My previous blog post generated a record number of comments (74 as I write this). Of course, this is not necessarily something to write home about, but I am proud that we might have passed the threshold of 5 intelligent comments to a post.
I pulled away from it due to some travel (which was a good idea anyway), so let me get back with some follow-up observations.
1. Michael Mitzenmacher discussed the post, and the comments there are quite interesting (or depressing, depending on your point of view). I have always said that TCS is headed for bad trouble given how we educate the current generation of students. We will end up with a batch of researchers who have never heard of 90% of the problems at the intersection of TCS and the rest of CS, who successfully turn our discipline into philosophy while day dreaming about turning it into pure mathematics.
As you may see among the comments, there are people who have actually never heard of those problems, yet are fully confident in their comprehensive understanding. When faced with commentators who actually like the problems, there are only two logical conclusions open to them: these guys are either insane, or Mihai himself (two possibilities that are not mutually exclusive, of course).
Now, one cannot take conclusions based on blog discussions too seriously. But I will volunteer anecdotal evidence from a talk at Weizmann: when I asked who knew what a "Voronoi diagram" was, a few sporadic hands came up. (Go try this at home!) The problem: Weizmann is an excellent school, educating many of our future colleagues.
2. Some people asked whether I would have gone to UCSD, had they made me an offer first. This is impossible to tell. I was certainly considering it wholeheartedly, but I didn't even have the answers from all places at the time, so I cannot know how my opinion would have evolved.
Many commentators seem to have missed that the post was about psychology, not logic. I did not explain how (1) UCSD made an offer to Costis implied (2) I rejected UCSD; I explained my perception of (1). Indeed, you are missing some facts that contributed to "(1) implies (2)," at least some of which are not appropriate for blogs --- even by my unorthodox standard.
3. Another thing that I did not comment on (except inside some people's minds) was the work of Costis. If you want to hear his work being put down, you really don't need me; tune in to the appropriate non-blog channels and I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. (This is to be expected for any person who achieved some degree of notoriety at early age, and perhaps got more hype than he had bargained for.)
In fact, my opinion is quite the opposite: I find Costis to be a very deep thinker, both technically and meta-technically. We repeatedly went for beers and I can report no significant disagreements were found, in spite of liberal comments during said encounters :). For example, due to my algorithmic sensibilities, it is quite clear that I consider the complexity of computing Nash to be very important (it is a concrete, central, and structurally-interesting algorithmic question).
4. Many negative comments were knee-jerk reactions, fully reflecting people's frustrations and insecurities. In the US culture, it would be customary to apologize for insulting people's sensibilities (I never figured out whether such apologies are interpreted as sincere, or they are merely correct protocol). Of course, things are rather different in my own culture, and it has never been my priority to tread lightly. So let me offer the typical Romanian advice in such circumstances: "Don't worry; life may be hard, but it passes quickly."
5. Some more commentators found it hard to accept my comments given "my position" (whatever they interpreted my position to be). The most constructive of them told me to look at Hamming's well-known speech so that I may learn "how it is possible to get the considerable benefits of egotism without needlessly pissing people off."
I find this particularly funny, since I once learned the position of a great information theorist, a contemporary of Hamming. It was roughly "Eh, Hamming... He's just arrogant, he never had any really good results."
This reminds me of something that a friend told me a long time ago: "the most crucial ingredient in the greatest paintings is the light bulb in the room; even the work the best painters is quite dull in a dark room."
If you find that your point of view doesn't allow you to see what is being said, perhaps you can try another one temporarily.
5. Finally, let me respond to somebody who seems to write politely and in good faith:
I was on a hiring committee in one of these schools that decided not to interview you. Although I hesitated to post this comment, I think what I have to say will be helpful to your career.Thank you for the comment; I appreciate the difficulty in writing on such a topic.
The reason we decided against further considering your case was because of your reputation as a very difficult, arrogant, and opinionated person. We even read your blog and found many posts that confirmed this reputation.I am aware that suggestions of this form were made. Of course, I may point out the significant pitfalls in searching for evidence (in a blog, of all places) for something that you are already biased to believe. I may also point out that the places that actually know me (the labs were I did internships) both made me offers, and a notable fraction of the universities where I interviewed were also interested in hiring me. So the suggestions may be a bit exaggerated, or perhaps there is a high variance in how people perceive me. If for some reason your university finds itself interested in my case, I would consider a conversation at a conference or an invitation for a talk as more reliable courses of action.
At least in our university, a post like this one significantly hurts your chances of getting a job. We don't want to hire a person who writes a blog post insulting their departmental colleagues every time they're not nominated for a fellowship or an award. "I can't believe my department decided to nominate X for a Sloan Fellowship when my research is so much deeper than X's."If your department has no faculty engaging in the common activity of "bitching and moaning," I am not sure whether I should envy you for your luck, or worry about the hyper-formal environment that you may have in place. It is safe to say that I am not good at keeping rank formation; but it is also fair to say that I choose the battles where I pull out of the formation very selectively.
You're smart, but there are *many* (equally) smart (or smarter) people who are also publicly nice.It is my hope that I will prove you wrong on this statement.