I attended the Foundations of Software Engineering conference in Seattle a week or so back. The conference covers a wide range of research topics, and this year they’ve moved to having three streams in parallel much of the time. Three presentations really stood out.
First was a keynote by Margaret Burnett. She has identified serious problems with the way we design UIs that are relevant not just to gender but to all the ways different people have of learning software. I thought it interesting but irrelevant to me, until I suddenly realised she had explained a row involving my sister the week before! It is an important finding for all of us. Margaret’s team have developed a way to identify the issues for anyone to use: Gendermag.
Second was a fascinating approach for analysing the security of communications protocols. Eunsuk Kang at MIT has developed Poirot, a system to translate web protocols at various levels of abstraction into algebra, and then to analyse them for security defects. They used this to explore the well-known service IFTTT, and found four security defects (now fixed). Impressive!
Lastly was a bit of a laugh in the Visions and Reflections track. Titus Barik suggested using dystopias as a way to encourage thinking about imperfect outcomes for our software. It makes sense, so why not?
So there's some fun stuff available from academia for developers - worth keeping an eye out.