[xquery-talk] XML/XQuery academic conferences ?

Adam Retter adam.retter at googlemail.com
Thu Oct 13 11:23:38 PDT 2011

> I would never disagree. I am just disagreeing with David who seems to
> be at the position that academia is useless and PhDs are unable to do
> anything useful (he really seems to hate PhD people - it seems to be a
> personal thing, so no discussion needed).
> --------------
> That's not my opinion nor what I said.    I don't hate PhD people. My father was one and some of my best friends are.  I don't hate any of them.   What I'm saying is my experience is that having a PhD *in itself* doesn't necessarily make one more qualified as a Software Developer.   And that often the sorts of skills and mindsets of CS PhD's are not the skills and mindsets needed for writing production quality  software.    Any more than having a PhD in Math makes you necessarily a good accountant.  Or having an PhD in Architecture makes you necessarily any good with a hammer.  That doesn't mean I hate them or that I think the skills have no value.   Its an age-old debate about the role of Acedemia.  Are universities there to create people with skills for industry ? or are they there to create people  with skills in reasearch ?   The skills often do not overlap.

So time for my 2 cents perhaps ;-)

Markus I do think your summary of David's comments is heavy-handed.

David, I do tend to agree with 80% of what you are saying. I think
basically everyone here is pretty much in agreement, but they just
have different definitions of what they are discussing.

Sometime ago I gained an Honours Degree in Computer Science with a
specialism in Software Engineering. I had been developing software for
sometime before embarking on this study, and the only reason I did
embark was because I was assured that I would not get a decent
programming job without an appropriate degree. At the time this
assertion was correct and thats why I needed the bit of paper, perhaps
now its not so true! However, my point, I didnt need this degree to be
a good programmer, I didnt learn anything new or relevant to
real-world Software Engineering during this degree, in fact most of
the content was outdated and outmoded. I did learn how to do well
thought out and executed research, and how to write these ideas up in
a structured manner.

Even so, I believe that academia certainly has its place, in fact if
there is something particularly challenging that I am thinking about
solving then I will almost certainly first start looking for and
reviewing academic papers in the field. BUT, I do this alongside
non-academic publications that have been proven in implementation.

In my experience computing in academia tends to be more on the 'pure'
side of things rather than the 'implementation' side of things,
academics focus more on the philosophy. So in my mind academics are
more in the Computer Science camp and those in the trenches are more
in the Software Engineer camp. This is a generalisation of course and
im sure that exceptions to the rule abound!

The thing that ignited this argument anyway seemed to be David's
assertion that PhDs are not necessarily good Software Engineers. I
would tend to agree. But just because someone has been in the
industry, or has 'experience' also does not make them a good Software

You can have been in the industry for 20 or 30 years and still be crap
at writing software, just like you can come out of  academia after
many years and be crap at writing software.

I believe that good software comes from a balance between Scientist
and Engineer, but MOST importantly from a desire for personal
continuous improvement.

The reason I would tend to agree with David, is that many in academia
are not exposed to enough code and software architecture that is
really out there 'in the wild', so lack instinct.

However a good software developer is a good software developer and I
certainly wouldn't discriminate against a PhD. Rather, I want proof
that the person under review understands and has demonstrable
experience of good software architecture and design, including testing
methodologies and has a good nose for code smells (instinct).

Adam Retter

skype: adam.retter
tweet: adamretter

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