an under-appreciated fact of CS research is that good ideas are a dime a dozen and the hard work is all in problem selection, implementation and evaluation. So congratulations to Manu et al. for breaking new ground and hopefully kicking off something that will result in more robust Web applications and less "random orange"!

To put the icing on the cake, I am very lucky to have been invited to give a keynote at ISMM 2012. It's in Beijing in June, colocated with PLDI and ECOOP over a whole week! I'm really looking forward to attending these conferences and catching up my former (and some current) colleagues, and actually seeing the presentations of the above papers.


So followers of Buddha or Allah are not welcomed in this Foo camp by you? That's what you want to say? Frank
Don't be absurd.
Martin Vechev
Rob, definitely credit to you for pointing out this problem to us. I remember you even talked about it at PLDI'10 in Toronto.