Thursday Jun 03, 2010

Shaped to a T

Last week I attended a talk by John Hennessy on the "Future of Research Universities" (video). The talk ranged over many subjects, from distinctions between graduate and undergraduate learning, to the difference between training and education, and distinguishing properties of Silicon Valley.

Toward the end of the hour, Hennessy noted the importance of "T-shaped" researchers for effective collaboration: deep enough to contribute in their own field, but with enough breadth to work with colleagues in other areas. Applying the venerable computer science technique of recursion gives a T-shaped fractal all the way down, analogous to Koch's curve:

T-shaped all the way down.

Having a well-balanced combination of depth and breadth strikes me as being important in many other endeavours too. For example, I was reminded of the different stability versus progress trade-offs that developers need to be sensitive to when working on the JDK, such as the benefits of changes in a given area versus the impact on the rest of the release.

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darcy

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