I would like to thank you for allowing me to apply for your job opening.
First of all, I was very happy after I found the job with the cryptic name among all the other jobs on your state’s HR website. Then, I created an account. I chose a username without any special characters but longer than 8 and shorter than 24 characters. Then I came up with a passport that was readily approved by your security system. It only had to include 8 alphanumeric characters of which 2 but no more than 4 are numbers, at least one punctuation sign and an equal mix of upper and lower case letters. After giving you answers to about ten security questions asking me for the first color of my car and my mother’s maiden name, just in case I can’t remember the secure password that I just created, I was given an account on your system. An account that I will most likely never use again after today.
Then I sat down and wrote my CV, my research statement, my teaching philosophy statement, my publication list and of course the cover letter, in which I emphasize that your institution is so much better than all the others I have applied to. Writing these documents was so easy, thanks to the stringent requirements you listed. In particular, I made sure that the margins are exactly 1 inch wide on a letter sized page, the font is Arial, the font size is 12pt and the line spacing is one and a half. The statements were of course within your page limits. Because every other institution has a different set of requirements and page limits, I ended up rewriting everything from scratch. I then merged all pdf files as you requested and named the file according to my e-mail address followed by a 64 letter hex string. The upload was very uncomplicated after I noticed that there is a file size limit of 1 megabyte and I rewrote my proposal once again.
I finally wrote several e-mails to four senior scientists in my field asking them to write a reference letter for me. They probably can’t wait to drop everything they are working on and write a detailed psychological assessment of me. But of course they had to wait for the 32 letter password I had to send them in able to be allowed to create an account on your website. I imagine that their registration process on your website will be equally enjoyable as mine.
In retrospect, I would like to than you for giving me such a great insight in how your institution works. Because assuming that there is at least some correlation between the academic life at your institution and the experience I had during the process of submitting my application, I’m not interested in your job offer anymore. Maybe you could simple say this next time: “Please send your CV and research statement in pdf format to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 10. Please also ask for three reference letters to be sent to the same address.”.
Today, I refused to referee an article for New Astronomy, a journal published by Elsevier. This was my response to the editor:
Thank you very much for asking me to referee this paper. It is very interesting and it almost certainly deserves publication. The level of detail in this work and the performance gain that has been achieved by the authors is impressive.
However, as much as I like the work by these authors, I am unable to referee the article for you. Together with almost 10000 other scientists, I’ve signed a pledge to not publish, referee or do editorial work for any article that is published by Elsevier (http://thecostofknowledge.com/). I strongly believe that scientific publications should be freely available to everyone. Elsevier is the antithesis to that statement and I don’t want to support their business model. The company makes an annual profit of over one billion dollars and has reported a profit margin of 36%. These exorbitantly high figures are due to disproportionately expensive library subscriptions charged to universities and research institutions which are forced to buy journal subscriptions in large bundles. Elsevier itself is adding almost no value in the peer-review process. The work is done by researchers and referees which are mainly paid with public funds.
Fortunately, scientific publishing is evolving rapidly. For example, I’ve already been able to read this paper a month ago because the authors posted it on the arXiv preprint server which is a free, donation supported service run by a non-profit organization.
For these reasons, I am sorry to say that I cannot assist you in this case. I hope that you will find another person willing to referee this paper. If the authors decide to withdraw their paper and submit it to another journal, I’m more than happy to be the referee.
PS: I’m afraid that the ’30 days full access to Scopus, the world’s largest abstract and citation database of research information and quality internet sources’ that you’ve offered me in your e-mail is not going to change my mind.
Warning: This is a biased view. Don’t take it too serious. It’s just a phone…
I bought an iPhone 3GS in 2009 and started programming apps for it soon afterwards. Initially, the learning curve was rather steep. There was Objective C, the Model View Controller paradigm and hundreds of APIs.
I’m an astrophysicist, working on extra-solar planets and Saturn’s rings. An app on exoplanets was therefore an obvious choice as a Hello World program. In August 2009, I submitted version 1.0, which was a simple list of all discovered planets. The app was static, so I had to resubmit a new version to Apple whenever a new planet was found. I wrote the app just for fun. It was never my intention to earn money with it. There is some advertisement in the app, which helps to pay the fee for the Apple developer program ($100 per year).
In November 2010, after 19 iterations the app arrived at version 4.3 and has matured a lot. It has many OpenGL visualizations, animations and push notifications. Looking at the reviews, people seem to like it. That impression is also supported by the download numbers which have reached 200.000.
I receive many e-mails from people, asking for an Android version. With this post I’m trying to explain my biased view on why there is no Exoplanet app for Android yet.
Last month, I even received an e-mail from Angana Ghosh, the product manager for the Android SDK at Google. She asked me about the possibility of developing for Android. I started programming for the iPhone because I have an iPhone, so there was a hurdle because I didn’t own an Android phone. Google was kind enough to send me a free Droid for development. So that problem was solved.
But there is still no Exoplanet App for Android.
First of all, I am really disappointed by the Android phone. Similar to Woz’s experience, I have the impression that every single app is better on the iPhone. If I start developing an Android version of my app now, it would not be as polished and slick as the iPhone counter part. And because I’m doing this just for fun in my free time, why should I spend time on something that will make thing worse. Suppose I build model trains in my free time. Why would I start building another one if I already knew that it will not look as good as the one that I already have.
Second, the development of iPhone apps is really fun. The entire SDK, including the APIs, the IDE, the documentation, the profiler and debugger are great and well-thought-out. The distribution via Apple’s App store is easy and convenient. The whole discussion about app rejections is largely exaggerated. My app got rejected only once, because it crashed during startup. I’m glad Apple takes a look at it before it get’s pushed to several hundred thousand users.
Now let’s compare this with Android. This is an official video for the Google’s App Inventor. Do I need to say anything else? It’s so shockingly bad, it’s hard to find words that describe it. Of course, there is the real Android SDK. But come on, Google. Do we really want to use apps based on this App Inventor? Well, I don’t want to. And that is also a reason why I’m hesitating to be part of the Android community.
Finally, let’s look at the technical side. From a hardware perspective, there aren’t real differences. There is of course the fragmentation issue. But that also exists on the iPhone. One version of the exoplanet app crashed on older devices which ran iOS 3.1 instead of 3.2. But I’m still able to keep track of all devices on which iOS runs and I fixed this bug quickly. That’s just not possible on Android.
I mentioned earlier that the iOS SDK is so great. Here’s why I think so. Objective C is first of all a great language. It’s just C. Plus something on top of it that makes it easier to handle all those buttons and text field that one necessarily encounters in a graphical user interface. I created a few more apps (Hydro, Gravity Tree) which use the same C code that runs on super computers. It’s very easy to glue that code to an interface with Objective C. Many of the new Objective C features are only wrappers. So, these are still C under the hood, and they are fast!
And then there is UIKit, CoreAnimation and all that stuff that makes an iPhone app look and feel slick. If you use the Exoplanet app, go to the Milky Way screen and click the little (i) on the bottom right. It starts an animation that exchanges an OpenGL view (with points sprites, textures and lines that create the milky way) with a WebKit view (which is used to render the text). That’s done with only four lines of code. And it makes a huge difference compared to simply replacing one view with the other. If you sign up for the Apple developer program, you get access to days worth of videos from previous conferences. By watching those, it becomes clear that this kind of thing is the real difference between iOS and Android. A lot of man power has gone into the development of the user interface classes and their optimization. Maybe you don’t mind the pixel perfect transitions or the responsiveness. But I do and I think they are great.
That’s the reason why there is no Exoplanet App for Android yet. Sorry.