Confessions of a researchaholic

January 28, 2013

When to change jobs

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:54 am
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I have a very simple answer to this supposed complex question: quit a job that no longer satisfies the two conditions listed in my previous post.

It is probably even simpler: change when your rate of improvement is reaching diminishing returns.

再好的公司,待久了,還是會變成一個井底蛙
Never stay with the same institution for too long, even a top one.

This also has an interesting positive side effect for switching at the peaks. You want to switch at the peak so that you are in an optimal mental state to make the right choices and in an optimal position to negotiate your next job offers. If you wait for the bottom, it is too late; your market value is already in decline.

Choosing jobs

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:29 am
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Basics

I have a very simple answer to this supposedly complex question: choose a job that allows you to (1) do what you really like and (2) be very good at it.

Your happiness and productivity are what matter the most, and they are direct products of the two conditions above.
There are other important things, such as pay, reputation, location, and colleagues, but they matter much less, especially in the long run.

This simple strategy works superbly for me so far, even though it can produce unconventional choices that seem puzzling. But what you think about your life is more important than what others think about it.

Types

[Added on February 22, 2015]

The main types of CS jobs include: engineer, researcher/scientist, professor, and entrepreneur. (Manager is part of all these and thus not explicitly listed.)

I have been through the first three and will do the rest before I die.
Here is my suggestion based on personal experience.

Being an engineer/researcher/scientist in a top, reasonably established company is likely the best choice as a first job for most fresh PhD graduates. You will have a relatively stable environment to focus and strong colleagues to help you grow and network. You will also learn the crucial lessons about practicing in the real world.
(I cannot emphasize more on the importance of all these especially the last one; you will see as time passes.)

I do not recommend starting as an assistant professor as that will require a lot of efforts outside core research and advising, such as teaching and funding, which are good exercises but more suitable when you become senior.
You may also miss out practical experiences unless you can have close industry collaborations.

Being part of a startup has the workload issue multiplied, and I prefer to do that as a professor for obvious reasons.

Bottom line: the exact job probably does not matter that much anyway if you can be happy and productive.

January 27, 2013

漸漸

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:06 am
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【侯 文詠】漸漸

最近有個餐飲界的病人和我大談經營理念,談著談著我忽然豁然開朗。原來這個人經營的是色情酒店。不但如此,他得意地自誇旗下女將清一色是大專程度以上。知識份子怎麼會去從事色情陪酒行業?!我們不免好奇十足。

「其實很簡單,我刊登廣告,徵求大專程度以上的女性會計。凡是應徵者都必須檢具學歷證書。」

「你刊登不實廣告,誘騙應徵少女。」他神秘地笑:「我們的會計薪水是比別人高沒錯。不過每個小姐一來我都說得很清楚。我們這裡的確有色情陪酒。但是領會計的薪水絕對只能做會計的工作。和裡面陪酒的小姐完全不同。絕不強迫。」

「那 就領薪水,好好地做個會計。」我問。

「是做會計沒錯。不過日子久了,和裡面端盤子的小姐熟了,大家都一樣是大專畢業的,好溝通。忙不過來的時候幫忙端個盤子,送送酒,也是常有的事。這個時候我就告訴小姐;你看,當會計領一萬二千元,端盤子送酒薪水二萬四,端盤子又不陪客人,不是什麼壞事,反正你都常常端盤子,為什麼不乾脆領二萬四?」

「這樣說個幾次就開始動搖了。同樣都是工作,為什麼不領二萬四呢?俱樂部的規定是,端盤子的小姐不准坐下來陪客人喝酒,這樣和坐檯小姐才有區別。可是日子久了,客人熟了,也會意思意思要求喝杯酒。開頭總是不願意,後來熬不過就喝一杯。說是站著喝。」

「一開始喝酒就好辦了。站著喝酒薪水是二萬四,坐著喝是四萬八,客人給的小費還不包括在內。同樣都是大專畢業,為 什麼錢賺的比別人少?!就會有人勸她了,人都在裡面了,外面的人誰知道你是端盤子,還是坐檯呢?!再說自己真的清白,別跟客人出場就好了,陪客人喝酒,就算在社會上交際應酬也是常有的事。」

「於是坐下來當坐檯小姐。剛開始一定規規矩矩地喝酒。也不隨便跟客人出場。這一行競爭大,領四萬八慢慢就會嫌不夠了。只 好挑看得順眼的客人給帶出場了。作久了,總是會給厲害的客人佔便宜,哭哭啼啼鬧一陣子也就好了。畢竟讀過書,狠下心來做得更利落、更敢,客人喜歡,我也得意,這是兩廂情願的事。」

他停了一下又說:「我從來沒有強迫過別人,也從來不擔心找不到小姐,反正這個環境慢慢會改變她們,直到她們根本忘記自己原來的想法和樣子!!」

我愈聽眼睛睜得愈大,從不曾想過在這樣不疾不徐的瑣碎裡,竟也有血肉飛濺似的驚心動魄。豐子愷寫過文章感嘆:使人生圓滑進行的微妙要素,莫如「漸」;造物主騙人的手段,也莫如「漸」。

在不知不覺中,天真浪漫的孩子「漸漸」變成野心勃勃的青年。慷慨豪俠的青年「漸漸」變成冷酷的成人;血氣旺盛的成人「漸漸」變成頑固的老頭子!!

對時間的感嘆,本是人類共同的命運,儘管悲傷,大自然不變的法則是誰都沒話說的事。可是對於意識形態,價值之漸,卻叫人坐立不安。

原來是錯的事,為什麼「漸漸」變成對的事??原本可恥的事,為什麼又「漸漸」人人爭相追逐??整個臺北市翻翻補補,敲敲打打,還有政治風暴、金融危機、社會秩序動盪,彷彿整個城市快傾毀了,可是這時代更叫人無法忍受的卻是那種無聲無息,無法感受的(漸),扭曲意識形態,把人的尊嚴、我們活著僅仰賴的那一點感覺吃掉。

無從捉摸,無法抵擋的墮落與沉淪。 漸漸之可怕,在於我們的不知不覺。世界上沒有任何東西是永遠不變的,唯一不變的只有一件事,就是任何東西都在變!

January 26, 2013

Why my site is not worth hacking

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:49 pm
Tags: ,

A friend of mine, who is currently a grad student in a prestigious CS department, told me that his PhD adviser is pretty keen on the cyber security thing. Like, he will fuss about unencrypted project servers.

I do not encrypt my server. It is not nearly as popular a target as my friend’s department, and I simply do not think it is worth hacking. Allow me to do a quick breakdown of the content of my site:

90% are project ideas killed by myself.

9% are not killed, but papers rejected by reviewers.

1% are neither killed nor rejected, but so poorly written that reviewers, who are experts in my field, asked for 3 revisions to be able to understand.

I hope I have saved your time. Have a good day.

January 25, 2013

The teacher is responsible for engaging the class

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:24 pm
Tags:

When students start to chat to each other during the class, they are either surprised by something (e.g. announcement a heavy homework assignment) or they are losing interests in the lecture.

The latter happened to me on the first class of this semester. I forgot to eat lunch before the lecture, so my mojo was fading halfway through. And the students sensed this.

I did ask them to quiet down because other students complained about the disturbance. But later on I realized I should never have to ask anyone to quiet down if I had not sucked.

So, in the second lecture of the class, I made sure I eat enough lunch to maintain my mojo. And I performed some live demos to support the lectures. No chitchat this time, and I know I got their attention.

Teaching

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:23 pm
Tags: , ,

My attitude towards teaching could be reflected by how I would really like to write my teaching statement (for faculty job applications).
There will be only one sentence: “smart enough students can pick up everything themselves”.
(Note1: I know this is entirely doable because I pulled this off since I was 10 years old, and I did not consider myself to be very smart.)
(Note2: Of course this is not how I really wrote my teaching statement.)

With this backdrop, it should not be a surprise that I have never blogged a single entry about teaching, at least not mine. I do not even have teaching as a tag word.

I have considered teaching as a chore rather than enjoyment (unlike research), and my basic stance has not changed too much. (One main reason why I think it is better to start a research career as an industry lab scientist rather than a university professor.) But not until I really taught full-semester classes, especially large ones, did I start to appreciate teaching can be a fun thing to do, for two main reasons.

First, it can actually inspire my research ideas.

Second, and probably more important, teaching provides a great chance for massive mind reading and human studying, with moral justification for effective teaching. It is even more fun and challenging than reading individuals, one of my most favorite pastimes.

More posts to follow.

January 7, 2013

Sharing code and data

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:08 am
Tags: , ,

It is usually a very good idea to share the code and data along with your published papers. This will make it easier for others to test, understand, reproduce, and compare against your methods, which in turn can make you more popular, your papers more widely cited, and your technology more likely to be adopted by the industry and turned into real products.

Due to intellectual property policies of the institutions I have been affiliated with, I cannot release code for all my projects. However, for those which I can and did, I have found wider citation and productization.

It could also a good idea to submit your code and data along with your paper for peer review. Reviewers tend to like your paper more if they can reproduce your results. However, there are a few things to watch for. The first, and the obvious one, is to make sure your code actually works as advertised. Another is author anonymity; for venues that mandate it you will want to make sure your code and data (just like your paper) do not contain any information that can identify the authors. If you have doubts on this, one possibility is to submit your code and data as non-anonymous materials, if the particular venues allow this (e.g. SIGGRAPH). This can reduce the risk of breaching anonymity and yet allows the committee members to back you if the need arises.

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