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Jawed Karim: good for him!

I just saw last night that Jawed Karim is a co-founder of YouTube!

Back in 1998, I interviewed Jawed for an undergraduate reearch programmer position in the group zurich31, alpenglow and I all worked for. Even then he came with great recommendations and credentials.

In the end, my boss passed him over because he was a new freshman, much to the regret of Eugene Grois and myself. Still, I guessed that someday soon, Jawed was going places.

And so he has - first to Nullsoft as one of thair development leads, now to YouTube! Good for him!

He's not the only famous U of I alum of his cohort, either. There was Luke Nosek, who jellybeanzulu might know; Luke took CS 125 when I was a TA, and he and Max Levchin went on to found PayPal. One of PayPal/eBay's data mining managers, Nathan Gettings, was my chief programmer. Nathan's friend and old IMSA classmate Yu Pan had been on the starting lineup for PayPal and is one of my alumni, too.

In other news:

  • taiji_jian has a GJ! "For pics and styles," he says, yet he's already gotten an RSS feed courtesy of jereeza. (I'd have given him one, but I've been tearing my hair out over K-State Online and errors. Come one, come all!

  • Microsoft Office 2003 Pro using up an activation each time I reinstall - due to registry corruption or instability, mind you - just adds insult to injury.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 2nd, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
True dat
Say, who's that in your icon?

Aug. 25th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
As I explained to unrequitedthai, even though OTHER people will read my blog in their own styles, *and* REFUSE to read it if it is not on live-journal, *I* will be reading and working with my blog in its own style! So ;phtpbhpthbpthbpthpthtbptbthy!
Aug. 25th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
I think I worked in that same research group later, as an Undergrad. I worked with Eugene.
Aug. 26th, 2006 12:55 am (UTC)
Knowledge-Based Systems (KBS) group?
We'll have to swap stories some time!

Was Janet Sniezek still living when you worked for Wilkins?

The ONR/NRL-funded era began c. 1995 when zurich31 and I helped him get the first of several Multimedia Scenaria Generation grants for the Damage Control Assistant (DCA) on DDG-51 (Arleigh Burke-class) destroyers.

Aug. 26th, 2006 01:10 am (UTC)
Re: Knowledge-Based Systems (KBS) group?
Yes, it was the KBS group. It became, during the period I was there, an amazing and diverse team that built software that worked on deadline. I was there Spring-Summer 2001.

Janet was still alive then. Michael Hamman was there and more or less in charge of software engineering, Misha Voloshin was gone, but I knew him.

Essentially, 9/11 killed most of the funding for that project.
Aug. 26th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)
Second evolution of the Lantians
The KBS group has a very long history, dating back to Wilkins's arrival from Michigan in 1988. Someday I'll tell you about the earliest KBS members, some of whom I didn't know (Lucja Iwanska, Ziad Najem) and some of whom I did (Carl Kadie, Yong Ma, Ray Olson, Vance Morrison).

My generation: Surya Ramachandran (1993-1996), William Hsu (1994-1998), Ole Jakob Mengshoel (1995-1999), Vadim Bulitko (1996-2000), Eugene Grois (1996-2001?); Misha Voloshin (1997-?), Guoming Shou (1997-?), Brent Spillner, Tony Haynes (1995-1996); Tori Lease (1997-1998), Yu Pan (1997-1998), Nathan Gettings (1997-1998), Juan Custer, Casey Ryan, Mike Daniels, Louise van der Merwe (1996-1998), Peter Baer (1995-1998), Scott Borton (1995-1998), Aaron Levinson (1995-1998), Dave Kruse (1995-1997), Eric Lin (1995-1996), John Viene (1995-1996); staffers Zhijin Sheng (full-time, 1997-?), Marty Weller (part-time, c. 1997), Naijin Zhang (c. 1997), and Ron Carbonari (1994 - 1999?)

After me: Tony Czupryna, J.C. LeMentec, Mike Bobak, Michael Hamman

9/11 killed a lot of ONR and NRL projects, including most of my program manager's. My own project survived long enough for me to get on NSF funding, but I'm in a rebuilding phase in the defense realm.

Aug. 26th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
Your show of shows
So, of those, I worked with (in order of your listing) Eugene Grois (who now works for ALG to handle reasoning and text analysis after Duane Searsmith moved to Riverglass to become my boss), Zhijin Sheng, Ron Carbonari, J.C. LeMentec, and Michael Hamman. J.C. left while I was there (and some sure didn't mind, although when I used CogNet it was extremely good at some things; my conflicts with him were more social than technical). Brent's younger brother Kent Spillman was there while I was there. He handled graphics internals there, and was just a very competent developer. He was the first person I knew to start practicing test-driven development.

I knew Misha Voloshin outside of KBS when I was a freshman. I had heard stories about how intimidating Vadim Bulitko would be during interviewing, and how scattered Mike Bobak was. Guoming Shou was favorably commented on by the amazingly competent Mark Hoemmen, an obsessive-compulsive Catholic numerical analyst who compared long coding spells to hours of chanting liturgical music, and who had to wear gloves to keep him from hurting himself while writing the tightest numerical loops you ever saw.

Virtually everybody who was there while I was there was viciously talented, and for many projects I'd still just reassemble that group. Michael Hamman was a widely read post-modernist mucisian turned Agile development guru (since turned Agile managerial organization guru). I was in intelligent reasoning, handling all non-DCA agents. Also with me was Greg Dhuse, a mild-mannered Bayes-net expert.

In the next cube over was Kent Spillman and the quad-threat Braden Kowitz (programmer, interaction designer, graphic designer, industrial designer) who I really wanted to snag before he went to Google. Braden wrote the graphics frontend rendering and ship layout view, and was known for wearing tropical shirts and leis, playing tropical music, having a beach as the background on his two side-by-side screens, and playing Hawiian music.

In the cube in front of that was the nearly excessively tall Dave King, who wrote VB in the dead of night and who reigned court even just coming off his sophmore year in programming languages and graph layout, and probably was the second most mathematically competent person in the group after Mark. Also in that cube was Karl Shultz, the laid back natural language programmer, who's now on the research staff at Stanford and who would not move back from Berkeley for any reasonable price. Also there was Mike Pilot, who was a Windows programming internals enthusiast and is still around, at Wolfram, although I haven't seen him since those days, and not often even then.

In the furtherest cube away was Michael Collins, who is unquestionably the best release/build/configuration management person I've ever met. Even on source safe, he could give you every working build, ever. You could get the rawest, most bleeding edge, or something that would build clean, no errors, no warnings, or with a known working version of any component. He currently does configuration admin for jet aircraft at Boeing, and we could really use him at RG.

This list was deliberately not comprehensive, ignoring the sysadmins, a grad student or two, the librarians (and the book cutting madness), and anybody else who I just didn't feel like mentioning.
Aug. 26th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Your show of shows
Although I did forget to mention Aaron Brady, the VB hacking psychologist who would get in religous debates with Mark using strange recursive brain-in-the-box rhetorical techniques. He timeshared the cube with Mark, Mike P., Karl, and Dave.
Aug. 26th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's quite a lineup
Ron was a fantastic visualization developer. I could describe anything to him verbally and he would deliver it in days or weeks, right on schedule.

Eugene was a good friend who I lost touch with when he went to join the Israeli army c. 1998. I should look him up. I still work with Surya Ramachandran (zurich31, who is now one of our project sponsors.

I was at ALG, as I think you know, and will probably visit them when I go to work with Dan Roth next summer on the Homeland Security Discrete Sciences Institute. I knew Duane when he worked with Gloria Rendon and Cesare Tinelli for Mehdi Harandi, his advisor and one of my Ph.D. committee members.

I heard good things about Kent, though I never met him.

Misha, like Jawed, was one of those young guys who you could tell was going places. I first met him when he was about 18, and he worked on an IAAI paper with me and Eugene. Later, he became one of my "troika" - consisting of Nathan Gettings, Misha Voloshin, and Tori Lease. I used some of their code in my research in 1998, including my dissertation.

Vadim was a couple of years junior to me and Ole Mengshoel, but he was always very ambitious and talented. I remember how driven he was. Ole and I weren't quite as aggressive in interviewing, but we had equally exacting standards, so we ended up hiring about 1 in every 5 people interviewed. If you think Vadim was tough - just imagine sitting across from 2-4 of him (banazir, zurich31, Vadim, and Ole, later Eugene)!

I never heard of Michael Hamman or Greg Dhuse before you mentioned them.

Braden sounds a bit like Peter Baer (alpenglow), who ended up at Microsoft. He came to us one of the (literal) longhairs, and left a very professional software engineer. He was never one of your typical corporate wage slaves, though, of which you'll find few that came out of KBS. For all its foibles and problems, KBS culture (due in large part to its original grad students and to the fact that we had to deliver for the Navy) has always been innovative and driven.

Dave King and Michael Collins also sound like new names to me, but they sound like very good developers. BTW, many people did stuff in KBS at all hours, once upon a time: it drove Rendell's students, who shared our space in the mid to late 1990s, to distraction.

I forgot a few people, all but one from Vadim's subgroup: the very talented Tamar Shinar, who is now a Ph.D. student in Stanford's graphics group, Arthur Menaker, who joined us from Stanford, Adam Boyko, and Sebastian Magda. Save for Tamar, whom I helped interview and had some math discussions with, I had little interaction with the above. There was also Ilya Ziskind, a sysadmin whose last name I couldn't remember.

Did you know KBS once had 7 sysadmins not including yours truly? It was about a 3:1 ratio. I spent nearly a whole semester in 1997 just directing the building of some three dozen servers, workstations, and RAID systems. It got done, though, which is the whole point, after all.

(One reason my people kept to a schedule was that Wilkins used to swoop in and physically grab systems on the day they were promised or when some sysadmin e-mailed him to say the assembly and OS were done. After a few "returned" systems, they learned to wait until things were stable and tested before alerting him, and more important, they learned to get things done ahead of schedule.)

Aug. 26th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow, that's quite a lineup
Yeah, I never worked with Ron on anything, but he was a great guy in general. It looks like the university is giving him trouble with only half-time appointments. I think he'd be good to have at RG, in a "guy who gets good code done fast and plus is reasonable to work with" position

In terms of scheduling, we really got on board with Michael H. You can appreciate that software scheduling for a bunch of undergrads is a strange beast, when compared with hardware, but he helped us all whip up a bunch of UML goodness and managed to start doing honest-to-goodness statistical schedule-tracking.
Aug. 26th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow, that's quite a lineup
Misha got really burnt out. Essentially, he wrote some Bayes net papers there, and more or less didn't get any credit for them, and everybody knew it. Eventually, there was an understanding: he would just play video games and answer questions, and still be paid.
Aug. 26th, 2006 07:12 pm (UTC)
Bayes Nets papers?
Yeah, that happened once or twice, though not on my watch AFAIK. Take Grois, Hsu, Voloshin, & Wilkins (1998) as a case in point.

When it comes to student co-authorship, I always err on the side of caution. It's cost me once or twice, because sometimes students don't have the healthiest attitudes about co-authorship. However, I will go on listing all significant contributors (and even minor ones), because I never want someone to be able to say that I took credit for his or her work.

Aug. 27th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Bayes Nets papers?
I think that's as it should be. In experimental particle physics, they will have papers with very large numbers of coauthors, because those were the people that participated in the production of the results: not all equally, not all in comparable ways, and not all together. If it's legitimate in physical sciences, it should be allowed for information science systems of a similar scale.

Sep. 1st, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow, that's quite a lineup
It's never high standards that bother me, it's aggressiveness. I very much prefer a feeling of "we're only taking high performers, but we'll take every measure to make sure that we are seeing you not under some distorted stress situation, but more like in the course of your day-to-day behaviors, and we'll error on the side of giving you a too-friendly situation, just to see your best instead of your worst"

Sep. 2nd, 2006 07:56 am (UTC)
Bringing out the best in people
I quite agree, and even though I pose the "tough" (not really) problems in interviews, I also give the benefit of the doubt.

The situation you describe is prevalent in many labs, particularly the good ones, and IMO it's quite valid... but it isn't KBS.

Sep. 2nd, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Bringing out the best in people
Or wasn't, in the time you were there. I had an interview with Eugene and Michael Hamman that totally worked that way. They were all like "Do you know C++?" and I said that I could do what I wanted with it, given a reference, but was not an expert. And then they said: "Here is a recent bug on the whiteboard here; what is wrong with this code?" And I said, "I don't know, I'd have to look this up, but this looks wrong. I think it could be fixed this way, but look at this, this might also be legal. Is this legal C++?" And they said, "We don't know. That's a very novel approach." And, I more or less was in from there forward, I think.
Sep. 2nd, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
That was the way Eugene and I ran interviews, when we did them together. It's all to his credit, but I've tended to give at least one "real" problem too in interviews nowadays, the better to turn the context into an "opportunity" rather than purely a "challenge".

I have to say that the culture of KbS in those days wasn't too conducive to that, for various reasons. You may have heard stories (or experienced the phenomenon yourself) that when there are a lot of strong personalities in a group, there tends to be some internecine tension. That's one reason I prefer to visit Microsoft but wouldn't want to work there: healthy competition is good for both morale and productivity; egos striving to crush or extinguish one another 24/7 isn't.

Sep. 2nd, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Interesting
I think everybody had done enough last-minute coding bursts that almost worked, that the group as a whole was just sick of things as they stood. People at KBS, by the time I got there, were ready to take the step from coders to developers.
Nov. 13th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Knowledge-Based Systems (KBS) group?
Yeah Misha was there in 2000, when I was an admin at KBS (winter 99-Spring 2000) and was on Top-4 with him at ACM@UIUC. He must have left uiuc at the end of that year.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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