Where does OBT research go after OBT?
A friend who’s listened to me hype up the Off the Beaten Track workshops for the past several years now asks:
out of curiosity, do y’all have an idea of how OBT papers do after they appear in OBT? i know 5 years is probably not enough time to tell, but have these papers indeed influenced people to open new lines of PL research, or gone on to appear in full-length form elsewhere?
First of all, I take issue with the premise that OBT “papers” are a thing. OBT solicits talk proposals, not papers. (Conflation of “talk” and “paper” is a pet peeve of mine.)
With that out of the way, yes, I’m aware of several post-OBT publication “success stories”. Here are a few:
Emma Tosch and Emery Berger followed up their presentation on “Programming and Debugging Surveys” at OBT 2014 with a conference-length paper, “SurveyMan: Programming and Automatically Debugging Surveys”, which won a best paper award at OOPSLA 2014.
The OBT 2012 talk on “Rule-Based Interactive Fiction” from Chris Martens et al. was, I’m pretty sure, the first public foreshadowing of the research direction that Chris went on to take with her dissertation work, a direction that she is now continuing to pursue with her new lab at NCSU.
Harry Mairson’s “Traité de lutherie, informatisé” presentation at OBT 2013 was followed by a paper appearing at ICFP 2013, and then a short course taught at Brandeis in 2015.
Neel Krishnaswami, Jennifer Paykin, and Steve Zdancewic expanded their “Curry-Howard for GUIs” talk from OBT 2015 into a full paper now under submission, with Jennifer as the lead author.
Lea Albaugh and Jim McCann’s OBT 2016 presentation, “Challenges Facing a High-Level Language for Machine Knitting”, anticipated the gloriously illustrated conference-length paper “A Compiler for 3D Machine Knitting”, which appeared at SIGGRAPH 2016.
These are the examples that come to mind most readily, but I’m sure this list is incomplete, and I’d love to hear about others!
So, yes, it does seem that as long as OBT has existed, there’s been a pattern of research ideas that appeared at OBT at an early stage of their development later going on to appear in major venues in the PL community and beyond. Would all this cool work have happened had OBT not provided a venue for it early on? Yeah, it probably would have – but I’m pretty delighted that OBT got to play the role that it did, and I hope that it can continue to serve as an incubator of interesting new PL research in 2017 and beyond. If that sounds like something you’d like to take part in, please consider submitting a talk proposal to OBT 2017!