Monday, May 26, 2008

internet research for kids

I've been on sabbatical in the last year visiting lots of labs and
talking about research directions and one idea that came up is a
reaction to something I think and I believe you and dave clark have
also said in the last couple of years about academic CS research
(at least Internet related CS research) having gone awry.

The pressure to look at short term fast return has pushed many
academics into effectively competing with industry R&D - this means
that many papers are increasingly being produced that look like
startup white papers (often are) and do not have the depth of work
behind them that one might expect from a core CS conference (let
aloine journal) 15 or 20 years ago. This is not universally
true (self promotion - I believe we published first papers
on work on Xen after about 9PhDs and 3 years of faculty work,
and on Xorp and Metarouting work were both in similar ratios and have
strong underpinning ideas).

What my colleague Tim Griffin refers to as the Hotnetization of
communications research has happened.

Part of the problem is that really smart people get a big buzz out of
being creative, and only some buzz out of the sweat to really nail the
details. But the details matter. One solution to this would be a big
cultural shift back to long term funding and rewards to academics for
long term (not for short term) work - that isn't going to happen in a

Another solution is to provide a competitor for short term idea
generation and demonstration to force academics out of the short term

SO here's one idea:

build a system for kids to write new internet scale applications.
give them a sandbox (planetlab junior) to deploy these.
Think lego-mindstorms for the internet.

A whole bunch of things like facebook, myspace, skype, bebo, flicr,
IM,, are totally obvious to kids - 10 year olds would have built us
prototypes if they were given the simple tools to create
distributed applications with simple GUIs I think they would
create 1000s of them - it would take an organisatio nlike
Cisco (and/or microsoft) with a scools outreach programme,
and some resources (not a lot) - it would be nice to
incorporate cell phone handsets in some simple way.

There are some nice example languages (as above, lego
mindstorms, but also Alice (from CMU) which could be extended
easily to do this....

just a thought!

1 comment:

jon crowcroft said...

Note something like this might be based on Lego Universe
discussed in the BBC's Digital Planet podcast at

excellent stuff!!