Confessions of a researchaholic

December 20, 2014

Minimal quality bar to become my internal student

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:08 pm
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You should be able to understand and implement an existing research paper (e.g. SIGGRAPH) or software system (e.g. a renderer/simulator) as well as reproduce the corresponding results.

Otherwise, you are not ready for a research or even a development position.

As a reference point, my current HKU PhD student, Jun Xing, once managed to reproduce 3 SIGGRAPH papers in a span of about 5 days.
:-)

November 25, 2014

How to really understand an algorithm

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:12 am
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Implement it.

November 9, 2014

Manage presentation via slides

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:36 am
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If I need to produce a video or give a talk for a research project, here is my current workflow.

Write down the story/script in plain text and rough drawings. Do not use any specific media at this early stage as it can prematurely limit our creativity.

Commit the script into a storyboard via slides (e.g. PowerPoint).
I then gradually flesh out the storyboard into a video and talk using the same set of slide files. This might sound unusual, so let me explain.

Start with video. When I was in grad school I learned time-line based tools (e.g. Adobe Premiere) to author and edit videos. But recently I found it more natural to use slides instead of time-lines for research videos. The main reason is that a research video usually contains short video segments glued together by narration, which involves more storyboarding than time-line manipulation.

I first produce the individual video segments using specific tools (e.g. dumping individual frames from my renderer and convert them into a video via MovieMaker), and embed them into PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint provides a rich set of tools for annotation, animation, and transition, which I find handy (and harder to do via Adobe Premiere). I automate all object animations and slide transitions, and dump the entire project into a video file.
I submit the video along with the paper, and go screw around.

PowerPoint allows flexible manual control, but it can be tedious due to lack of automation/scripting tools. Thus, it is important to properly decompose the above process into (1) automatic creation of (video) components and (2) manual insertion/combination of these components into the slides. It is a trade-off among quality, control, and manual labor.

When the time comes to prepare the talk, I can simply start with my slide file, which already contains the script, the video segments, and associated effects. I just need to turn off those automatic animations and transitions that I wish to manual control, and add additional information for a talk, usually verbal stuff such as previous works, algorithm details, and future directions.

I find this much more efficient than starting new slides from scratch.
I also find that for those projects that I were too lazy/busy to make videos, the talk slides I ended up doing are often not too far from being videos.
It is almost always a good idea to have a video to present the gist of our project in 5 minutes, more appealing and efficient than absorbing the same amount of information from reading the paper.

As an example, here is an early version of the video-slide file for my siga14 paper autocomplete painting repetitions.

October 13, 2014

How to make a SIGGRAPH paper

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:08 pm
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There is a course in the upcoming SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 conference on how to make a SIGGRAPH paper.

The content has not been completed decided. If there is anything particular you like to hear about, feel free to leave a comment below within the next 13 days. You can do so with anonymous or real identity.

Please also help spread and share this.

September 29, 2014

Occupation

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:22 pm
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Dear students:

I am totally cool if you want to occupy Central, but that should not be an excuse for under performance.

Focus on your math and coding, which one day could let you occupy anywhere anytime without being seen by anyone.
:-)

July 29, 2014

Teaching assistant

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:40 am
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TA is a great training for presentation, communication, management, and personal skills. You have to be able to describe course materials in a way that the students can understand, and you have to balance their learning and happiness. Naturally, students want to minimize workloads while maximizing grades. Dealing with a large class (hundreds of undergrad students) is not unlike managing a mob.

It is great if one can focus exclusively on research. That is what I prefer then as a grad student and now as a prof. But without sufficient communication and personal skills, one cannot succeed even with great research skills.
To start with, a great idea is of no value if it cannot be understood and appreciated by people.

Thus, I do not consider TA a waste of time. Quite on the contrary, it is an indispensable part of research training.

July 25, 2014

Stephen King on how to write

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:00 am
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It is striking how much the advice on fiction writing applies to technical writing and conducting research in general, despite some important differences, e.g. scientific writings should be precise instead of leaving rooms for imagination.

June 22, 2014

Should you go to grad school?

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:29 am
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February 22, 2014

Be different

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:37 am
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This is likely a unique local phenomenon, but I often see these student representatives wearing suits and sitting in meetings for various organizations.

It is extremely difficult for me to understand why anyone wants to do this. Young people should dream of being different instead of rushing into conformity.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs

December 23, 2013

Dear Asian students

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:10 pm
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Not having to observe Western holidays is your competitive advantage. Don’t squander it.

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