That’s “Doctor Bitterjug” to you!

OK, I’ve waited long enough for this. Nothing official from the University of London yet, but as of today I have had confirmation from the internal examiner that he has approved for them to make the award with no further examination. Since I now believe I will not have to make any more changs to it, I can now think of my thesis as complete! 😀

I first started my doctoral research back at De Montfort University in 1995! I’d had met John Daniels at an OMG conference of some sort. He had spoken at lunch about the future of software development, when all computers were networked and there could no longer be a single enterprise model of all systems. He said it would be necessary to adopt different points of view and that there were lots of interesting challenges associated with reconsiling those points of view. I mulled this over the next few months and it fascinated me. When I approached him later about being my external adviser he said that Steve Cook was the person to approach.

De Montfort University gave me scant support in my research. In particular I had a full timetable for the first two years — no allowance for working on a PhD. After those two years Steve emailed me a short but powerful messagea about how it might be useful for me to work with IBM on their Insurance Application Architecture project. Shortly after that, despite having just purchased a new house in Leicester, I moved to Brussels in Belgium and started two years sabbatical with IBM. That’s a whole other story that I can’t even begin to tell here I earned a lot of money for DMU, and some for myself too once my accontant got involved. When I returned to DMU they finally gave me a more lenient timetable and I started to make some progress. I started to establish a relationship with the guys at IBM who were working on the subjectivity project. I felt encouraged.

While at IBM my good friend Alan O’Callaghan sent me an excelent paper by Tony Simons. This encouraged me also, because I understood it. I later learned that that was because he had written it so well, not because I was so smart. I contacted Tony and asked for a copy of his thesis (which he charged me good money for printing, but was worth it in terms of how much influence it had on my resolve to do research). I read it and, somehow (see above), understood it too. Suddenly I wanted to do something solid and mathematical, like that, not the waffley hand waving and case-study thing I was likley to come up with from DMU. I searched on the web for researchers working in the right area (object-oriented programming research, type theory and such like) and in the right area (London) and found Sophia Drossopoulou.

In 1998 I started full time at Imperial College working calculi to model Subject-Oriented Programming. In 2000 my wife and I separated and I entered a period of confusion, sadness, anger and the usual stuff that accompanies that event. Within a week of that momentus event I had moved to California and started work at Xerox PARC as a summer intern working on the AspectJ Aspect-Oriented Programming project. When I returned from the USA, in the autumn of 2000, I had totally lost my direction. AspectJ looked great and had an enthusiastic following. But its principles were different from those of SOP in some important ways which meant my calculus was unlikley to give any useful insights into it. I wanted to be able to contribute to the whole field, not just the IBM project. besides which, I was back in the same flat where I had lived before the breakup. Too many memories. I slumped.

Sophia was great. She kept me going. I stopped fighting with her to get my own way in the development of my research and basically started over for a third time on the route toward a thesis. For a year or so I was working like Magnus Magnusson: I’ve started, so I’ll finish. Lindy Hop kept me going, together with Sophia’s magnificent enthusiasm and support. In Jan 2003 I completed a draft thesis and submitted. Tony Simons became my external examiner. I defended in July (I think) and on the same day, went to Birmingham for a training day for VSO. I had already decided on my next step.

I still had 6 months work to do the corrections and I resubmitted in November (5 months!) 2003, then buggered off on holiday to New Zeland to visit my sister. I left for Kenya in Feb 2003. Since four months had passed since I submitted I called the University of London to ask if I was a doctor already. They said they had my thesis there but had not sent it back to the examiners because I’d not payed the resubmission fee. Neither had they asked me for it. I wrote a cheque and posted it the day before I left for Kenya.

That was 14 months ago. Since then the whole affair has slipped into another crack: my examiners had decided that it was the role of the internal examiner to approve changes since his responsibility was to ensure the standards of the university. But in the meantime my internal had left the university of london! Since then he’s been tracked down and he’s approved the corrections so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s over. I’m just waiting for the University Of London to sort out my graduation. (I probably haven’t paid the graduation fee).

This was supposed to be a short announcement, but somehow I have found the story of the last 10 years waiting to burst out. I’d like, once again, to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey. Not all of you are named above.

And now, I’d like to go drink the rest of my Scotch. 😎

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