From: Philip Greenspun
Subject: GSB, 12/6 at 5:30
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 1996 16:19:41 -0500 (EST)

With my indifference toward publishing in dead trees, my academic career is in serious jeopardy. So I tend to blindly obey suggestions from friends who are making it big time in the academic world. One of these superstars suggested submitting my "Shame and War" paper to WebNet '96. I showed her the final draft. "It looks pretty good, but you should reference this guy in Austria," she said. I couldn't find anything relevant on his site so I didn't add any references. The paper was rejected. I checked the Austrian guy's site more carefully. He was the conference committee chairman.

A few days after dissing my paper, the conference folks asked me to teach a tutorial on building relational database-backed Web sites. I said that I had enough people at MIT laughing at me without going to conferences where my paper had been rejected. "We've reconsidered your entry and have decided to accept it." Thus did I fly out to San Francisco to give one 15-minute paper and one 3.5-hour monologue.

"Relational databases and the World Wide Web: Automatic generation of hypertext based on reverse-engineered meta information." That sounded like it would be the best talk in the conference. I settled into my plastic chair in the plastic Holiday Inn conference room with high hopes. A young Austrian began to page through some Viewgraphs. "Ve are dumping ze database catalog tables out of ze Oracle system into Microsoft Access. Un dan, ve are using an AWK script to generate ze static files. Ze big challenge is making ze 6 character file names for some operating systems as can't have ze long file names."

A man raised his hand. I figured he was going to say "Why didn't you install Oracle WebServer and then get a 10-year-old to write three PL/SQL functions to extract the data from the RDBMS on the fly?" but instead he asked "Why did you use AWK instead of perl?"

The Austrian responded "AWK is the only language that I know."

The questioning titans of academic computer science in the audience were not to be pushed aside easily. Another man stood up. "But AWK only allows 30-character fields."

"Ve are using ze GNU AWK."

Come discuss how GNU software is making leading edge CS research possible around the world at this week's

  G   I   R   L      S   C   O   U   T      B   E   N   E   F   I   T

7th floor playroom December 6, 1996 5:30 pm