Munawar Hafiz (munawar) wrote,
Munawar Hafiz

Politically correct

My colleague Paul and I were highly motivated by the classic paper "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace". We wanted to identify many of the rhetorics that are perpetuated by researchers, but seldom used in practice. Our focus was on Web Services; what researchers wish would work, and what actually works. In order to do this, we studied a lot of Web Services to understand the design principles behind them. However, we failed to publish our papers, mostly because the researchers took them personally and lambasted our blasphemous attempt without providing any reason. Some of them, though, were kind to offer a reason that our language was very politically charged and what we should really do is to sugar-coat the truth in order to publish.

Then, I read the classic paper "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace" again. The neutrality in the writing was astounding considering the sensitivity of the topic (For those who have not read the paper, it is about big endianness vs little endianness in byte ordering). Like the real world, researchers believe that you cannot sound like a bigot when you are expressing your idea. But, this outlines another instance of dichotomy between theory and practice - in real world bigotry exists and it is even celebrated.

The findings of any research are bound to hit some nerves. If your effort is to study some long-standing beliefs, it will hit more. At one point, almost everything sounds politically charged. Perhaps, we are not as adept as D. Cohen to impose neutrality on our writing. But, that does not make our findings useless. As Galileo said about the rotation of earth, "But it does move."

D. Cohen. On Holy Wars and a plea for peace. IEEE Computer magazine, October 1981.

We studied how people wrongly use HTTP protocol in practice, and its consequences. Another study was about the dichotomy in the theory and practices of Web services: how researchers concentrate on SOAP services remaining blissfully ignorant about the people in the industry building RESTful services.

Reading the entry one final time, it appears that I am very emotional in defending our work. This bias is exactly what I should try to hide in my writings.
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