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Showing posts from March, 2010

The Psychology of Program Committees

One thing that I frequently tell my grad students is that your chances of getting a paper accepted to a conference depend as much on who the reviewers are, and what kind of mood they are in, than the content of the paper itself. OK, leaving aside those obviously brilliant papers that my group is known to churn out, the paper content does matter -- but on most program committees there is a large pile of "pretty good" papers that all have a roughly equal chance of getting accepted. In these cases it often comes down to the collective mindset of the reviewers during the PC meeting.

There are many subtle psychological effects that influence the disposition towards a given paper. The first has to do with the timing of the paper discussion. At the beginning of a PC meeting, everyone is amped up on caffeine and uncalibrated with the respect to the overall quality of the papers being discussed. Your chances of getting a paper accepted when it is discussed early on in the meeting can …

The App Store is evil. And I love it.

Apple's App Store is the perhaps the most brilliant innovation in software distribution ever. In case you've been living in a cave, the App Store lets iPhone and iPod Touch (and soon, iPad) users download and install apps directly on their device. This has absolutely revolutionized the way that software applications are marketed and sold. With a single tap you can download an app and the price is automatically billed to your credit card. The best part is that Apple gets to keep 30% of the app price. So, every sale of the $900 iRa Pro app nets Apple $270. They must be raking it in!

Before the App Store, installing apps on mobile devices was a huge pain. My old Windows CE PDA required that you download a ZIP file to your Windows machine (a deal-killer right there), unpack it, run a wizard, physically tether the PDA to the PC, go through several steps to complete the installation, and usually reboot a couple of times for good measure. Any time the PDA's battery ran out I had t…

Mac tools for profs

Macs seem to be insanely popular amongst CS faculty. Most conferences and faculty meetings I go to are dominated by Mac users. No big surprises, since (a) Macs work, and (b) they're sexy. I switched from Linux to Mac a couple of years ago after I got tired of editing three configuration files and rebooting to join a wireless LAN. That worked when I was a grad student, but now I'm too busy for that kind of crap.

I wanted to share some links to good Mac specific tools that I've found to be very useful in my job. If you have other suggestions, please share them as comments!

OmniGraffle is a great figure drawing program and produces very professional results. It's also easy as hell since it can do most of the layout for you, making sure that the boxes and arrows all line up correctly. The PDF output looks very slick and I've been using it for most of the figures in my papers; see Figure 1 in our SenSys'08 paper on Pixie for an example. Be sure to get the educational …

Who pays for conference reviews?

Why not make authors pay to submit papers to conferences?

Serving on a program committee takes a tremendous amount of time. So, one of the frequent complaints that TPC members make is when authors submit half-baked, clearly below-threshold papers a conference just to get some reviews back on their work. Personally, I feel little responsibility to write detailed reviews on papers that are clearly in the "Hail Mary" category, but I still have to read them, and that takes time. Not to mention the long-term psychological damage incurred by having to read a slew of crappy papers one after the other... I'm still in therapy after IPSN 2007 :-)

The problem is that submitting a paper to a conference is free: all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse to upload your PDF file. (Of course, I'm not accounting for the cost of doing the research and writing the paper itself.)

Let's estimate the costs associated with serving on a program committee and reviewing a stack of papers. I …

The Paperless Tourist

I recently spent a week in Portugal for EWSN'10 and spent a few days in Lisbon and Porto on either end of the conference. I decided this time to go entirely paperless -- that is, not take a paper guidebook. Rather, I was going to rely entirely on my iPhone for all of the travel information. As an experiment it was largely successful, with some caveats.

Normally I take a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet guidebook with me when I travel, but this has two big disadvantages. First, I have to lug the book around wherever I go, which usually means also having a bag or something else just to carry the book when I'm out on the town. Second, having the guidebook out in a bar, restaurant, or on the street immediately pegs you as a tourist and I hate being so conspicuous. I'm all about blending in, as the picture on the right should make absolutely clear. (Pop quiz: Which one is me? Hint: I don't smoke.)

This time, I decided to rely on the iPhone Kindle app and bought the Rough Guide t…