Tuesday, March 29, 2011

STOC 2011 Poster Session

STOC 2011 is experimenting with a poster session. This is excellent news - kudos to the organizing committee for taking the initiative to do this.

What I'm a little puzzled about is the format though: rather than the usual  "some papers become posters" or "all papers get a slot in the poster session", the format appears to be "submit posters about other, possibly published, work". This is a nice idea, and should help with dissemination of results from other venues, and drawing more folks into the conference. However, priority in poster acceptance will be given to registered STOC attendees, which doesn't do much for the participation numbers.

But I complain too much. This is a nice step forward, and I encourage people to submit their posters. Unfortunately, (fortunately?) I'll be in Paris instead of San Jose.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Permanent record of work

In our hurry to tar and feather the ACM, the IEEE and other LargePubs, I'm not sure we are quite ready to face the universe that will result, and the amount of work we'll need to do on our own.

  • I was recently asked if I had presentation slides for my paper on universal MDS. I managed to ferret them out from my collection of talks, and sent it over. What I should have also done was add them to the paper page as well, but I've been busy and haven't got around to it (I have other talks that I need to upload as well)
  • This CS professor asks on reddit: "Where should I host code for the paper I just wrote ?". Good answers are provided, with github.com being the most popular choice.
Researchers are peripatetic: join company, leave company, join university, leave university for other university, leave university for company, rinse and repeat.  The obvious way to keep a single fixed repository of your work is to maintain your own website with your own domain, and many researchers now do that.

But it is a pain in the neck. Granted, it's a necessary pain in the neck, but there was something to be said for being able to write a paper, ship it off somewhere, and have it be maintained by someone else.

The arxiv is doing a pretty good job of this for papers, as long as it can continue to receive funding, but what about talks, code fragments, and other related material that goes into research ?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lego lectures

I've been pondering the matter of lecture notes of late, and Luca's announcement of his new set of notes prompted me to write this.

Here's what often happens to me. I'm looking to either hand out or prepare an outline for a lecture (or set of lectures) on topic X. Under the principle of (code) reuse, I go hunting for lecture notes that I can link to. I'll often find three or four examples of almost what I need, but either there'll be background information that I have to provide links for as well, or maybe the treatment isn't quite what I wanted.

It seems to me that what one needs are Lego lectures (this is the term coined by my colleague Matt Might when I described my solution to him). My inspiration for this idea comes from reading Dexter Kozen's book on complexity theory.

So what are Lego lectures ?
  • One set of notes, a few pages or less, on a SINGLE topic. Very focused, and usually one main theorem. In Kozen's complexity notes, each lecture is (almost) one main result in complexity theory.
  • As little referencing of prior notes as possible, and notation declared when needed. 
The idea is that if you have a collection of lego lectures on all topics, you can cobble together a class on a topic relatively easily, and give it your own angle.

I've probably written only two lego lectures in my life: one on tail bounds, and one on the FFT. But they have turned out to be immensely useful, and get reused all the time. I think that from now one I'll model my lectures notes on the lego principle.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SoCG 2011: New Venue and hotel recommendations

I had mentioned a few days ago that the SoCG 2011 venue was set to change. The new venue has been announced: it's at UICP, right near the Eiffel tower (which I might add, looks like a snapshot of a negatively curved mesh). There are hotel recommendations as well, but it sounds as if even if you made reservations at a hotel near the previous location, it won't be too much trouble to get around. Aah, the joys of efficient public transport.

In any case, do those registrations now, and get those hotel rooms booked. As a former organizer, I know how nerve-wracking it can be while you wait for the registration count to climb towards respectability :).

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