## MMDS 2008 wrap-up

luglio 4, 2008

At last I’ve got the chance to write about the MMDS conference.

It was an awesome workshop: if with WSDM 2008 I had lost the faith in science, in these days I regained a deep devotion.

The schedule was very dense, most of the talks were enlightening, and there were two coffee breaks a day with fresh (sweet!) fruit, bagels and muffins. Everything for 25 bucks! It’s so nice being a student.

Like in February with the 24-70 f2.8, the parks around Stanford gave me a great opportunity of trying out my shiny new 70-200 f2.8 IS. What a wonderful lens! It’s sharper than the 24-70, probably because of the stabilizer. The results were not so bad:

Thanks to my usual care, I also managed to drop it, resulting in a nice scratch close to the bayonet and one on the hood. Luckily it’s sturdy (and heavy) like a tank.

There were also a lot of nice people! We formed a small group with other students, we had lunches together, we even went together to the gay pride when the workshop ended. I hope to meet them again in the future.

And now the boring part. Most of the talks were interesting, some where very interesting or even enlightening. These are my favorites, I strongly advice to go read the slides:

• Christos Faloutsos (Carnegie Mellon University)
TUTORIAL: Graph mining: laws, generators and tools
• James Demmel (University of California, Berkeley)
Avoiding communication in linear algebra algorithms
• Ronald Coifman (Yale University)
Diffusion geometries and harmonic analysis on data sets
• Nikhil Srivastava (Yale University)
Graph sparsification by effective resistances
• Leonidas Guibas (Stanford University)
Detection of symmetries and repeated patterns in 3D point cloud data
• Piotr Indyk (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Sparse recovery using sparse random matrices
• Gunnar Carlsson (Stanford University)
TUTORIAL: Topology and data
• Partha Niyogi (University of Chicago)
Manifold regularization and semi-supervised learning
• Nir Ailon (Google Research, New York)
Efficient dimension reduction
• Lek-Heng Lim (University of California, Berkeley)
Ranking via Hodge decompositions of graphs and skew-symmetric matrices

Regarding the ones that I didn’t find interesting, probably I just didn’t understand them. Many required a basic knowledge about statistics (regression, distributions, moments, machine learning) which I know nothing about. In my next life I’ll try to take statistics more seriously.

I was very surprised by applications of topology to data mining. They are still not very refined, but could lead to beautiful techniques. I was also surprised by the fact that many speakers came from mathematics departments: in Italy I couldn’t imagine an algebraic topologist even knowing about data mining. I am reconsidering applying for a PhD in Mathematics (but not in Italy…)

Luca F. pointed me out the website of MMDS 2006, and the titles of the talks seem as interesting. Probably the slides are worth a look (if I only had time… 😦 )

## Livelock

giugno 21, 2008

Luca completely got the point. The problem is livelock.

You KNOW you have something to do, so you are stuck with your laptop hoping that, somehow, the work will be accomplished. Then you try to cherry-pick the highest priority task, but no one has priority high enough to trigger your will to start working on it, no matter how many they are. Then you wait for something, you don’t know what, it could be an email, a chat, telling “you do this NOW!”; almost all your co-workers are nine timezones far away from you so you know it is not going to happen; but you keep switching the windows, you read the RSSs, click on “Get Mail”, read the online newspapers, click on “Get Mail”, and so on and so on.

With a Mac it’s even worse: at your fingertips you have its whole expose-spaces-dashboard-genie-shininess, with active corners and keybindings that make you faster than a pianist playing Bach. So waiting for a deus ex machina you play with your windows, make them turn around, become small small small and then big big big, open and close them, hide them in the Dock, go faster and faster and faster until motion sickness mandates you to stop.

And then you do the only thing left: you write something of zero entropy in the blog. This will be the biggest accomplishment of the day.

## Caffeine

giugno 20, 2008

$\vdash$ Too much caffeine $\rightarrow$ Can’t sleep $\rightarrow$ Wake up sleepy $\rightarrow$ More caffeine to stay awake $\rightarrow$ Can’t sleep $\rightarrow \cdots$

## Just discovered a “useful” WordPress feature…

giugno 20, 2008

… when you write a post, the pingback is automatically sent to all the links. This can lead to quite unexpected consequences…

## MMDS 2008

giugno 19, 2008

I just discovered that on 25-28 June Stanford University will host MMDS 2008 (Workshop on Algorithms for Modern Massive Data Sets), and I’ll still be in California around these dates! Besides, I am still in time for registration.

The schedule looks very promising, some of the speakers are the maximum authorities of their respective fields, and I’ve read many of their papers. Hope this is a good chance to ask them some questions, which probably will rule me out from a possible career in their universities 🙂

Looking forward to be there!

## Language problem: workarounded

giugno 15, 2008

I found out that some posts I want to write are so trivial tht I can write them in english. This way both italians and non-italians can read them, and they will look more witty and profound to italians. Posts in italian will be categorized as “italian”, english ones as “english”, so that italian-impaired readers can filter out the garbage. Clever trick, isn’t it?

Important: My written english is awful (not as awful as my spoken english…), please feel free to comment about any possible stylistic/syntactic/grammatical error, above all if they are “italianisms”. Thanks.