You are qualified to read an academic paper

Last week on Turing-Incomplete (listen! subscribe!) we had a guest, Brian McKenna, who assigned us a paper to read. And I think you should read it too, if you want.

My favorite theme of this episode is that Brian, on occasion, mentions how he doesn’t completely understand all the parts of the paper. Ex. around 12:10, he says: “I’m not actually very good at reading mathematical notation.” Let’s review: Brian McKenna, all around excellent smart person (works on Idris, writes programming languages for fun, etc.), is himself not a complete expert in fancy notation, and freely admits to not understanding 100% of a paper.

I take this as an example of “permission” to read academic papers, or replace “read an academic paper” with another intellectually challenging activity you previously felt unqualified to do. This is why I’m such a big fan of Papers We Love and conferences that cross the industry-academia line (some I’ve attended include Grace Hopper, PyCon, and Strange Loop) – when you get people who are interested in similar things, but use them in different contexts, you generally end up with a great conversation.

Another favorite moment is around minute 38, I ask Brian what he thinks about industry people reading academic papers. He talked about a real life example where reading academic papers informed the way he does his work. So while I’m a proponent of learning for learning’s sake, there are also concrete benefits to reading academic papers. So go for it!

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