Thursday, April 16, 2009

Acronyms versus Initialisms

The 10 April Grammar Girl podcast is useful information for tech people since we live with many abbreviations. I am a GG fan from way back, but Strunk & White? Not so much.

Geoffrey Pullum "celebrates" S&W in "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice", published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I liked it -- good advice for tech writers about what is or isn't passive language. Pullum was also featured on today's Talk of the Nation.

Bonus: Bertrand Meyer (father of Eiffel, and one of my profs at UCSB) and his co-authors make a good case that computer science and software engineering research is not published in the same way that research in other fields are. In fact, some of the most prestigious and influential venues for CS results are conferences, not archival journals:
In the computer science publication culture, prestigious conferences are a favorite tool for presenting original research—unlike disciplines where the prestige goes to journals and conferences are for raw initial results. Acceptance rates at selective CS conferences hover between 10% and 20%; in 2007–2008:

* ICSE (software engineering): 13%
* OOPSLA (object technology): 19%
* POPL (programming languages): 18%

Journals have their role, often to publish deeper versions of papers already presented at conferences. While many researchers use this opportunity, others have a successful career based largely on conference papers. It is important not to use journals as the only yardsticks for computer scientists.
They also point out idiosyncracies of the academic world that ignore some of the most important venues in our field, and that authorship order in CS publication is generally not significant.

Anyway, I still think that Bertrand's "design by contract" emphasis is one of the best practical software development ideas ever.