Oddly Shaped Pegs

An inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Stuff

Bringing crypto online

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John Langford recently blogged about the “vetocracy” that is the dominant CS conference reviewing process. I agree that there are many problems with the process. That is good fodder for a whole sequence of posts; just not today. I did, however, seize on a point that John made along the way:

“It’s hard to imagine any research community surviving without a serious online presence. When a prospective new researcher looks around at existing research, if they don’t find serious online discussion, they’ll assume it doesn’t exist under the “not on the internet so it doesn’t exist” principle. This will starve a field of new people. […]”

So what about cryptography? There are of course millions of good and bad web resources about computer security. But there is very little about foundational “crypto” as it appears at conferences like Crypto or Eurocrypt, PKC, SFE, CHES, etc (never mind TCC, STOC or FOCS).

  • Blogs: Luca Trevisan blogs actively about topics in theoretical CS, including cryptography. Luca has more crypto in his little finger than most “cryptographers” have in their whole body. Still, crypto remains a minor topic on his blog (exceptions: lecture notes, STOC ’09 picks).
  • Wikipedia: this is an odd metric of “online-ness”, but nonetheless revealing: wikipedia entries for theoretical crypto are very limited (indeed, for TCS generally). I’m  experimenting this semester to see if the students in my class can help, but that will still be just a drop in the sea. For a sampling of what’s out there, see Wikipedia’s Theoretical Crypto category.
  • Mailing lists, discussion fora: Nada?
  • Other resources: Oded Goldreich maintains  variety of ad hoc web pages on aspects of crypto and complexity theory. Perhaps most relevant here is his selection of recent papers in TCS. Upside: it is fascinating to get Oded’s take on anything; downside: the noninteractive format makes the information flow, well, one way.

I will attempt to contribute in my copious free time, in particular, I hope, by blogging about papers at the upcoming TCC. But that’s a relatively minor contribution.

Some questions, then: What resources would help us advance TC as a field and as a scientific community? How can we get more “serious online discussion”? (What resources are out there already that aren’t listed above?)

Update (7/9/09): Since I initially wrote this post, a few more theory-of-crypto blogs have come to my attention, notably Jon Katz’s.  Helger Lipmaa maintains a list of crypto blogs (or, more accurately, blogs by cryptographers) here.

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Written by adamdsmith

February 23, 2009 at 11:54 am

Posted in Crypto 2.0, science 2.0

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