So, late this May, I was in San Francisco, California to present my paper at the 4th International Workshop on Product LinE Approaches in Software Engineering (PLEASE 2013), part of the 35th International Conference for Software Engineering (ICSE 2013).
The paper I presented was on the topic of Graphical User Interfaces and Dynamic Software Product Lines, in which I set out a number of challenges related to this that I am currently tackling. The workshop was very good in the sense that unlike some workshops that I’ve been to are almost as if a mini conference, where by you give a presentation and view others. This workshop was different in the sense that there was organised ‘speed dating’, as to pair researchers together to discuss possible avenues for research, and get feedback on their own work. This I found was very helpful, and insightful from the people I spent my time with.
The second day of my week was time out of the conference, whereby I spent my time exploring San Francisco. I must have walked at least 20 miles that day! I saw such wonderful sights like Fisherman’s Whalf, the Palace for Fine Arts, Crissy Field, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The first day of the main ICSE conference I found almost overwhelming in size. There were over 1,000 people there. The opening keynote was on a topic that is in the news alot nowadays, software patents. It was a great holistic keynote on the history of them, how they work, and the countless legal battles over them for decades (and I thought they have only been a problem for a few years!). I quickly met Sven Apel, a researcher to which I am a fan of his work. We had a great chat over lunch about my research topic. I met other big SPL researchers also like Klaus Schmid, and Christian Kästner, which I got fantastic insight. There were many parallel sessions running during the conference, so sadly I couldn’t attend all, but I am happy with the ones I did go to.
The second day was even better! The keynote was by Tony DeRose, the lead scientist at Pixar Research Group. The keynote presented was on the similarities between film making (animated films), and software development. He firstly discussed how Pixar movies are developed, and linked it with software development. He then spoke about a very large software system that they tried to develop in house using traditional software development methodologies (the waterfall model I believe) and how it just didn’t work. Then he spoke how they applied their film making methodology for developing the software, which went well. There were also great outtake snippets show, that obviously got everyone laughing (physics errors causing funny behaviour). For lunch, they invited students to a get-together lunch with industry, whereby we got to speak with people representing IT companies, and how they got into industry. This I found was great, as got advice by a Googler, a Microsoft Researcher, and a Software Developer at EMC^2. We then had the banquet on a boat that took us out into the bay at night. Got to see some truly beautiful sights. Great food/drink, and dancing!
For the last day, the keynote was about the issue of scale, and the emergence of ultra large software systems (100M-1B lines of code). Very interesting indeed. There were less sessions and final awards were presented (best paper etc). So I went exploring more of San Francisco, walking through China Town.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at the event, which I would not have been able to do if it was not for a support grant that I was lucky enough to get from the ACM Special Interest Group for Software Engineering (SIGSOFT).