How To Criticize Computer Scientists
Avoiding Ineffective Deprecation And
Making Insults More Pointed

In recent exchanges, members of the faculty have tried in vain to attack other Computer Scientists and disparage their work. Quite frankly, I find the results embarrassing -- instead of cutting the opponent down, many of the remarks have been laughably innocuous. Something must be done about it because any outsider who hears such blather will think less of our department: no group can hold the respect of others unless its members can deal a devastating verbal blow at will.

This short essay is an effort to help faculty make their remarks more pointed, and help avoid wimpy vindictives. It explains how to insult CS research, shows where to find the Achilles' heel in any project, and illustrates how one can attack a researcher.

The Two Basic Types Of Research

Most lousy insults arise from a simple misimpression that all researchers agree on the overall aims of CS research. They do not. In particular, CS has inherited two, quite opposite approaches from roots in mathematics and engineering.

Researchers who follow the mathematical paradigm are called theorists, and include anyone working in an area that has the terms "analysis", "evaluation", "algorithms", or "theory" in the title.

Researchers who follow the engineering paradigm are called experimentalists, and include most people working in areas that have the terms "experimental", "systems", "compiler", "network", or "database" in the title.

Complex Theory And Simple Systems

Knowing the tradition from which a researcher comes provides the basis for a well-aimed insult.

The Insult

Knowing that CS can be divided into two basic groups helps immensely when criticizing someone. There are two basic rules: identify the type of the researcher and issue an insult for that type. Avoid saying anything that inadvertently compliments them. If performed well, an insult will not only stun the researcher (who will be shocked to learn that not everyone agrees with his or her basic value system), but will also intimidate others in the audience.

Identifying A Type

Identifying the type of a researcher is usually easy and does not require a strong technical background or real thinking. It can be done using keyword matching according to the following lists.

Forming An Insult

The key to a good insult lies in attacking whatever the researcher holds most dear and avoiding whatever the researcher does not care about. Thus, an insult lobbed at a theorist should focus on lack of sophisticated mathematics such as the following:

In contrast, an insult lobbed at an experimentalist should imply that the techniques were used in previous systems or that the work isn't practical such as:

How To Avoid Having An Insult Backfire On You

A misplaced insult can backfire, turning into an embarrassment for the attacker and a victory for the intended attackee. To avoid such occurrences, remember the following:

Attacking Crossover Work

Although rare, a few researchers include both theoretical and experimental work in the same project. Insulting such combinations can be tricky because a researcher can escape unscathed by pointing to one part of their work or the other as the answer. You can try to attack both parts simultaneously:

However, a clever insult can avoid talking about the work by suggesting sinister reasons for the paradigm shift:

A Final Plea

I certainly hope faculty will take this essay to heart and sharpen their insulting skills. In the future please make all your thrusts count.