Confessions of a researchaholic

December 31, 2012

How to design demos

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:51 pm
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In a nutshell, a demo should properly demonstrate technical aspects with sufficient artistic appeals.

The technical part is usually more important, and can suffice alone for many science and engineering disciplines. However, the artistic part is also very important for graphics and HCI, or any fields which involve direct human perception and consumption.

Demos usually take a lot of time and efforts, on top of the usual workload in ideation, writing, algorithm, implementation, and experimentation. And whether you like it or not, a solid and novel algorithm cannot be adequately assessed or appreciated by the readers if it is not demonstrated through proper demos.

Thus, designing demos is kind of an art. Below are recent suggestions from Sylvain Lefebvre which I have found to be excellent.

A guideline that worked fine for me is to consider whether 1) the result demonstrates the technique properly and 2) the result looks just good enough that it appears useful; in particular we want to avoid people think that the example is contrived to only show the advantage of our approach.

The problem is that 1) and 2) sometimes compete with each other (e.g. a fantastic rendering possibly making it hard to properly see the motion, etc.). Also we do not want to spend too much time on 2), only enough that people will think that it is convincing.

December 27, 2012

Massive open online courses

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:40 am
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Finally, technology is turning its head towards one of the most important and yet archaic aspects of our civilization: education. I have been trying out these MOOC (e.g. Udacity and Coursera), and found them fascinating. I can understand why Sebastian Thrun decided to quit his tenured Stanford faculty job to startup Udacity.

This is going to totally shake the entire education sector. Schools not on the efficient frontier, especially those primarily focusing on teaching rather than research, are in the real danger of extinction.
Pretty soon, students will start to ponder between getting course certificates from Stanford versus getting real degrees from lesser schools.

The technology is no longer the issue. Stanford, if it wants, can already dish out an infinite number CS master degrees annually. The real question is prestige; Stanford is valued precisely because it is a scarce resource. How MOOC and prestige will play out remains an interesting event to watch for.

My efficient frontier theory

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:35 am
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(Look up the term “efficient frontier” if you need, even though I am going to abuse it because I could not figure out a better alternative; “local-maximum” comes close, but it does not catch the multi-dimensional aspect.)

The world is becoming increasingly fair and competitive; fair in the sense that people now have more equal opportunities than ever to succeed due to technological shifts; competitive in the sense that it is also more likely than ever for the winners to take all.

Position yourself on the efficient frontier for whatever you care, such as school, job, skill set, etc. Otherwise, someone else who can dominate you nearer the frontier will have you for lunch.

It is not going to be easy. Everybody wants to rule the world. But do what you love + strike for the best is probably your best bet. In contrast, trend following will only put you into a crowded competition.

December 11, 2012

A gastronomic study of PhD defense

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:29 am
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HKU (Hong Kong)

No food or drink served. The candidate gives the talk, the audience asks questions, and the jury members discuss the final fate behind the door. The entire thing is over in about an hour.

Stanford (USA)

The reception food quality determines whether you pass, but do not serve coffee, as it can make jury members unnecessarily aggressive. The rest is similar to above.

INRIA (France)

The jury members meet for lunch in a nice restaurant (French, of course). The talk, QA, and jury discussion parts are similar to above. After that, a fancy reception is served (Tunisian pastry in my case). And if you, as a jury member, do not ask for trouble during the defense, you get invited to dinner in an even nicer restaurant (French, course). The entire thing takes about 11 hours.

December 2, 2012


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:55 pm
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We like the novelty of giving up what we know, and we like the novelty of coming to know something we did not know. Otherwise, we would just hold on to what we have, and that's not very interesting. - Jasper Johns

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