Update: The Daily WTF

August 14, 2009

Alex Papadimoulis has agreed to change the name of his series of programming exercises, thus ending the dispute between us. I thank him for agreeing to the change, and wish him well.

To all of my regular readers: I apologize again for involving you in this dispute. The next exercise will be published in a few hours, and I hope you are as anxious to get back to programming as I am.

To all those people who found my blog for the first time: Welcome! Please stay. Enjoy the exercises. And please post your solutions, so we may all learn from your work.

The Daily WTF, a web site that chronicles “curious perversions in information technology,” recently introduced a new feature called Programming Praxis in which simple programming exercises are assigned to readers who post their solutions and discuss the exercise in the comments. Alex Papadimoulis runs The Daily WTF.

On June 23rd, Programming Praxis published an exercise based on one of the stories at The Daily WTF. That was done only after consulting with The Daily WTF to ensure there was no copyright violation, and credited The Daily WTF as the source of the exercise, even providing a link back to the original The Daily WTF article.

Papadimoulis liked what he saw at Programming Praxis, and began discussing with me some kind of collaboration between the two web sites. After some discussion, on July 22nd The Daily WTF published a programming exercise of its own, based on the Russian peasant multiplication algorithm. That article used the phrase “Programming Praxis” in its title, and credited me with the idea, but did not refer to the Programming Praxis web site. That article was a success, generating over seven hundred comments with a high signal-to-noise ratio, and Papadimoulis and I began seriously discussing a collaboration.

While we were discussing how a collaboration would work, on July 29th The Daily WTF published a second programming exercise second article that also used the phrase “Programming Praxis” in its title, and borrowed the exercise from one previously discussed at Programming Praxis, but did not credit me or refer to the Programming Praxis web site.

At that point discussions about collaboration broke down. The problem was that the two sites had different goals: The Daily WTF is primarily entertainment, and Programming Praxis is primarily educational. The difference was highlighted by the decision to use the Josephus problem; Papadimoulis selected that problem because he thought of a neat way to use an animated gif to show how the soldiers die. I notified Papadimoulis that no collaboration was possible, and asked him not to use the name “Programming Praxis” in any future exercises he might publish.

Papadimoulis never responded to my email, but did respond on The Daily WTF by publishing on August 5th another exercise based on a common mathematical problem. The problem used the phrase “Programming Praxis” in its title, and Papadimoulis wrote, in the first comment, that “Programming Praxis” now had its own category on The Daily WTF; he also asked readers to submit tips for future “Programming Praxis” articles.

The name “Programming Praxis” belongs to me, not Papadimoulis. I have been publishing under that name twice a week for six months, and own the programmingpraxis.com domain. Papadimoulis is using the name without my permission, and against my expressed wishes.

Papadimoulis’ improper use of the name has already caused confusion in the marketplace of ideas. At proggit (http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/95o33/programming_praxis_josephus_circle/), a reader named “bhrgunatha” says “I think the real WTF here is they are taking these exercises from the actual programming praxis site apparently against the license.”

After publication of the third exercise, I sent an email demanding that Papadimoulis cease and desist from using the phrase “Programming Praxis” to describe his weekly programming exercises. After four days, Papadimoulis responded that it is now too late to change the name, and that we would have to be happy to share it. I am not happy to share my name, and on Monday I sent a registered letter for next-day delivery demanding that Papadimoulis cease and desist from using the phrase “Programming Praxis.” However, The Daily WTF continues to use the phrase “Programming Praxis,” publishing yet another exercise under that name today.

A log of emails between Papadimoulis and me, complete except for a few emails arranging the time of our telephone conversation, appears on the next page. The emails show the history of the situation as it transpired.

I must defend my name. Thus, I am publishing this account of what happened. I will also explore trademark protection for my name, and such other legal action as may be required.

Thank you to all my regular readers for listening to my story. If you wish to help, you may act to provide wide attention to this situation in the blogosphere; feel free to post a link to this blog entry to your favorite forum, and add your comments. Your code, your comments and your private emails inspire me to continue publishing Programming Praxis. I apologize that I must engage you in this ugliness.

/s/ Philip L. Bewig

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A Golden Exercise

July 12, 2009

Copyright eyehook.com.  Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.The exercise that will be published on Tuesday will be the fiftieth exercise published at Programming Praxis, marking our Golden Anniversary. My thanks to all you readers, and especially those who contributed code and other comments, for making this blog special. I am always delighted to hear from my readers, especially if they are contributing an idea for an exercise (hint, hint). It’s a lot of fun writing these exercises, but also a lot of work, and your contributions make it worthwhile. <grin>I can tell that the blog is starting to be successful because spam comments, which I must delete manually, now exceed ham comments.</grin>

Tuesday’s exercise will also introduce a change in the structure of the exercises. The suggested solution will be on a separate page published forty-eight hours after the exercise. That gives regular readers a chance to work on their own solutions without being influenced by the suggested solution. Comments will be attached to the exercise, not the solution.

Our first fifty exercises have developed several themes: related sequences of exercises involving prime numbers and cryptography, exercises in data structures like ternary search tries and exercises in algorithms like modular arithmetic, some exercises simple and others not-quite-so simple, and puzzles like sudoku and Feynman. The next fifty exercises will be more of the same, featuring some new sequences of related exercises, some old friends, and the odd puzzle or two. And I am always open to suggestions!

To celebrate our Golden Anniversary, Tuesday’s exercise will be somewhat more ambitious than normal, so get those compilers revving. Happy coding! And please enjoy a piece of virtual anniversary cake!

And now, may I ask for your help. I would like to move the site from wordpress.com to its own host, still running WordPress software, so that I can finally fix the theme and, more importantly, automate some processes that I am currently doing by hand (and some others I am not doing at all). But I have never blogged before, and have no experience with hosting, or migrating a domain registration, or maintaining a WordPress installation. If some reader would like to offer advice, please contact me at programmingpraxis@gmail.com.

Programming Praxis has a new web address: programmingpraxis.com. For the moment, Programming Praxis is still hosted at wordpress.com, so the old address at programmingpraxis.wordpress.com will still work (it maps the old address to the new address), but that will change sometime in the future. Please update your bookmarks. The RSS feed moves to programmingpraxis.com/feed. All existing content, including your comments, remains.

Programming Praxis also has a new theme, and a logo, which was designed by Remco Niemeijer. Thanks, Remco! Some of the pages have moved, others will be moving shortly, some will change, and there will soon be some new additions.

Thanks to all my readers for their patience during this transition. Please let me know if you see anything that breaks, or if you have suggestions for other changes. You can contact me at programmingpraxis@gmail.com.