Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Crystal Blogaversity

A joint post from Lance and Bill

This blog started fifteen years ago today as  "My Computational Complexity Web Log". Bill came on permanently in 2007 after Lance retired from the blog, a retirement that didn't even last a year. We've had over 2500 posts and 6 million page views. We've highlighted great results, honored 100th birth anniversaries, mourned the passing of far too many colleagues and talked about the joys and challenges of being an academic and a theoretical computer scientist.

During the time of this blog, Lance held jobs at four different institutions, several positions in the theoretical computer science community and watched his daughters grow up. Besides his wife, perhaps the only constant in his life is this blog, and no matter how busy things get he still aims to post once a week. Writing keeps him sane.

Bill, who is somewhat of  Luddite, has seen technology change so much around him that he needs something to stay the same. This blog has kept him sane. Or at least more sane.

Computing has seen dramatic changes in the past fifteen years driven by cloud computing, big data and machine learning. Computing now drives society and we've only seen the tip of the iceberg so far. Precious few of these developments are grounded in theory and our community will have a large role to play in understanding what is and isn't possible in this brave new computational world.

Education has changes as well. The number of people majoring in Computer Science has skyrocketed, crashed, and is now skyrocketing again. We teach large lectures with PowerPoint and other technologies for both good and ill. Some people get their degrees online for both good and ill. We comment on all of these developments for both good and ill.

We're not done yet with the blog. We'll keep writing and hope you keep reading. To the next fifteen.


  1. To the next fifteen! I am mostly a lurker but figured I would chime in now and let you guys know how I appreciate this tiny corner of the internet.

  2. I've been following this blog for most of those 15 years, and it's been a great way to learn both technical content (I still regularly Google the archives to find short proof sketches of major theorems that Lance wrote up) and the ins and outs of how CS departments and universities work, how papers are accepted and rejected, and the rest of the administrative apparatus surrounding science whose mechanics are a total mystery at the start of grad school. I've really appreciated this blog over the years, and I bet it's been an inspiration of many of the other CS blogs I read as well.

    Also, as my career has led me into contact with more and more scientists and administrators mesmerized by hyped media coverage, real world applications, etc., I really appreciate Bill's unapologetic placement of pure intellectual curiosity as a top priority.

    A favorite unforgettable memory from grad school, just before Bill started on this blog, when he visited to give a talk on Ramsey theory: I couldn't attend due to a class, so he insisted on meeting me immediately afterwards and gave the whole one-hour talk again---just to me---in my advisor's office, complete with blackboard exercises on a simplified Hales-Jewett-type Theorem that I was assigned to work out while he phoned home to his wife (it was getting late in the evening). After the talk he asked for questions, and I replied, "You had mentioned at the start that there are some applications of this outside of..." at which point he cut me off, admonishing me that we should work on some problems because they are interesting and challenging, not in a quest for applications. (He then proceeded to tell me some of the applications.) That memory has stayed with me and made me smile whenever I give a talk to a crowd and face a semi-hostile questioner wondering what all this abstract nonsense is good for.

    Thanks and keep up the great work, Lance and Bill!

  3. Thanks for the reminder of this and thanks for your thanks!