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Who is Who?

loicniragire profile image Loicniragire ・2 min read

I once had a fellow colleague who loved photography just like myself and we used to have numerous conversations about lighting and all sorts of things that photographers talk about. Then one day I showed him an image that I had taken and told him that it reminded me of Garry Winogrand and to my surprise, he didn't know whom Garry Winogrand was. Ok, so maybe Garry is not that relevant to his type of shoot – I thought to myself. I continued. Well, since you’re a fashion type of photographer, you must know Richard Avedon or Mario Testino then? Well, you guessed it; he didn't have a clue either. Then it occurred to me, how relevant is the historical aspect of your craft? Moreover, can you be of a significant value in your field without regard to its history?

I will make a bet for instance, that no Mathematician out there can say that they never heard of Paul Erdos. If such a Mathematician existed, his/her alma mater ought to be discredited. It is absurd that one can do any significant work in any field without regard to its history, which is usually full of a number of giants. Now let's talk Computer Science and programming in general. How many giants can you name and what were their contributions? Does the name; Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, Alan Turing, Charles Babbage or Donald Knuth, ring a bell?

The point I’m making here is that as professionals, we need to make an effort to be familiar with the type of work that other colleagues are producing. What problems are being worked on? What are some of the advancements being made? How would you solve such problems differently? And who is doing what? These are not trivial things but often overlooked. So maybe you can say that this is academic talk, which is partially true and doesn’t dismiss my point. It's crucial to be intimate with your surrounding and community in an effort to make a contribution. Welcome to the Computer Science community!

P.S - This is probably of less significance if all you care about or want is a job. In which case it's sad.

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buntine profile image
Andrew Buntine

Yes, as practicioners we spend far too little time developing an understanding and keeping up with the great achievements in our field.

I had the same concern as yourself. So last year I developed this: computerpionee.rs in an attempt to present some of the greats of our field in a slightly more interactive manner.

Nice post. :)

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Raunak Ramakrishnan

Alan Turing, von Neumann, Donald Knuth are legends. Anyone who has taken CS classes in college would have at least stumbled upon their names. OTOH, Martin Fowler maybe a great software engineer, but you would not have heard of him unless you are an experienced programmer and have seen first hand how his advice helps in reducing complexity of software. Self-taught programmers will probably be more aware of him. Dijkstra is probably someone who both theoretically inclined and pragmatic programmers will know because of his contributions to algorithms as well as his acerbic advice on how to design programs.