Wednesday, October 31, 2012

STOC deadline extended

Due to inclement weather, the deadline for STOC submissions has been extended to Monday, November 5, at 5:00 pm EST.   Check the STOC web page for more details

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crimson Series on the Ad Board

The Harvard Crimson just finished a four-part series looking at the Harvard Ad Board since the reforms a couple of years ago.  I must admit I didn't find the articles very insightful, but they offered a glimpse as to some of the changes and current feelings about the Ad Board.  The first part begins here, and from there you can find links to the rest of the articles.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

STOC 2013 Submissions

I was asked to post the following regarding STOC 2013 submissions:

1) Please read the Call for Papers carefully and pay special attention
to length and formatting requirements, which have changed since last
    a) Submissions must be no more than 10 pages in two-column ACM
Proceedings format, including the bibliography.
    b) Length and formatting requirements will be enforced strictly
and literally; submissions that don't conform will be summarily
Note that you have the option of uploading a full-paper version, along
with your 10-page extended abstract.

2) The online submission process will take more time than it has in
the past for at least two reasons:
    a) There are roughly three times as many Program-Committee members
as in the past, and thus Conflicts of Interest will take longer to
check off.
    b) Each author is required to select one or more Topics (from a
moderately long list) that describe his or her submission.
Thus we strongly suggest that you create your user account on the
submission server NOW and fill in a "start new paper" form for each
submission, even if you have not yet finished writing it.  Submissions
can be modified any time between now and the deadline of Nov. 2, 2012
at 04:59 pm EDT.

Note that this and all other information about STOC 2013 can be found

Monday, October 22, 2012

Giving a Teleseminar

The nice folks at Texas A&M asked me to give a teleseminar as part of their series.  So instead of flying all the way to Texas to give a talk, I did so from the comfort of my office, using Cisco's WebEx.  It was, I believe, the first formal teleseminar I've given.  I imagine that it's the future of talks, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the experience.

Overall, technically, it went just fine.  Any slight hiccups were managed easily.  I was working in my office and not paying attention to the clock, so they had to e-mail me and remind me to get online for the talk.  (Oops.)  When I logged in at first the sound didn't work for some reason, but logging in again all was fine, and we started pretty much on time.  They could see the slides on my laptop, they had a camera image of me and I had an image of them, and after the initial bump the sound seemed to work the entire time (at least on my end, and I think I spoke loudly enough it was not a problem on their end).  At this point the technology is really there to do this sort of thing, so if anything I'm surprised there's not more of this type of seminar being done.

Pros:  Obviously, from my standpoint, not flying to give a talk.  I'm going to Cornell to give a talk in a couple of weeks, and while I'll undoubtedly enjoy the face time with the many great people at Cornell I'll get to see, I won't enjoy the multiple nights away from my family, or the multiple hours flying to get there.  (One could arrange the Web equivalent of face to face time with teleseminars quite easily -- set up Skype sessions or a Google hangout for the day.)

Another pro is that people online could log in, watch the talk, and ask questions as well.  That can also be done with standard talks, although it seemed to me the real-time asking of questions is a bit more awkward when the speaker is there live with the audience rather than online.

Cons:  You don't get that face to face time with the people at the home institution that can, sometimes, work out so well.  I've had someone giving a talk at Harvard come to my office for the standard chat-with-the-visitor session and had the solid beginning of a paper by the time they left.  I don't know if serendipity works the same online yet.

The biggest downside was the setup made it hard for me to gauge the audience reaction, which would have been really helpful for this talk.  I was talking about hashing data structures like Bloom filters to a primarily EE audience, so for all I knew I could have been going way over their head, boring them silly, or been pretty much on target.  I wasn't able to see how they were responding and adjust accordingly.  I think I needed a second (very big) screen in front of me -- one devoted to my slides, and one large, full screen instead of a little window big enough so I could watch the audience react, the way I do in a live lecture.  This might have been easy enough to set up had I knew how useful it would be ahead of time.  I tried to ask during the talk and it seemed like I was targeting the right level, but that type of on-the-fly correction would have been easier to make if I were actually there.    

Conclusion:  I would happily give a teleseminar like this again.  Until my kids are older and I feel like traveling more instead of less, this may become my preferred method of giving talks (except, possibly, for California;  I'm generally always happy to have an excuse to go to California, but even then, timing might make a teleseminar preferable sometimes).  I'm surprised there aren't more schools or organizations adopting and experimenting with this approach.  It seems both cost-effective and time-effective.    Thanks to Texas A&M for inviting me to try it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) Postoc / Visiting Scholar Call

Harvard's CRCS is looking for postdocs!  Please apply....

We're very interested in theorists (and, of course, non-theorists as well!) in all of the areas listed below.  Also, for those who know of my work with Giorgos Zervas -- well, he's finishing his postdoc this year, and I'd be thrilled to find other people to work with on the semi-theoretical semi-data-focused EconCS style work.  

Spread the word...


The Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) solicits applications for its Postdoctoral Fellows and Visiting Scholars Programs for the 2013-2014 academic year. Postdoctoral Fellows are given an annual salary of approximately $60,000 for one year (with the possibility of renewal) to engage in a program of original research, and are provided with additional funds for travel and research support. Visiting Scholars often come with their own support, but CRCS can occasionally offer supplemental funding.

We seek researchers who wish to interact with both computer scientists and colleagues from other disciplines, and have a demonstrated interest in connecting their research agenda with societal issues.  We are particularly interested in candidates with interests in Economics and Computer Science, Health Care Informatics, Privacy & Security, and/or Technology & Accessibility, and those who may be interested in engaging in one of our ongoing/upcoming projects:

- Intelligent, Adaptive Systems for Health Care Informatics
- Language-Based Security
- Personalized Accessibility
- Privacy and Security in Targeted Advertising
- Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data
- Trustworthy Crowdsourcing

Harvard University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. We are particularly interested in attracting women and underrepresented groups to participate in CRCS.

For further information about the Center and its activities, see

Application Procedure

A cover letter, CV, research statement, copies of up to three research papers, and up to three letters of reference should be sent to:

Postdoctoral Fellows and Visiting Scholars Programs
Center for Research on Computation and Society

References for postdoctoral fellows should send their letters directly, and Visiting Scholar applicants may provide a list of references rather than having letters sent. The application deadline for full consideration is December 16, 2012.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Allerton Panel

This year was the 50th Annual Allerton Conference on Communication, Control, and Computing (website).  Hard to believe it's been around that long.  I think my first year there was 1999, and while I haven't gone every year, I've been to Allerton regularly since.  

I happily got to be the token (theoretical) computer scientist on one of the panels, where one of the questions was specifically whether the interaction between communications/control and theoretical computer science had been healthy. I found it interesting that two co-panelists Alexander Vardy and Muriel Medard both had opinions very similar to mine.  If you looked about 10-15 years ago, you might have been very optimistic about what I'll call the "theoretical electrical engineering" community and the "theoretical computer science" community coming together in a big way.  There had been some significant successes -- specifically, in the Guruswami-Sudan work on list decoding, and work on low-density parity-check coding (including the paper by Luby-Mitzenmacher-Shokrollahi-Spielman).  Codes were clearly becoming important on the complexity side in TCS, and algorithmic considerations were becoming more important in TEE.  

And while there's been the occasional crossover subject since then -- people on both sides of the aisle work on network coding, though it still seems more clearly a TEE subject than a TCS subject, and compressed sensing and even social networks have taken hold in both TEE and TCS -- there's still surprisingly little interaction between the two communities, especially since, more and more, I think the two communities are growing ever closer intellectually.  (I tried to spin some fun thoughts on that during the panel -- TEE sprung from Shannon, focusing on communication and transmission rate;  TCS sprung from Turing, focusing on computation and computational complexity.  And for fifty years or so, the two subjects have carved out fairly distinct sets of problems.  But as the distinction between "communication" and "computation" continues to fall away, the sets of problems the two groups work on get ever closer together.) 

Culturally, however, TEE and TCS seem quite different, not just with different conferences and journals, but different ideas about measuring research and publications.  (Conferences don't really count for TEE, while journals don't really count for TCS.)  Perhaps this inertia keeps the two communities apart.  Or perhaps there's something else that I'm missing, but several younger people after the panel came up to me afterwards and seemed to agree.  They wanted to be able to move back and forth between the communities, as the problems they were interested in seemed relevant to both (and possibly or probably needed techniques from both to fully tackle the problems), but the divide between them seemed rather large, and the best way forward career-wise seemed to be to stick with one or the other.  

So the panelists seemed to agree with their sense of mild disappointment that the past decade hadn't really lived up to its potential in terms of TCS and TEE combining forces to meet their intellectual challenges, but still remaining optimistic that there were opportunities there.  

I'm told the recording of the panel will go on line at some point;  I'll link to it when it is.  

Monday, October 01, 2012

Harvard CS Is Hiring

Tenure Track Position Open.  Here's the official blurb:

Tenure-track Position in Computer Science

The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) seeks applicants for a position at the level of tenure-track assistant professor in Computer Science, with an expected start date of July 1, 2013.

Candidates are required to have a PhD or an equivalent degree by the expected start date.  In addition, we seek candidates who have an outstanding research record and a strong commitment to undergraduate teaching and graduate training.

This is a broad search, and we welcome outstanding applicants in all areas of computer science.  This includes applicants whose research and interests connect to such areas as computational science, engineering, health and medicine, or the social sciences.

Required application documents include a cover letter, CV, a statement of research interests, a teaching statement, up to three representative papers, and names and contact information for at least three references.  Applicants will apply online at

The Computer Science program at Harvard University benefits from outstanding undergraduate and graduate students, an excellent location, significant industrial collaboration, and substantial support from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  Information about Harvard's current faculty, research, and educational programs is available at

We encourage candidates to apply by December 1, 2012, but will continue to review applications until the position is filled.  Harvard is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.  Applications from women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged.