Friday, 29 August 2008

Presentation of your work II

A very trivial advices, which has a lot of hidden reasons to give – your should try and conduct the presentation before the real one at home. You should not react on this: “Of course .. it is obvious” since the following reason will probably be not as obvious as you think:

Direct reasons: such in advance test will help you to understand what you are going to say because ad hoc talk could easily move you to some other topic or you will find that you miss some important data. So the in advance training will a) let you to build up a plan of the talk; b) let you to understand what expressions you will be using in order to make your talk absolutely correct and make others understand what you are talking about; c) find definitions and terms to be used.

Indirect (or hidden) reasons : such training talk shows whether you meet the time requirement or your talk tends to be long and frustrating. Practise shows that you will have to cut from 20% (for experienced) to 50% (for beginners) of what you thought initially you will be saying. So you need to find how much exactly you have to cut in order to avoid cutting during the real talk risking to cut too important issues then.... and obviously you should repeat the talk in order to identify whether the new speech meets requirements. It will be fine to have approximately one training for presenting an article and 3-4 for presenting your doctor work.

If the presentation is a presentation of PhD thesis then you should also try to show slides (not only make a talk) in order to synchronise your talk and slides and balance time you spent on one or another slide. Moreover you could find it to be hard to understand what your are showing / explaining using your slides. Then you will have either to rebuild your slides or (may be) use more than one screen. Two screen technique is spreading more and more among lecturers. There are several reasons why two can be used. For example some lecturers will show on the second one the previous slide so you will not loose the talk logic. The second method will allow parallel presentation in order you, for example, would like to show the original and modified text and so forth. Finally you could decide for two screens if you want allow to follow both the general level logic (on one screen) and the details logic (on another).

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Working with customers

Resently I have read a very interesting article written by Joel and so would like to share it with you in case you will find it to be useful: How Hard Could It Be?: Good System, Bad System.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Presentation of your work I

As a rule of thumbs each presentation should be approximately 20 minutes – at least it is true for both doctor work and conferences’ article presentation.

It is very stick with this time restriction in order not to be interrupted in the middle of your presentation as a child will be interfering into parents conversation. You risk to leave very bad impression about yourself and you work and, what is more important, will have to skip a lot of details that can be either small or extremely important. Of course nobody will interrupt you during the doctor work presentation but you will face another risk – the committee will fall asleep by the end of your speech and this will be written by the red ink into history of the university and into your unofficial CV.

It is quite common at conferences that the session chair will give you a mark when you are dangerously close to the end of the time frame and there are no signs that you are completing your speech. For example s/he can show you a peace of paper with number 1 indicating that just one minute left. In practise it means that you should immediately proceed with conclusion as you have no more time to describe the content of your paper.

The core element of each presentation is slides shown normally on a screen. As a rule of thumbs you should plan the number of slides as a slide per 2-3 minutes – then you will have enough time to explain each and slides will not transit neither too fast nor too slow (so people will not be tired looking at the same peace of information). If your slides contain graphical representation of data then those surely requires explanation of what and how (!) is presented there: what is x-axis, what is y-axis, what means each point on the graph. Moreover you should explain what is the trend and its meaning: is it good that the line is growing of falling. Only thereafter you could proceed with conclusions that can be made basing on this picture since only then you and your auditorium will have a common understanding on what is going on the screen.

Friday, 15 August 2008

How to write an article: Style III

Finally nothing should be included into the paper without giving a good reason.

If the proposed method is compared with any others then you should define why those methods where selected for comparison and what were selection criteria. The same should be indeed used for the paper as well – why the author thinks that this area of research is worth to be studied and why the new method should be used. It is not enough to derive some kind tiny or virtual benefits.

Another common mistake is submitting to the conference to brief research. It is never worth to do what ever reason made you believe else. If the deeper paper will exceed the requirement by pages then it will be better to split the paper into subtopics and present them as separate papers. If you don’t have enough time then skip the conference. It will be much better than submitting a work that anyway will be rejected. At least you will regret about that ….. if not now then later when you will achieve more in science.

How to add (replace) a row (tr) or a cell (td) withouth using innerHTML in IE

There is one well know restriction in MS browser called IE that makes developers life very much harder than they actually would like to have : it is not possible to add or change a row context using innerHTML property. A lot of architectural changes were done to work around this restriction and also was quite a head-ache in the project I am working on.

Fortunately I recently discovered very interesting and usefull post explaining why it is so and, what is much more important, describing a workaround that exists!! Very much appreciate to such persons!

Here is a small example demonstrating how this works.. you can go to any test environment, paste the code published below and see how it works)

<script type="text/javascript">
function change()
var temp=document.getElementById('3')
temp.innerHTML="<table><tr id='8'><td>qqq2</td><td>3qqq</td></tr></table>"

var rrr=document.getElementById('8')
var tb = document.getElementById('2');

tb.parentNode.replaceChild(rrr, tb);


function add()
var temp=document.getElementById('3')
temp.innerHTML="<table><tr id='8'><td>qqq2</td><td>3qqq</td></tr></table>"

var rrr=document.getElementById('8')
var tb = document.getElementById('2');

tb.parentNode.insertBefore(rrr, tb);

Choose one or another operation (cannot use both in this demo) <br /><input type="button" onclick="add()" value="Add">
<input type="button" onclick="change()" value="Change">
<table id="22" border=1>
<tr id="1"><td>2</td><td>3</td></tr>
<tr id="2"><td>2</td><td>3</td></tr>

<span id="3" style='visibility:hidden'></span>



Notice that you don't have to go need to know what is the parent of the element to be replaced or try to obtain a parent first and then find a right position of the child. It is enough to have a reference to the item to be replaced and then just get it parent by tb.parentNode and provide the element to be replaced as the function parameter (replaceChild).

Saturday, 9 August 2008

How to write an article: Style II

Having defined the general level direction you have to think through all sub-elements of the paper. How it starts? All problems to be solved should be explicitly defined. By the way, most reviewers will read just the introduction and conclusions and if they will dislike those elements then the rejecting conclusion will be defined immediately without reading the paper body. Quite many authors will not describe in the conclusion what is done and what is new in compare to the previously published works.

The author should also consider sizes of each sub-chapters of the paper. Those should be balanced (!!). It is irrational (or may be ironical) to have a four pages introduction and a body of the same or even smaller size.

If the paper is theoretical and contains some variable to be used later in equitation or in an explanation then those variables should be in italic to distinguish between words and variables. For example if we start a graph theory paper then we could have written: “Lets have G=(V, E), where V is a set of vertices and E is a set of edges connecting vertices”.

It is important to add into the paper proves of what you stated. For example if you publish an algorithm, then it will be not enough to say that it should be faster than any previously published. Sometimes even mathematical proves should be accomplished by tests (as sometimes those do not follow your math) and especially if you have not defined any theoretical proves. Having added tests you should actually specify environment those tests where conducted in or define how those results can be else reproduced.

If the paper is not mathematical then all statements should be accomplished with use case defining how evidence of your theory where gathered, where, method and so forth.

The next important and logical part to have in the paper will be a comparison with other exciting methods including strong and weak sides of the method proposed in the paper. Notice that if you cannot find any weakness of it then you are likely to under-research the method. Science knows very little really universal methods. Sometimes there are some kind special cases when the method is not applicable.

How to write an article: Style I

Once I got an advice from my supervisor that I believe is the most important from the whole our co-work – in the end of the work (article, dissertation etc) you should arrive to the same things that were defined in the beginning. It is important to produce a cycle within the work. – define in the work introduction goals and tasks to be solved and in the conclusion show that it is done and shortly trace the solutions path been explained in the body of the work.

Having defined such task you will be surprised how many exceptions will occur during your work on the article. If the article starts to move to some other direction and force the summary to be slightly or completely different then you should seriously reconsider the content of the paper (and notice that without explicitly defining the cycling target you will easily miss this fact). The first possibility will be to cut the branch that move to any other direction probably isolating it into a standalone research. If the branch means that initial statement were incorrect then the whole article requires revision and rewriting the introduction.

Friday, 8 August 2008

How to write an article: Formatting

One of the most important organisational questions submitting and article to a conference is a formatting issue. Each conference defines a format and formatting rules, which authors should be using compiling their paper. At the same time those rules doesn’t vary greatly as conferences mostly use some larger publishers’ rules, so you will find similar rules for many conferences. The publishers influence is easy to understand considering the fact that those will publish a proceeding and there are not very many publishers with a name. In my practise the most important formats are produced by IEEE and LNCS).
Usually a format that papers should meet is published as a) requirements (to read and understand) b) template (to start from). Therefore the most obvious way to compile the paper will be to open the template and either write your paper in or paste in (probably replacing some sample text in it).
One of the most interesting differences between different templates is software that you should be using to produce the final result (actually the type of the document, which is required). A lot of people from business community used to use MS Word, which is not widely spread at the moment in the scientific community since it is a commercial software – although the use of MS Word is slightly increased now and is often accepted as an alternative solution. One of the reasons why other standards are preferred is the publishing issue – MS Word is not the best source to obtain text from in order to publish a book. So, the main document format you could find yourself to be using in the end of ends is LaTeX or TeX. I would like also to mention GhostScript here as a considerable number of papers is stored in .ps files (so you will know what to use dealing with files having this extension).

Beside quite a sufficient time you will spend formatting your article will be formatting references. At the first glance those are identical in many templates, but the further research will sure that there are quite significant differences and if the article text can be easily reformatted by changing high level styles, then references styling is much more manual work. For example the name of the paper or the name of the publisher should be in italic or in apostrophes, the first name of the author should be either in the front of the name or in the end of the name, the number of pages should have a prefix pp. or p. or nothing, ordering of references should correspond to the names order or to the order of appearing in the text etc.

Tip: If you are not using MS Word then you will find quite hard to number references and provide right links in the text of articles. In order to make your life slightly easier you could start using right from the beginning some kind alternative numbering (for example letters) and only after the article is finished you will replace it with the correct numbers (that do correspond to references order in the last dedicated to references section).

  • Pay attention to all formatting elements

  • Use templates right from the beginning rather than pasting later

  • If you don’t have enough software, knowledge to compile LaTeX file consider only MS Word files accepting conferences in the begiing of your PhD study. In the end of ends you need to publish just 5 articles, not 500, so you could miss some conferences if you feel unhappy formatting LaTex.

PS: A lot of conferences will ask you to submit a paper using pdf format. You can easily convert your file into pdf fail simply by printing it into PDF writing software like for example CutePDF. This software will produce a pseudo-printer after is installed, which will write pdf file from the print stream.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


There are quite a number of papers with a set of authors instead of one. It can be caused by very different reasons. The most common (75%) – different parts of articles are written by different authors or an article is completed by one people basing on ideas of others with an active input from those “others”. The second case – it is a possibility to publish an article together, i.e. administrative co-authoring. In that case the second author either finances the publication (using grants he has) or is a people who will be travelling and presenting the work. Consider for example a fact that some professors publish 50 and more articles. Clearly they cannot present all those papers by themselves as they have a lot of other duties. The third case will be a mix of previous cases. For example a supervisor permanently advices what should be changed in the paper so is a co-author and also finance the publishing and participation at the conference.

Finally I would like to mention some cases of fictional co-authoring.
  • A famous person is added to co-authors list to either increase the acceptance probability or to get attention after the paper is published in order to spread the paper ideas in the science community. I would like to explain about acceptance as you know that papers should be accepted during a blind-review – after the review is done there are always some articles that got similar marks (weak acceptance) and not all of them can be fitted into the conference schedule. So conference organisers will have to select some papers rejecting others and they are likely to select professors’ papers etc probably increasing the quality of the conference and the proceeding.

  • Purely administrative reasons – the most faculty people have articles the better they work, i.e. faculty does. Therefore sometimes authors are just added into the end of the list without any good content reason. Mostly universities have a publication minimum that should be completed by each member of a faculty and obviously different groups do compete for fundings.