Publishers, E-Books, and DRM

2012-02-18: Updated the post with translations from the original letter.

I’m an Addison-Wesley author and just received a letter from Pearson, the owner of Addison-Wesley, informing me about their thoughts and steps towards e-books and the digital age. The letter is written as an open letter with no apparent secrets, so I’m making it available here for anyone interested to read and to comment on it.

In general, I have sympathies with companies trying to sustain their revenue streams. I do expect them, however, to understand that change is inevitable and to flexibly react to and to lead that change for their customers’ sake and not just their shareholders’ sake. As an author, I’m naturally in a similar or at least related situation.

The PDF is marked up with numbers. The following list relates to what the (German) letter says on the respective issues:

Continue reading “Publishers, E-Books, and DRM”

Do Engineering Researchers Care About Truth?

So ICSE, the top software engineering conference, rejected our paper, again. The reviewers were actually quite positive: high-quality work, little or no flaws, interesting. One of the reviewers found the paper’s results surprising, asked for more details, and suggested new research directions. The final conclusion of both reviews, however, was the same: The work has no merit because it only explains the world, it does not improve it.

Our paper provides a high-quality model of a key aspect of programming behavior in open source, basically the modeling behind this earlier empirical paper. As such, it is a descriptive empirical paper. It takes a large amount of data and provides an analytically closed model of the data so that we can explain or predict the future (better). That’s pretty standard operating procedure in most of natural and social sciences.

Continue reading “Do Engineering Researchers Care About Truth?”

The Case for German University Outreach to China

On my research group’s blog I make the case for German University Outreach to China. I argue that my employer, the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, is well-positioned (and well-advised) to tap into the Chinese education market. In a nutshell, German engineering universities provide excellent education almost across the board while being comparatively cheap (no or only token tuition). Most U.S.-based universities can’t beat that. Moreover, it is a great opportunity for suburban universities who aren’t located in a major cities like Berlin or Munich to attract students.

Read more on my research group’s blog.

Definition of Write-Only Journal

I thought it is a common term by now but apparently it is not. Here is my definition of “write-only (research) journal”:

A write-only research journal is a research journal that publishes papers but is never read (hence write/publish-only). Its purpose is twofold: to (a) give a researcher some reputation return on their work by having it pass (some form of) peer review and to (b) make money for publishers.

David Rosenthal explains the economics of write-only journals. Basically, by increasing the mass of their offering through easily produced write-only journals, publishers appear bigger in bundling deals with libraries and can charge more for the access to their overall offering. Rosenthal then goes on to discuss other problems with peer review, the academic system, etc. but these are other topics.

Obviously, “write-only journal” is a derogatory term. Good research should be published in outlets that are read, not just written to. However, with the abundance of research results, I think even write-only journals serve the small purpose of validating the research results and hence the work of the researcher. However, the implication of write-only is that the results are not worth much and hence that validation should not count as much either. Which is why some say these journals should be done away with anyway.

Teaching Note for Case “User-Generated Content Systems at Intuit(A)” E-381(A)

Abstract: This is a teaching note for the free case “User-Generated Content Systems at Intuit(A)”, E-381(A), from the Stanford Free Case collection available at ECCH. The original case is a product management case in which Intuit, maker of consumer and small business financial software, faces the decision to “go social or not” for user help in its tax preparation software. The original case discusses the pros and cons of such a disruptive innovation. This teaching note provides pertinent questions to ask your students as well as my summary answers to these questions. I could not find an original teaching note hence I wrote this one. This is my first such note so any suggestions for improvement are welcome. The note is licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0; feel free to use it in your own teaching. The note’s home is my website. For attribution, please link to it.

Continue reading “Teaching Note for Case “User-Generated Content Systems at Intuit(A)” E-381(A)”

Plagiarism on the Rise?

I recently reviewed a paper where, a few paragraphs into the introduction, the words seemed strangely familiar. After some cross-checking, I realised that the author of the paper had copied about two paragraphs verbatim from one of my papers. After a bit more digging, I found other places in the paper where the author had copied from other researchers’ work as well. In all cases, no quotation marks had been used nor any reference had been provided. The papers the author had copied from were listed in the reference section though.

Continue reading “Plagiarism on the Rise?”

Rigor vs. Relevance, or: What is the Size of a Dissertation?

While listening to a colleague’s talk the other day, I got an idea for a Ph.D. thesis (grant proposal). I wrote up a short summary and sent it to him. He thought it was fine but commented that it might be a bit “thin”. This made me wonder: How do we determine sufficient size of a dissertation, to stay with the metaphor of thin, so that we can conclude some research work is worth a Ph.D. title? Most university regulations require “significant” (read: non-trivial) scientific progress and then leave it to the advisor and the reading committee to determine whether a submitted dissertation fits the bill.

Continue reading “Rigor vs. Relevance, or: What is the Size of a Dissertation?”

Why I’m Interested In Computer Games Research

Just before my inaugural lecture at University of Erlangen, a broad panel of scientists was debating the merits of computer games. Except for a computer games researcher and a games professional, all participants thought that computer games are of no particular interest. When I asked: “But isn’t there anything to learn from computer games?” I got a full rebuke by the M.D. on the panel: “No, there is no recognizable value whatsoever.”

Continue reading “Why I’m Interested In Computer Games Research”

Das AMOS Projektkonzept (2011)


Dieser Artikel stellt das AMOS Projektkonzept vor, welches ich in der Informatik-Lehre an der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg einsetze. Ziel des AMOS Projekts ist es, Studierenden professionelle Softwareentwicklung in einem konkreten Projekt zu vermitteln, welches idealerweise zu einer Startup durch die am Ende ihres Studiums befindlichen Studierenden führt.

Das AMOS Projekt ist für mich eine neue Erfindung: Ich habe es das erste Mal 2010 so abgehalten. Deswegen dient dieser Artikel nicht nur der Schilderung des Projektkonzepts, sondern sollte auch als Aufforderung zum Kommentieren gelesen werden. Ich vermute, dass es anderswo in ähnlicher Form betrieben wird und würde gern von den dortigen Erfahrungen lernen.

Continue reading “Das AMOS Projektkonzept (2011)”