Sunday, 30 November 2008

Moving toward PhD title: Keep pushing II

The other problem preventing students from moving efficiently towards the goal is an „illness” of concentrating on some kind particular idea that results in producing constantly the same result in a sort of cycle and permanent attempts to push it into different conferences. Like a donkey travelling always toward a carrot been fixed a meter from his nose.

It is useful to fix all ideas somewhere (for example in the old way on a paper) after you have generated those and then attempt to distance from it by asking yourself “what else can be invented?” This will allow you continue thinking as we need to generate a bunch of ideas rather than stop and concentrate on one (which can be potentially wrong or incomplete). In the worst case (you were not able to imagine anything better) you can always return to the fixed idea and continue developing it.

Generating ideas, it is important to invent alternative solutions one after another as long as you got a creative thinking flow. If new ideas don’t popup in your mind by themselves any longer you could use the basic mathematical combinatorial search approach to find new: each topic can be evolved by either a deeper research of different parameters of it or widened by replacing some properties of it / applying the topic to new subjects.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Moving toward PhD title: Keep pushing I

One of the most important principles you have to follow working on the PhD thesis – „you should rapidly move the work towards the finish stage (in our case to defence date)”. Practically this topic splits into two. First of all you should permanently invest time into PhD work by writing articles, working on main PhD thesis, reading other authors etc. Secondly you should avoid freezing and waiting for something (like a princess waiting for her prince in a tower).

A requirement to work on articles/work constantly without freezing means that you should not overestimate your geniality (or brightness of what you have done so far) and permanently try to improve it, solve in a better way, find new applications or effects. Quite a common mistake that make majour number of students is submitting an article into a conference and waiting until the decision will be issued. Knowing that the author notification deadline could be up to 3 month after the submission deadline it will mean a lot of time that they simple loose as cannot concentrate of other contributions waiting for reviewers opinion on their latest finding. Moreover, if the work will be accepted then it will prolong the negative effect until the conference finish date, which is 3-4 month later once again.

I especially highlight this problem here, as this text is designed a lot for those that will try to achieve PhD rank in parallel with working somewhere and so it is very easy to switch from working on PhD to the main job tasks been reluctant since „the work is done, lets wait for the answer”. The same holds if you switch to your family rapidly forgetting about PhD activities.
PS: If you are not able to concentrate on new results and contribute efficiently into articles writing, then read at least others authors articles as those could give a lot of new ideas to you and increase your professional level, which is easily visible in your articles.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Participating in conferences: Why should you go to the conference after the article is accepted.

At the first glance (may be after you have presented your work once on the conference) it looks like the most correct answer is: THERE IS NO REASONS to go. Fortunately there are still some benefits of visiting conferences and the answer is correct just at the first glance – therefore lets discuss some disappointing moments first.

There are a set of reasons why you can be dissatisfied after your first conference and if you do not understand those in advance (read accept those) you are likely to set expectations too high and disappoint been on site.
First of all, it is likely that the audience of your wonderful presentation (on which you spent several days preparing it) will be just 3 or 4 persons including the session chair. The reason is very simple: results of your work are likely to be interesting for somebody only after this or similar problem will occur in his/her practice, not in advance. Therefore you will rather get references on your article later, when somebody will be searching Internet trying to solve the problem than immediately after you have presented the work on the conference.

Besides it is very hard to understand talks on site been unaware in advance about the specific (narrow) topics of those. Therefore majour part of conference’ participants will prefer to read articles after the conference from the conference proceeding, do it slowly and may be several times. All this decreases your talk potential guests list a lot and sometimes the only persons presented in the auditorium are presenters of other articles within the same session.

Secondly you are a young researcher so people are likely to visit „stars” presentations instead of yours.

Finally, having limited connections to other conference attendees and been the young researcher it is hard to find yourself in any conversations in conference halls and therefore you are likely to feel yourself as a not very welcomed quest.

Despite all of earlier stated problems there are still good reasons to go

  • you still could get very interesting points from your auditorium and those could be so crucial that will completely change your work.
  • You can still attend other talks trying to follow basic ideas as sometimes presentation gives much more than article as some people can make really good presentations.

  • Conference policy is likely to state that the proceeding will include the work only if it is presented. Although some proceedings are published in advance, some are still not. Besides conference organisers could consider “not show” fact during the next year rejecting your article by default.

PS: Sometimes too high expectations are motivated by PhD students supervisors defining clear goals on publishing articles and having not said anything specific on visiting conferences. Therefore students are left alone and start to imagine something that doesn’t align to the reality at all.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Moving toward PhD title: Stress

I don’t want to look like a person positioning himself as a teacher knowing everything and therefore having rights to talk about whatever item. At the same time I would like to talk here about our attitude to failures. An ability to overcome any kind of stress working on doctor work is a key success factor. It is well known that stress produces illness and vice versa. The sick person has restricted abilities to move towards the goal. Probably s/he starts to rush, make wrong decisions, is not able to concentrate on open problems and finally have a limited ability to progress the work.

The first type of stress occurring for students working on PhD thesis is rejections of their articles submitted to conferences. Every student is one hundred percents sure that his/her work is brilliant. The huge amount of efforts and times s/he spent on writing this article just increases his/her believe that this must be rewarded and reviewers will definitely see the geniality of ideas. Unfortunately even for post-docs the acceptance rate for their work is just 50% in average – but they are already skilled and accepted as professionals.

Clearly the majour reason of a stress here - too high expectations. Many students consider each attempt to pass the reviewing process like the last chance to survive and take the reject decision too seriously and personally.

As I pointed earlier you should accept that there are very different reviewers. Moreover you should let them have their own opinion and accept this opinion can easily differ from yours. Consider each reject as an opportunity rather than failure - I have seen cases when an article rejected on very weak conferences have been finally accepted for a serious one. Basically it just indicates that either reviewers were not qualified enough or topics of those conferences were not inline with the main topic of the article.

Summarising, I'd like to give some advices on how to overcome this problem
1. Don’t set expectations too high. You are just studying (although you are not the first year student any longer). Therefore just forget about the article submission after it is posted to the conference – accept internally from the beginning that it will be rejected. It will let you continue working on your doctor work main topics instead of been frozen waiting for an answer. That is a way to decrease stress on rejection and produce some extra happy moments if the article will be finally accepted.
2. Consider the rejection decision as a possibility to improve the work further. Some conferences do post reviewers opinion showing why they disliked the work. Unfortunately ost of those explanations are redicolous as reviewers don’t borther wrtting a good text having rejected the work, but some still could have good points.
3. Don’t forget that the best way not to fail is do nothing, but it also never will lead you to the desired goal. Keep pushing and you will be rewarded.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Moving toward PhD title: Conferences - participation

Any conference is not just a crowd of abstract individuals with mad eyes talking randomly. It is a well-organized event with own, internal rules and practices. Here we describe the conference participation process using ICEIS'08 conference as an example.

Any conference starts for you from a registration desk, which is usually opened from an evening before the conference first day and until the conference last minute. Registration is held in the conference main location, which is either a hotel/conference center or a university. As the desk is constantly open some authors will prefer to appear in the very last minute before the talk (and sometimes it means just the last day of the conference).

The registration process is designed to
1. Inform organisers that you are here (arrived) so
- they will know how many papers are likely to be presented / missed in each session in advance
- the participant can declare that his/her mandatory participation in the conference is fulfilled.

2. Distribute to participants the proceeding (that is the most important book for students as proceedings should be presented to the committee before defending PhD thesis to prove that you fulfilled the published articles requirement) and other conference materials including schedule of sessions, an invoice (which should be presented to the organization funding the visit after you are back). As a rule of thumbs the package includes a pen(cil), a notes book and a bag to make all those gadgets portable.

Usually the entire information on the conference - schedules, changes in it, sessions time and place including names of authors presenting papers in each is located somewhere on the wall in the conference hall or close to the registration desk. The most valuable information is when and where talks are held. It is advisable to check in prior whether your talk is scheduled, does it scheduled to the time you expect it to be in and how you can find the room. Follow the plan or signs and check that you know for sure where your room is located, check it (size, equipment etc) – all that can affect how you organise your talk, where you will have to stand during it etc.

Additionally you will find in halls a set of portable walls (stands) where posters are presented. Notice that they can are also scheduled - for a certain period of time. Authors should post them on the wall no earlier that the start time and organisers will collect them from walls after the finish time, so other posters can be made available.

All talks are divided into plenary talks and ordinal. Plenary talks are given in big rooms by starts or super-stars in computer science (or particular topic of it).

All other talks are clustered into sessions – each hosts 4-6 individuals presentations of 15-30 minutes each, including 5-10 minutes for questions and answers. Sessions are normally organised in parallel in smaller rooms all over the building. Each small room is equipped with a projector, laptop and a big screen. Normally there is a rule that presenters should appear at least 15 minutes before the session starts in order to load their presentation into the conference laptop or ensure that their laptop can be used and is compatible with the projector, and report to the session chair that they are here. Notice that although conference laptops always have either MS Power Point (or some other software used to present the work accordingly to information organisers post on the conference page), sometimes it is not compatible with your version and so organisers will allow you to use your own with a version you know exactly will play slides correctly.
Besides it is always advisable to spent some seconds before the presentation standing on the presenter place (position) to get used the role, check what you can or cannot do (for example how you should walk during the presentation in order to avoid crossing the projecting picture). Btw: one professor told me once that you should stay on the right side from the screen (on the left side from the auditorium perspective).

Traditionally the conference fee includes lunches, so attendees could save time and communicate to each other behind one table instead of loosing the time looking for a good place to eat close to the conference location. If you have no friends or colleges participating in the conference then such lunches will be a perfect way to find contacts or improve relations. That is why quite big tables are normally used instead of small ones. Such lunches are offering very different kind of food, so each standard requirement is satisfied. Besides, those lunches can be a perfect way to try and test the local food.

Finally there are coffee breaks each 4-5 hours (i.e. 2-3 times a day), so between sessions you can recharge. Traditionally tea, coffee or some sort of juice is offered, with cakes or sweets. It can be a standard cake or something specific for this region (I have even seen conferences serving beer – you can imagine it was somewhere in Germany).

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Microsoft & gadgets

A link I recommend you to read on MS Vista sidebar: Is Microsoft serious about gadgets?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Locking customers (loyalty prison)

Joel have written a very interesting article where he describes and interprets one novel approach in the business handling customers.

A short introduction into the article located below:
A typical situation for customers of one café is a long line occurring each morning. Once at the morning customers suddenly discovered a new person working for this cafe, who was walking along the line and was collecting orders and transferring them by the phone to the service (and pay) desk.

At the first glance the primary idea of introducing such position is to optimise orders input flow and so optimise service (production of what will be ordered). In reality, here we dealt with a type of product that cannot be really produced in advance in batch and therefore such pre-ordering doesn’t really make sense especially if it is collected from the end of a long line.

Joel states that the only reason of this was to lock customers into this place – earlier it was rather easy to walk out if you see the long line r you waited a bit and then decided to go into other place (may be less suitable for you, but without such lines). Now, a lot of people will rather stay in the line after their order was picked as see it as an ethical obligation to pay for it as it is already in the production (and so they will wait nearly independently of the line size).

In the summary the author offers to think where else such method can be applied to lock the customer into this company service primary in your personal business or even ordinal life.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

How to close (hide) a popup window produced by createPopup

Imagine a situation that you would like to build a menu and therefore you are using createPopup. Now you would like to model something like a menu in MS Excel 2007 where you have a multiple choice and therefore you have to have a button on the menu to be pressed when the selection is complete.

Traditionally the sub-window produced by createPopup will be closed if you press somewhere else. The same will happen if you trigger an action from that window like post back. Unfortunately none of those cases is acceptable for our scenario. The close() method called within that menu-window will produce a dialog asking whether the user would really like to close that window (which is not good for a menu).

Comment: the trivial search in Internet mostly give references to sites talking about popups produced by

The following code should do the trick.

The menu will be produced on clicking on the first row/column cell of the table. The menu contains a combo and a button. The menu is produced by the test function: notice onclick="test(closeAction)" code calling it. Here we also pass as a parameter function that will be closing this window.
Now, in the test function we do
1. Produces the popup using createPopup
2. Assigns the closing function to the button onclick method
3. Store the reference on the popup in this window variable

The close action function consumes this variable and calls hide() .

<script language="javascript">
var mpopup

function test(clickEv)
var wnd= window.createPopup();"solid black 1px";
<br/><input id="'a1'" type="\">";

function closeAction()

<tr><th onclick="test(closeAction)">1kasdkjshd</th>
</body> </html>

PS: It is useful to know that you can access objects from such popup window on the main document by using the following reference: parent.document.
where xxx is an id of the object you are accessing