“Don’t worry, Rohit… If you make it past AMa95, it will be downhill all the way to your PhD!” —Prof. Alain J. Martin, Caltech, 1994
If nothing else, this hefty volume must at least testify to what an incredibly difficult and frustrating experience junior year Applied Mathematics and Complex Analysis can be. Of course, the joy of Caltech is knowing that your roommate breezed right through the same course back in freshman year… sigh!
Embedded within that irony, however, is the principle that has guided me so well, so far: surround yourself with people even better than you are. I may be a big guy, but that’s no reason to become the ‘big fish’ — that only means it’s time to move on to a bigger pond!
Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great many people who are far more talented, dedicated, and experienced than myself at every step of the way. I know I can be quite a handful at times, but many of my mentors have been generous enough with their time and trust to permit me to pursue my own paths.
Foremost among them is, not surprisingly, my advisor and committee chair, Dick Taylor. If he weren’t so supportive of all my adventures within the department — from helping organize workshops to racking up all those Incompletes! — as well as out in the ‘real world,’ I might not have even gotten up the courage to return to school and finish my Ph.D. Credit for that decision is also due to Debra Richardson, who as department chair (and later as interim Dean) encouraged my re-entry.
Of course, things do change when you go away for a few years (in my case, to start a reasonably successful software company). Fellow students come and go (though I know a few who ought to be going soon — good luck, Peter and Joe!), and so do the faculty. David Rosenblum, who was an essential catalyst for my own interest in the area of real-time event notification, had moved on to his own startup, while André van der Hoek had just moved in from Boulder. Working with Andre provided a fresh new perspective, helping add depth and rigor to some notions that were initially pretty far afield from what I thought I had dashed back to Irvine to do: “What I did on my (very long!) summer vacation.”
Instead, this dissertation slowly but surely shifted from a systems thesis — a clever new way to view event notification as an application-layer routing problem — into a much more reflective study of software architecture. For this, I owe a unique debt to Roy Fielding, whose investigation into Web architecture laid the foundation for my own. It’s rare to see a dissertation that constitutes a ‘sequel’ to an earlier graduate’s work. This should only be read as a testament to the power of Roy’s idea. I am similarly impressed by the scope and passion of the “REST advocacy” community this gave rise to, including sparring partners like Mark Baker.
Roy, in turn, was building on work of another of my mentors, Tim Berners-Lee.
Tim, and the rest of the crew at the nascent World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) — Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, Dan Connolly, Dave Raggett, Sally Khudairi, and many more — were great examples of both individual initiative and teamwork. It’s hard to imagine even attempting to measure one’s own work up against such benchmarks as the Web or XML, but they instilled in me the confidence to try.
What I wouldn’t have predicted, though, was that some of W3C’s summer interns would eventually lead me to follow them back to UC Irvine, of all places. Jim Whitehead, who visited in the summer of 1996, pulled out all the stops to convince me to join Greg Bolcer and the rest of the HyperWare team here.
Even so, I didn’t cut a straight path back to California. John Klensin, who helped guide me through some of the rockier shoals of standards politics at the IETF, tempted me to come work with Vint Cerf’s Internet Architecture group at MCI. If anything, you could even say TimBL’s work was laid over the foundation of TCP/IP — but it’s even more chilling to assess one’s works against that yardstick!
Instead, the day-to-day slog of academic research is a battle won or lost with ones’ buddies in the trenches, not by the generals in the history books. Consider my debt of gratitude to Eric Dashofy, for everything from existential critiques of why my research should even be funded, to bailing me out of tight spots with the Registrar while I was living off-campus… 500 miles off-campus!
However, the closest companion of mine through all these years was (and is!) Adam Rifkin. Sure, he happened to be a grad student in some other Southern Californian CS department, but we worked together as closely as I could have hoped these past dozen years. I literally would not be here without him, not just in publication count, but even to have the courage to actually start a company with just us, Peyman Oreizy, and a crazy idea about Instant Messaging over the Web.
…. I suppose it’s always around this point that an author begins to feel overwhelmed by onrushing memories of all one’s colleagues, friends, and loved ones who have shaped every word of their works. It is, after all, a fact seldom acknowledged that the only people who read acknowledgment sections are all the people who rightfully expect to see themselves in it! Please accept my apologies, every one of you, from the third-grade teacher who taught me to love reading (Mrs. Hafen) to the high-school teachers who taught me to love writing (Kathy Baer and Lynda Mitic) to the college buddies who taught me something about love itself (Ernie Prabhakar)… each and every one of the FoRKs out there, thank you!!
And last, as they say, but not least, I’d like to thank the muse who actually got me through writing this thesis. After five solid years of procrastination, I can’t help but notice that I finally started cranking out chapters only after I met this certain someone — the lady who I dearly hope will soon my wife, Smruti Jayant Vidwans!
So, yes, buried here in the fine print, is my true thesis: will you marry me, love?
This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #0205724 and the UC Irvine Chancellor's Fellowship.