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Posts Tagged ‘blogosphere’

Heeding a call from Suresh, let me advertise the new mathOverflow-like, stackOverflow-like site for Theoretical Computer Science that is being constructed now using a newer platform.  Great potential.

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Constructive Economics is a rather new blog on the border of Economics and CS written by Abe Othman.  The blog seems to also be interested in AI at large as well as real-world finance.

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There are two main reasons why researchers publish papers in conferences and journals.  A “real” reason and a “strategic” reason.  The strategic reason is an artifact of the current academic situation where researchers are judged according to their publication list, when considered for positions, promotions, grants, etc.  Given this state of affairs, we have a strong personal incentive to “publish” whether or not our research is worthwhile and whether or not anyone will ever read it.   The “real” reason for publication is dissemination: let other researchers learn about our work, so they can use it, continue it, be influenced by it, etc.  This is what  the whole “scientific/academic establishment” should aim to promote.  Inherent here is the competition for the attention of other researchers who have to decide to spend time and effort reading your paper rather than the countless others vying for their attention.

In my view the main real service that journals and conferences provide in this day and age is exactly the arbitration of this competition for attention: the editors and reviewers of journals and the program committee of conferences  look at lots of papers and suggest a few of them for me to look at.  When chosen right, this is indispensable: there is no way that I could spot by myself  the new important paper of a young graduate student among the hundreds of non-important ones out there.  The main reason why I prefer conferences to journals in CS is that the former seem to be doing a much better job (although still far from perfect) of this identification of new important stuff.

The Internet has revolutionized the mechanics of dissemination of scientific work.   I can still remember when scientific dissemination worked by putting reprints of our papers in envelopes and sending them in (real) mail.  This was replaced by photocopying from conference proceedings, then by sending email attachments, and today we just “put it on the web”.  The standard that seems to be emerging now is to put it on the arXiv.  In comparison, the “social-scientific” structure surrounding “publication” has hardly changed at all, and putting your paper on the arXiv is not “counted as a publication” , provides no signal of your paper’s quality or correctness, and usually does not suffice for getting much attention for your work.    I think that the main ingredient missing from having “putting your paper on the web” be the main form of publication is a surrounding mechanism that can provide a signal of quality and that will help readers focus their attention on the more important work.  How exactly this can work still remains to be seen, but I would like to run an experiment in this direction on this blog.

Experiment: Recommend interesting AGT/E papers on the Web

I am asking readers of this blog to put forward — as a comment to this blog post — recommendations for interesting papers in the field of Algorithmic Game Theory/Economics.  Here are the rules of this experiment:

  • Eligible recommenders: Anyone from the “AGT/E research community”.  I will take this in a wide sense: anyone who has published a paper related to AGT in a recognized scientific forum (conference or journal in CS, AI, GT, economics, …)
  • Eligible papers: Papers must be (1) Available openly on the web. (2) Not already have been published in a journal or conference with proceedings.  It is OK if they were submitted to or accepted  by a conference or journal as long as they have not yet appeared yet.  (3) Related to Algorithmic Game Theory/Economics, taken in a wide sense.
  • What to include: (1) Name of the recommender and a link to their academic home-page — no anonymous recommendations (2) A link to the paper (3) A short explanation of what the paper is about and why you think it is interesting.   There is no implicit assumption of having refereed the paper in any sense.
  • Conflicts: The recommender should follow the usual rules of avoiding conflict of interest followed in program committees: do not recommend (1) your own papers, (2) papers of someone in own department, (3) papers of a frequent collaborator (4) papers of a family member/lover, etc.

[Update: following a suggestion, to start things off, I entered my own recommendation in the format that I was thinking of — as a comment.]

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Terry Tao’s latest buzz shows how Arrow’s theorem can be viewed (and proved) as a corollary of the fact that the only ultrafilters over finite sets are principal.

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Eran Shmaya posts about a beautiful demonstration from 1957 by Micahel Rabin of the twists that computation puts on  game theory.

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Buzzing

My gmail account got “buzzed” yesterday, and I checked it out.  (While I do work for Google part-time, I knew very little about this product previously.) My initial impression is that this is indeed the “social app” for my generation: the email generation.  I have to admit that I never caught up with the younger generation who feels at home at Facebook or Twitter (or, frankly,  even SMSing).  I know that for the young of today email is something that “your teacher uses to talk to your parents”, but, hey, I am these teacher and parents.  So while I wonder with everyone how the Google Buzz vs. Twitter/Facebook thing will go in general, Buzz seems to fit my demographic quite well.

To start with, it lives where I live — in the email.  Just this tiny fact may make a huge difference for me, since I rarely bother entering Twitter or Facebook neither to check things out, nor to write a trivial message.  Now, for example, I can follow Lance’s Twitter on Buzz.  The zero-effort of buzzing means that I can even see myself Buzzing (is this the term that’s go’na catch instead of tweeting?).  Second, as buzz was automatically populated with many of my email contacts, I almost immediately have stuff to look at.  So far certainly almost all buzz that I’ve seen is from the nerdier side of my contacts, but that can change very quickly, if I extrapolate from what I see so far.  Furthermore, as the default of the “profile” page is to show the list of those that you follow or that follow you, it’s easy to “browse the followship graph” and find even more interesting people t0 follow. (Tao is buzzing too, and once you follow him you also get the items he shares from the blogs he reads.)

A bunch of other design choices also seem appropriate for me: from the simplicity of it all, to the directed followship graph (a la twitter) which is easier to swallow for me than the undirected friendship graph of Facebook.  I haven’t tried yet the geo/mobile features (I’m still 2G), or the targeted buzzing to specific subgroups, but at least their description seems simple enough.

To conclude: so far I’m a fan, with two main worries: (1) the overload of information with its time-sink effect will certainly get worse, and (2) while I rarely felt the need to be careful about my privacy online previously, I do feel the need for care in handling my privacy with Buzz.

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Physics blogger John Baez is writing a piece for Notices of the AMS on “what do mathematicians need to know about blogging?” and asks on his blog:

So, just to get the ball rolling, let me ask: what do you think mathematicians need to know about blogging?

Many of the comments are interesting.  For example Terry Tao says:

I’m of course very enthusiastic about blogs as a medium for mathematical communication; it seems to fill in a niche between formal mathematical publications and informal seminars and conversations, as it combines the durable availability of the former with the interactivity of the latter.

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