Confessions of a researchaholic

November 1, 2019

Deadline ruining your holiday?

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:24 pm
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I never understand why people want to complain about how deadlines ruin (their specific) holidays.
Everyone is free to finish the job before the holiday even if the official deadline is afterwards.

I remember Hugues Hoppe told me that he usually had a complete draft of his submissions before late December, and in one instance he didn’t even touch the paper between X’mas and the January deadline.

Nowadays, one can submit to ToG anytime and still present in SIGGRAPH; I am not sure what is the real difference. And there are other related venues like CHI or CVPR.

Personally, SIGGRAPH crunch is kinda fun for me, so I won’t mind one way or another.

October 12, 2019

Taking comments

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:38 am
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I guess the key challenge for taking comments/suggestions from others is being rationally open and yet emotionally close, to make positive improvements without negative feelings.

September 26, 2019

I only propose SIGGRAPH-level ideas for collaboration

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:01 am
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This is a corollary of be the best; replace SIGGRAPH with CHI/UIST for HCI projects, ICCV/CVPR for vision projects, etc.

I usually propose safer/clearer ideas for collaboration, especially with more junior folks, and reserve riskier ideas for myself.
Sometimes it is faster for me to directly code than to indirectly describe what to do, especially for vague thoughts. (Some of my single-authored SIGGRAPH papers are results of not finding any collaborators.)

Given these, if a project cannot be published in a top venue, it is usually due to (lack of) execution, e.g., a first-author student needed to graduate and thus ran out of time, or chose to follow his/her own opinion instead of my advice.
I am completely OK with all these; I do the best I can without worrying about factors beyond my control.

September 20, 2019

Provisional patent application

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 3:09 pm
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A provisional patent is worth considering, if your institution does not want to file a real (non-provisional) patent for your project.
It has much lower cost and much faster process than a formal patent filing, while offers similar protection in terms of public disclosure date.
There is a one-year period for a provisional patent, during which you can evaluate whether it is worthwhile to file a real patent.

For example, I filed a provisional patent (out of my own pocket) for the autocomplete hand-drawn animation project, which has gathered a lot of interests and yet it is tricky to file a patent due to the institutions involved (University of Hong Kong, University of Tokyo, Microsoft Research).
However, after one year, Jun, the first author and builder of the system, did not manage to produce a sharable prototype, so I just let the provisional patent expire. If he had a prototype with enough product interests, I would proceed filing an official patent.

August 19, 2019

What I told an intern today based on recent experience

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:50 pm
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If we do not figure out what we want to do, someone else will, and they might not have our best interest in mind.

March 21, 2019

How to draw human subjects on trains

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:40 pm
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Pick a schedule that the train is neither too crowded nor too under attended. It is very difficult to draw in an overcrowded or a completely empty train.

Pick a train (or a specific car) with open views so that you can easily see other passengers, preferably frontal faces.

The above two require some experiences but would not be hard to figure out after a few weeks.

Walk through all cars once the train departs to identify the best subject and your location.

Like research, the most important stage for art is picking the right subject. The rest is just execution.
The subject should have enough visual interest (at least to you) and yet in a stable enough state to draw (e.g. sleeping or focusing on a book or device).
Sit at a right angle and distance from your subject. You need to be able to see his or her face with sufficient clarify, while avoiding being noticed. (People might not behave naturally if they sense being watched.)

Time your drawing with the train stops.
Ideally you want to have enough time and physical stability to draw, so place the most important strokes (e.g. the outline and key features) during the longest segment (so that the subject is most likely to remain there).
Also consider how shaky the train can be; place the coarser strokes (e.g. initial base layer) during bumpier movements, and the finer strokes (e.g. detailed eye structures) during slower movements.

I usually have about 20 to 30 minutes for a trip during which I try to complete the drawing as much as possible. Sometimes I perform fine touches afterwards, but only if my visual memory is still fresh.

View this post on Instagram

Quick sketch of an evening train passenger

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

View this post on Instagram

Quick sketch of an evening train passenger

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

February 7, 2019

Imposter syndrome

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:55 am
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A colleague recently told me that he felt like being an imposter in our lab. I was surprised because in my view he has been very successful all around.

Many members of our research community feel likewise and need to shore up their facades. I guess we can all relax a bit once we realize everyone else is just like us.

Or you can be like me, too insensitive or self-absorbing to really care what others think about us. (I still pretend I do, mostly to fit in.)
🙂

January 23, 2019

Doing projects versus developing people

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:06 pm
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I like the technical part of Mengqi’s SIGGRAPH 2018 presentation, but even more so at the end when she talked about never giving up.

During the early stage of my research career I focused more on doing projects, but have gradually shifted more towards developing people, which I found to be an even more interesting and rewarding experience.

December 3, 2018

Integrity, intelligence, and energy

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:48 am
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Warren Buffett once said to look for three qualities for people to work with: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And without the first one, the other two will kill you.

However, history is full of people who committed grave atrocities due to lack of intelligence, even with good intention and integrity. And I have witnessed people causing less damages who are not as dangerous but still annoying.

Thus, lacking intelligence is no less dangerous than lacking integrity. Avoid such people as much as possible.

September 27, 2018

How filter recruiters

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:01 am
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It is usually much more effective to talk directly with the hiring managers for job opportunities. Recruiters, either internally to the companies or externally in agencies, are usually less effective, even though I have encountered a few very good ones and enjoyed the processes.

If you are receiving more recruiter contacts than your bandwidth can handle, one strategy is as follows. Tell the recruiter that you are very happy with your current job (true for me, but pretend to be so even if you are not) and are not thinking about switching now. However, you are interested to know more about the opportunity, and might be able to recommend other suitable candidates.

A run-of-the-mill recruiter, looking for a quick score, will usually pass by after reading this message.
A smart recruiter, on the other hand, knows the importance of building relationships and expanding networks, and top candidates usually have good jobs; they will be more likely to get back to you.

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