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Just list­ing some recent files:

  • Poster: pdf
  • Thes­is present­a­tion: slides pdf, notes for first minute pdf docx

The thes­is present­a­tion was my first attempt at doing a Lessig Meth­od present­a­tion — I know it’s not entirely ori­gin­al, but I wanted to do some­thing to make people wake up after half a dozen or so present­a­tions. It wasn’t entirely smooth, but with prac­tice, it should get bet­ter (I did it again at the SUITS AGM — slides later).

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This semester, we’ve been tak­ing a course called “Algorithmic Game The­ory”, which is the broad area that my thes­is top­ic belongs in. Although Tasos is the course coordin­at­or, and lec­tured the first couple of lec­tures, the bulk of the “lec­tur­ing” has fallen to the stu­dents in the course.

Last week was my turn, and I did my talk on evol­u­tion­ary game the­ory. I had been inter­ested in that ever since I read Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene, where he makes use of evol­u­tion­ary game the­ory, albeit in a non-math­em­at­ic­al way, to explain his ideas for the evol­u­tion of genes. In a nut­shell, evol­u­tion­ary game the­ory allows you look at the evol­u­tion of strategies/​genes/​behaviours in a large pop­u­la­tion of organ­isms. For example, can a mutant gene over­take an incum­bent gene? See the link before for more inform­a­tion, or read my lec­ture slides: evolutionary.pptx, evolutionary.pdf.

Now, onto the second half of the post’s title: why I’d hes­it­ate to use Power­Point again. I’ll begin with a cla­ri­fic­a­tion: why I’d hes­it­ate to use Power­Point again where I need to use equa­tions at all. (If you’re an Open­Of­fice fan and you’re begin­ning to smirk, here’s some­thing to wipe your smirk off: Open­Of­fice Impress fails to impress me even more dra­mat­ic­ally. Sorry.)

I’ve been using LaTeX with Beam­er for my present­a­tions this year, and I’ve had a good exper­i­ence with it so far. Why did I use Power­Point? Mainly because I haven’t used Power­Point 2007 for any real pur­pose so far, and secondly, because I saw that Word 2007 had a new flashy equa­tion edit­or that’s kind of nice. It was a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment for me when I had fin­ished writ­ing all the slides with no maths to find that Power­Point some­how failed to inher­it this. Back to old Equa­tion Edit­or. I hate it, so I took to doing the equa­tions in Word and then copy­ing them over as pic­tures. The main prob­lem with all this is that, for a math­em­at­ic­al present­a­tion, equa­tions should not be treated as pic­tures. Power­Point and Open­Of­fice both lack the abil­ity to insert equa­tions as inline text, and that frus­trates me to no end. Anoth­er minor little gripe is that there’s no in-built way to have nav­ig­a­tion bars like you do in Beam­er.

The shock­ing thing is that most lec­tur­ers in aca­demia, such as the School of IT, con­tin­ue to use Power­Point even though the set of tools it provides for tech­nic­al present­a­tions is min­im­al. (If you’re doing a sales pitch with pie charts and dot points, it’s fine.) Unfor­tu­nately, this just means there’s little incent­ive for Microsoft to go and improve the tools for this import­ant mar­ket seg­ment.

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The SUITS sem­in­ar series aims to provide a cas­u­al lunch­time chat about inter­est­ing top­ics and cut­ting-edge research, and I had the priv­ilege of tak­ing the first one… and I took the chance to talk about Wiki­pe­dia, everyone’s favour­ite wiki. The audi­ence is inten­ded to be under­gradu­ate level, but there weren’t any under­gradu­ates there…

I gave a brief insider’s look at Wiki­pe­dia, show­ing off some of the admin­is­trat­or tools that ordin­ary users can­not see. I went over some of the parts of the web­site (com­munity portals, the Sign­post, policy pages, spe­cial pages) that are import­ant tools for reg­u­lar con­trib­ut­ors, espe­cially in keep­ing track of van­dal­ism. I also men­tioned the efforts under way to form the loc­al chapter of the Wiki­me­dia Found­a­tion.

Because if I talk for too long, people might die from bore­dom (!!) so I brought along some light enter­tain­ment. I played a bit of Eben Moglen’s lec­ture on GPLv3 — the part about the arith­met­ic shop. I was going to play video from Wiki­mania 2007, but the lazy bug­gers haven’t put up any­thing yet, so I had to be con­tent with 2006 stuff — but it turned out to be a good choice. Lawrence Lessig is a fant­ast­ic speak­er — he speaks with con­vic­tion and there’s no one who can match his slides. Finally, I played a bit of audio from the Wiki­pe­dia Weekly, broad­cast­ing from Taiwan dur­ing the con­fer­ence.

Some of the ques­tions I hadn’t really pre­pared for — e.g. a ques­tion on pat­ents. I should know more than what I man­aged to mumble out… and no, I still haven’t learnt that present­ing without much sleep isn’t good.

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I can say with some con­fid­ence that that was prob­ably the most stress­ful stu­vac I had ever endured. A present­a­tion, an assign­ment and then anoth­er assign­ment due the same day as the exam on the first Monday… I was sur­prised I did reas­on­ably ok at the exam itself hav­ing only slept maybe 3 hours the night before? It would be nice if I could lay all the blame on the lec­tur­ers for put­ting everything togeth­er but I don’t think the fault is entirely theirs…

More bad things hap­pen­ing. Stuck without an umbrella in tor­ren­tial rain. Laptop latch broken, requires screw­driver. Norton Anti­Vir­us 2007 “upgrade” does funny things to com­puter, ditched in fury.*

I’m going back to bed. My next exam isn’t till next Tues­day.

Foot­note: * I am nev­er buy­ing anoth­er Symantec product again.

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Yes­ter­day, I did my hon­ours research pro­pos­al present­a­tion: the slides can be down­loaded here. Des­pite the very math­sy top­ic that I have, I’ve man­aged to make it pretty much maths free (except for the last slide 😛 ) and just about any­one should be able to make it through at the least the intro­duc­tion — so take a look if you’re won­der­ing just what on earth I’m doing.

In oth­er news, some (obvi­ously very bored) people have applied game the­ory to the prob­lem of cohab­it­ing males and females shar­ing a toi­let: the cooper­at­ive and non-cooper­at­ive cases are ana­lysed.

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A couple of weeks ago, I presen­ted at the Algorithms Read­ing Group two papers that I had pre­vi­ously read for my hon­ours work. The first week, I presen­ted How Bad is Selfish Rout­ing? (Roughgarden and Tar­dos), and that attempt was … let’s just say that there was (sub­stan­tial) room for improve­ment in the present­a­tion style. Sev­er­al points to take away:

  • Slides don’t really help in present­ing a paper: the mode of deliv­ery of a paper is neces­sar­ily dif­fer­ent to that of a lec­ture. It’s much more dense, and the bite-sized chunks that slides give you don’t do justice to the mater­i­al in the paper, and in fact, make it harder to fol­low. For example, defin­i­tions are great, but when taken off the page and onto sev­er­al slides-worth of defin­i­tions, your eyes do glaze over.
  • Sleep is use­ful: nev­er present after get­ting very little sleep
  • Know the details very well: you might think you know the paper well, but when present­ing a paper, you need to know how each part can be obtained with pre­ci­sion. People will ask you things you’ve nev­er thought about. It’s often stated that you only know some­thing well when you can teach it. Corol­lary: prac­tise present­a­tions before giv­ing them.

Over­all, it was a good first attempt. I’m quite proud of the slides still, and they might be use­ful for someone start­ing out in this area: they can be down­loaded here (handout). This was my first attempt at using the LaTeX Beam­er class, and I must say that I’m now a con­vert. Power­Point has its uses still, but def­in­itely not for very tech­nic­al talks.*

The second attempt was far bet­ter. This was present­ing The Price of Rout­ing Unsplit­table Flow (Awer­buch, Azar and Epstein), and I did the entire thing with a white­board and a mark­er… and I rehearsed it with Tasos. I walked into it feel­ing more con­fid­ent, and I felt that the audi­ence walked out of it with a good under­stand­ing of the paper’s con­tents.

For anoth­er hon­ours-related mor­al: Don’t edit your work after you’ve writ­ten it. Just hand it in. Bizarre? Well, it turned out that while edit­ing the Research Approach doc­u­ment after dis­cuss­ing it with my super­visor, I acci­dent­ally deleted half of a sen­tence and didn’t real­ise it. The mark­er adjus­ted the mark accord­ingly. Fine, to be fair, it should be: Don’t edit your work when you’re half asleep. The mis­take is now cor­rec­ted.

* I recently got Math­em­at­ica 6, and there’s a new slide show view — so that might be a good way to go for those who don’t like typ­ing LaTeX code. As an aside, I’m quite impressed with the new visu­al­isa­tion cap­ab­il­it­ies of Math­em­at­ica 6, and I’ll be sure to use it in my work.

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