Confessions of a researchaholic

September 23, 2015


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:17 pm

If you have to describe your understanding to me to see if you really understand it, then you probably don’t.

The only way to know for sure is to produce concrete results.
This is why I like science and engineering, where things can be measured objectively.

July 27, 2015

Aaron Swartz on how to hire

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:51 am

This guy knows how to hire, at his early twenties, better than most of my colleagues so far.

July 18, 2015

Write paper introduction to vet research ideas

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:04 am

The introduction part of top research papers shares the following common structure, which I use to vet and hone potential ideas while drafting the paper/project:

What problem we are trying to solve.
Why it is important, and why people should care.
[Picking the right problem is the most important stage of a research project. Proceed only if this part is very convincing.]

What prior works have done, and why they are not adequate.
Say only high level big ideas. Details should go to a previous work section.
[If you can find only details but not big ideas, it is a sign that the problem domain is saturated.]

What our method can offer: sales pitch for concrete benefits, not technical details.
[Imagine we are doing a Super-Bowl commercial here; every second costs millions of dollars. Lacking of significant benefits is a sign that the idea is incremental.]

Our main idea, giving people a take home message and (if possible) see how clever we are.
[“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein]

Our algorithms and methods to show technical contributions and that our solutions are not trivial.
[This part is less important for truly brilliant ideas, but still necessary for the rest majority.]

What are the (anticipated) results, applications, and benefits; stuff ordinary people would care in the real-world.
[Let’s do something really useful.]

July 12, 2015

Fail fast

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:30 pm

If you are mentoring someone who is clearly not suitable for the profession, and you think you are being nice by keeping him/her as long as possible, you are actually doing a big disservice to everyone because:

. The time and efforts you sink on that individual can be more effectively spent on other tasks, including mentoring other more qualified people.

. That someone can be happier and more successful at doing something else. You are delaying or (worse) depriving his/her opportunity.

. You are degrading the performance and reputation of yourself and your institution.

. That someone can set up a bad example and cast off negative influence to nearby people.

. You are wasting money and resources sponsored by taxpayers or shareholders.

June 25, 2015

How to find and attract top recruits

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:31 am

Major König: I’ll fix it so that he’s the one who finds me.

June 10, 2015

“Who you are” matters much more than “whom you are affiliated with”

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:29 am
Tags: ,

Birds of a feather flock together.
Our affiliation does reflect our own quality to some degree.

On the other hand, the prestige of institutions is becoming less important due to the internet and social media.
And really top people can transform a not-so-top institution into a top one.

June 8, 2015

Email address etiquette

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:42 am

It is fine to have creative or personalized email addresses, but use your judgement, e.g. is probably not suitable for professional communications.

If you have multiple email accounts which you cannot check with sufficient frequency, just set automatic forwarding to a single (default) account. You can also setup (e.g. via SMTP) that single default account to reply on behalf of the other aliases.
If you do not intend to use a particular email account, disable or delete it so that people would not expect reply from there.

May 31, 2015

Should we submit?

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:33 pm
Tags: ,

The deadline is approaching and we have this paper that might or might not be ready. Should we submit?

A lot can be learned only by going through actually paper review cycles. So it pays off to do our best to meet the deadline.

On the other hand, a bad submission might get its potentially good ideas scooped by the reviewers without receiving much useful feedback.

Thus, I recommend submitting only those with a reasonable chance of getting accepted but let the first author make the final call as the tie breaker.

April 8, 2015

Debug your own code

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:24 pm
Tags: ,

Never, ever, send your code to others and ask them to debug whatever functional or performance issues you have.

That is the most effective way to signal you being a liability rather than an asset. It is like asking others to wipe your ass for you.

Spend time figuring out what is going on inside your own code, and ask specific questions if you need help. Take a look at, a good forum for coding questions.

March 25, 2015


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:04 am
Tags: , , ,

If you are a university professor and you boast on social networks about sending your students to other schools for higher degrees, you are essentially acknowledging that you (and your school) are not as good.

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