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Carnegie Mellon Researchers Win “Most Influential” Award

Byron SpiceWednesday, June 25, 2014

Brad Myers and Chris Scaffidi accept their Most Influential Paper award at Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC).

A 2005 paper by Carnegie Mellon University researchers that explored the burgeoning community of end-user programmers will be honored as the Most Influential Paper from a decade ago at the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) July 28–Aug. 1 in Melbourne, Australia.

This year’s winning paper, "Estimating the Numbers of End Users and End User Programmers," was from VL/HCC in 2005, and was authored by Christopher Scaffidi, then a PhD student and now an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University, along with his adviser, Mary Shaw, professor in the Institute for Software Research, and Brad A. Myers, professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

This is the third year in a row that Myers has shared the Most Influential Paper award. “It is just a coincidence that I had worked with a run of great students who all happened to submit great articles in consecutive years,” he said.

The paper concerned so-called end-user programmers — people who program, but are not trained as professional programmers. Examples include people who author spreadsheets and web pages, as well as scientists who write code to analyze data and control their instruments.

After analyzing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Scaffidi and his co-authors estimated that 90 million end users would be in American workplaces by 2012, and that 55 million of them would use spreadsheets or databases and potentially be programming. They also predicted that 13 million of these end users would describe themselves as programmers, compared to there being fewer than 3 million professional programmers.

“These were astonishing numbers,” Myers said, “which, along with the detailed analyses presented in the paper, has resulted in this paper being highly cited, and highly influential in getting more researchers to focus on this class of programmers, which generally has received little attention.”

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