It seems that a recent blog post of mine got slashdotted. Looking at my blog’s stats, I see that the numbers of visitors to the blog indeed jumped by one or two orders of magnitude. I suppose that this is as much fame as an academic blogger can hope for. It would have been nicer if my sudden (micro-) fame was due to my own clever thoughts rather than just for quoting someone else’s, but I suppose that I can salvage some (pico-)credit for finding that quote (via yet someone else) and repeating it (at least this all by myself).
So I now find myself with a few tens of thousands of visitors — supposedly intelligent and techie ones — that I have a few hours to relate to. I could just bask in the (pico-)glory of being (micro-)famous, but this seems a bit like my daughter’s desire, at the time, to be “famous” as a goal onto itself (she’s pushing 11 now, and is over it — no need to worry). So how can I actually make some use of my slashdot visitors? Even if I were set up for putting ads on my blog, I estimate that I could only make a few dozen of dollars at the most (taking into account a $1 CPM) — not worth the effort.
So, perhaps there is something that I want to say to my visitors — after all that’s why someone publishes a blog to begin with. The problem is that my usual audience is quite different from this slashdot crowd. My blog is targeted quite narrowly at academic researchers in the field termed “Algorithmic Game Theory and Economics” which, obviously, is my own field of research. This field attempts addressing the following challenge raised by the Internet: the different computers that need to interact are owned and operated by different people and organizations, who will most likely optimize their own computing systems to do what’s best for themselves rather than follow any agreed protocol. How can any computerized protocol still function when even the the “trusted” computers can not be trusted to follow any specific protocol? To answer this challenge, the field attempts combining game-theoretic insights with the computational ones. My blog’s usual readers are either working-in or learning-about this field or related fields such as theoretical computer-science, game-theory, or theoretical economics (well, at least that’s what I imagine). So, my slashdot visitors who want to learn more about this field, may start with the following recent CACM article. If you really want to dive in you can read the introduction to the handbook that I co-edited — here’s a link to a free online copy.
I have one thing directly targeted at my new slashdot visitors: this is the book “The Elements of Computing Systems: building a modern computer from first principles” that I wrote with Shimon Schocken. The idea is to lead the reader through a sequence of projects building a complete computer systems from the ground up, including hardware and software. We provide detailed specifications, simulation tools, and test programs, so the whole endeavor nicely fits within a single academic semester, including building the CPU, a virtual machine, a compiler, and a computer game that runs above this platform. You can see the nice things readers say about us on Amazon’s web page, or can view a 10 minute video about the book. (Recently, this book got its own share of instant fame when a reader implemented its ALU within Minecraft describing it in a Youtube video that got over 1M views and a mention in Wired.)