[FoRK] Why can't PhDs program?

Adam L Beberg beberg at mithral.com
Sun Jul 6 13:41:04 PDT 2008

Joseph S. Barrera III wrote on 7/6/2008 12:52 AM:
> PhDs so incredibly bad at programming, producing
> line after line of (imperfectly) duplicated code? I don't get it.

*laughs* Now that's I've been back in academia a while, I can safely say
you REALLY don't get it. CS is math not software engineering, and a PhD
is what you get so you can teach, not a resume builder - actually most
people will never even consider you for hiring, because...

A PhD in CS, with 95% confidence, is someone who has been in school
non-stop for 24 years, never worked in industry, never worked on (what
we would consider) even a medium scale project, never written code in a
mainstream language, and never had to maintain code. And don't even
bring up the topics of testing, documentation, reuse, etc. If you stop
to actually take the time to build a useful tool, you won't get enough
papers to get a job, period.

The reality is more like this...

   come up with an good idea...
   do a writeup and submit/refine it until it is accepted
   submit variations to 5 other places - they count (yea WTF)
   delete and forget it for 30 years so others can do the same (go green)

So stop expecting PhDs to code, THAT IS NOT THE POINT, there is no time
for that between publishing the paper and having to come up with the
next one. There are those rare few of course, but sadly not many of them
want to teach since industry pays 2-3x. Of course once you get tenure,
you can actually build useful stuff again, and that's exactly what 
people do :)

Why there is nothing related to teaching in a PhD program... well I'm
still trying to comprehend that one, but that's clearly not the point
either - oddly enough it's things like YouTube and Wikipedia that are 
fixing that. We're entering an age where everyone on earth _could_ take 
a class from the best teacher of that subject. And people that spend 
thousands on their preschools and moving to where the best teachers are, 
are thinking maybe just maybe, they should send their kids to college 
where there are good teachers too.

Adam L. Beberg

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