Category Archives: Research

CMU’s WebVPN Proxy

I think this would be worth mentioning for my CMU fellows:

As you know we have campus-wide subscriptions to many web services, like the ACM Digital Library and Elsevier’s “ScienceDirect”. But if you are off-campus, then understandably you cannot take advantage of such subscriptions. There was a time when all you could do was to ssh into a campus machine followed by, say, a wget+scp dance. But these days you can also use the “WebVPN service“, which is I find to be a lot more convenient, and direct.

Bibliometrics in ACM Digital Library

I just noticed that the ACM Digital Library have started to prominently display “Bibliometrics” for each of its articles. Currently, we get the number of downloads in the last 6 weeks and last 12 months, as well as the number of citations. The last of which was available before, but you had to go further down into the page.

In case you want a quick link to see, here is Bob Tarjan’s classic Efficiency of a Good But Not Linear Set Union Algorithm.

I have written you a long paper…

Roy Levin, a friendly CMU alum, told us a story a couple weeks ago:

A job applicant was asked to write a 10-page description of a project he previously participated. The documentation of that project was well over a thousand pages and so he said there was no way to describe it in 10 pages… (The rest is history. :P )

Then Roy offered the following wisdom:

In a field that prides itself with the very idea of abstractions, everything can be explained in 10 pages. In fact, everything can be explained in one page. Good authors abstract the material to an appropriate level.

I suppose everyone agrees with his advice, but I wasn’t fully aware of that property of my field until he said it. I could have been doing it subconsciously before, but I do it consciously from that day on.

Yet it takes time and skill to do the abstraction right. I’ve seen positive and negative examples. In this regard, I remember a quote from Mark Twain, or Blaise Pascal, or really, Google:

I have written you a long letter because I did not have time to write a short one.

Some days I need to keep screaming in my head: I can explain this lucidly in 10 pages!

Principles of Effective Research by Michael Nielsen

The philosophy underlying the essay is based on a famous quote attributed to Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.’’ Underlying all our habits are models (often unconscious) of how the world works.

Thanks to Aristotle, and Nielsen. :P

You and Your Research

Note: it seeems that the web has no lack of copies of this excellent talk. This one is copied from A PDF version is available at and here is a local copy.

This talk really makes me think a lot… but…

Richard Hamming

“You and Your Research”

Transcription of the
Bell Communications Research Colloquium
7 March 1986

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Subscribe to ECCC Newsletter

Besides the mailing list of, I also recommend subscribing to the newsletter of ECCC. It’s pretty simple: just go to and you can submit your request there.

The benefit? You get to know some of the hottest results out there, right in your mailbox!

For example, this is what I got this morning:
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Depth through Breadth?

Over the years I have heard many opinions from graduate students about going to talks not related to their research interests. My impression is that more and more students feel that they should skip such talks because:

  • The talk is in an area that they are not familiar with. (“This talk will be way over my head.”)
  • They have more important things to do. (“My adviser will not go to such talks either.”)
  • Many talks are usually difficult to follow. (“It’s easier to directly read the paper.”)

As some of you may know, recently Avi Wigderson gave a talk in STOC 2004 about why we should listen to talks in other areas. He really seems to have some convincing arguments about why knowing other areas can help your own research. I won’t repeat them here.

And even though the opinion of a small potato like me doesn’t carry any weight, let me add to his list from a less utilitarian perspective (I do not claim Avi’s talk was utilitarian but the motivation he gave in his talk was certainly targeted to convince you of the benefits):

  • Manuel Blum once told me that “a PhD should be someone who knows everything about something and something about everything” and I believe him.
  • I feel that even very productive graduate students should have more time than their advisers.
  • As a community (if it ever existed), we should show up to community events, even just to show our support and appreciation to the speaker and the community itself. (I know this is mostly a culture thing. I am a Chinese and we treasure fellowship.)

What do you think?

P.S. I am spending the last 25 minutes to write this post because today one of our weekly “community event” scheduled at this time has been canceled due to various reasons. I don’t blame anyone for this. We all have our priorities and I respect that. (I lament only solely because there is a lack of free food. You believe me, right? :P )

Subscribe to the arXiv mailing list

First, I thank Anupam for telling me about this.

By subscribing to the arXiv mailing list on the subjects that you are interested in, you will get to know what has been submitted to arXiv recently.

Go to for more information on how to subscribe and what areas are available.

For example, this is my subscription email.

Subject: subscribe Maverick Woo

add Data Structures and Algorithms
add Discrete Mathematics
add Computational Complexity

And this is what I got yesterday:
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