In this edition of the student mentoring column, we will cover three topics: the importance of journal and workshop papers, questions pertaining to giving/listening to talks, and two specific questions about jobs in networking. Hope you find the answers useful.
I got plenty of help in preparing this edition. In particular, many thanks to Rodrigo Fonseca, Harsha Madhyastha, George Porter, Vyas Sekar, and Minlan Yu.
Journal and Workshop Papers
Q: What are the pros and cons of submitting to a journal vs. a conference in networking?
A: The benefits of conferences are that they are timely (typically, half a year or less from submission to publication), and they have a very wide audience who keeps up with all the research there. The benefits of a journal are that you aren’t limited in terms of page limits (although several conferences are also going this route by, e.g., allowing each submitted paper an unlimited appendix), and your work is evaluated more or less on its own, rather than in a once-yearly batch of hundreds of other papers.
Q: There is a lot of pressure on getting high profile papers to get research positions. How does one balance the tradeoff between “quantity” and “depth”?
A: Research-oriented academic job searches don’t look for quantity–that’s a common myth that many graduate students appear to believe in! Academic job searches always look for impact and the potential to be a research superstar. One paper at the best venue in your field that solves a really important problem, or has had a lot of impact gets you noticed and could definitely get you an interview. So always shoot for quality and depth in your work.
Q: Are workshop papers helpful in the long term on my CV?
A: This is the wrong question to ask. What’s more important in your CV is the quality of your work overall, rather than individual papers or the number of papers you have published.
Workshop papers could be important toward your research program, though. They provide an opportunity to disseminate early or risky/crazy ideas, and get feedback from the community. Also, going to workshops is a great way to both see what topics are active in your field, and also to meet researchers carrying out that work.
Q: How does one apply and obtain a postdoc position in networking?
A: Typically, most postdocs are hired without a formal process. Your best bet is to identify whom you would like to work with, based on the research area that you hope to pursue during your postdoc. Then, accost your ideal prospective postdoc advisor in the hallway at the next conference. He/she may not know you, but this initial conversation will provide some context for you to follow up by email later, and you will find out if he/she is both interested in and has funding for hiring a postdoc. After that, it is just a matter of whether your prospective postdoc advisor is impressed by the research you’ve done over the course of your PhD. Some advisors may invite you to visit and give a talk before making this decision. If your record is strong, they may invite you mostly to impress upon you as to why you should do a postdoc with them and not someone else!
Q: Given some entrepreneurial interests, but would rather not be tied down to one company’s success, how easy or hard it is for a Ph.D. graduate to get a venture capitalist position?
A: (with help from Alex Benik from Battery Ventures) First, there is no clear correlation between having a PhD and being a successful venture capitalist. There are examples of very successful VCs with and without PhDs. While there are a set of overlapping skills, one stark difference is that a freshly minted PhD knows as much as, or more, than anyone else, about a very specific technical area, whereas a VC usually has a much broader, but necessarily much less deep view of more areas. Moving from one to the other is very personal, in that some might find it frustrating to not be able to go as deep, while others might find it exciting.
There is no single path that leads to a VC position, VC firms are interesting that they are “never hiring and always hiring”, they are in the business of tracking interesting people who might be founders, technical advisors, or join the firm. One potentially good strategy is to get involved in the industry, perhaps by joining a startup for a couple of years. It is really important to get a “sense of product”, what makes a good product is different from what makes a good research project. It’s important to understand how going to market interacts with research and development. Especially for technology-oriented folks, it is easy to underestimate how difficult it is to sell an idea or product, to convince investors or companies to give you money. Technology for technology’s sake is not sufficient, and people won’t buy solely because of a good architecture, for example.
Finally, there is a lot of variation among different VC firms. Some companies, for example, will recruit people young, and use an apprenticeship model, where people go from doing market research to observing more senior people making several decisions, until they finally get to make their own investments. Other firms will prefer people with entrepreneurial or operational experience.
So, unfortunately, there is no direct answer to your question, but I hope this helps!
Talks: Giving them, and listening to them
Q: How to listen to a talk effectively?
A: Depends on your goals in listening to the talk. Are you interested in getting better at giving talks? Or are you interested in learning about their actual work?
In the first case, some things I personally look for in a good talk are clear overall structure and a good narrative arc throughout the talk. It is important that the author tells a story that is interesting, and anticipates the needs of the listener. A good talk, even one that is just 12-20 minutes long, has a beginning, middle, and end, and even when the author is explaining the details of their algorithm or whatever, you have a clear sense for why they are describing what they are describing.
In the second case, I’d say you mainly want to focus on the first part of the talk to understand the problem they are trying to solve, their understanding of the problem, and their main approach or idea. If all of those seem of interest, then you can dive into their paper to get all the details.
Q: Is there an “algorithm” for giving a good talk at a conference?
A: Yes, watch as many conference talks as you can. This could include going to conferences, but also many now live stream the talks, so you have a wide set of potential talks to watch. You can see what aspects work, and which don’t. You will also see which elements going into a talk on a measurement study, vs a talk on a big systems building effort, vs. a talk on a more theoretical result. Finally, when you create a talk, you need to show it to as many people as possible, and listen to their feedback! Don’t be hesitant to go through multiple rounds of practice and feedback, and be aware that you may have to rewrite your talk entirely to improve how you deliver your message.
Aditya Akella, UW—Madison
Jeffrey C. Mogul , Bruce Davie, Hari Balakrishnan, Ramesh Govindan.
HotNets has historically been invitation-only. The SIGCOMM community has recently encouraged HotNets to allow broader participation. This note reports on a HotNets 2015 experiment with a more open attendance policy, and on the results of a post-workshop survey of the attendees. Based on this experiment and the survey, the HotNets Steering Committee believes it is possible for the workshop to support broader attendance, while preserving an atmosphere that encourages free-flowing discussions.
Carol Davids, Vijay K. Gurbani, Gaston Ormazabal, Andrew Rollins, Kundan Singh, Radu State.
In this article we describe the discussion and conclusions of the “Roundtable on Real-Time Communications Research: 5G and Real-Time Communications — Topics for Research” held at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Real-Time Communications Conference and Expo, co-located with the IPTComm Conference, October 5-8, 2015.
kc Claffy, Dave Clark.
On December 16-17 2015, we hosted the 5th interdisciplinary Workshop on Internet Economics (WIE) at the UC San Diego’s Supercomputer Center. This workshop series provides a forum for researchers, Internet facilities and service providers, technologists, economists, theorists, policy makers, and other stakeholders to inform current and emerging regulatory and policy debates.
The FCC’s latest open Internet order ostensibly changes the landscape of regulation by using Title II as its basis. This year we discussed the implications of Title II (common-carrier-based) regulation for issues we have looked at in the past, or those shaping current policy conversations. Discussion topics included differentiated services on the public Internet, evolving approaches to interconnection across different segments of the ecosystem (e.g., content to access), QoE and QoS measurement techniques and their limitations, interconnection measurement and modeling challenges and opportunities, and transparency. The format was a series of focused sessions, where presenters prepared 10-minute talks on relevant issues, followed by in-depth discussions. This report highlights the discussions and presents relevant open research questions identified by participants. Slides presented and this report are available at http://www.caida.org/workshops/wie/1512/
Leonhard Nobach, Oliver Hohlfeld, David Hausheer.
Network management currently undergoes massive changes towards realizing more flexible management of complex networks. Recent efforts include slicing data plane resources by network (link) virtualization and applying operating system design principles to Software Defined Networking to rethink network management. Driven by network operators, network management principles are currently envisioned to be even further improved by virtualizing network (middlebox) functions. The resulting Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) paradigm abstracts network functions from dedicated hardware to virtual machines running on commodity hardware. This change in the design of carrier networks is inspired by the success of virtualization in the server market. By deploying NFV, network operators envision to achieve benefits similar to the server market and elastic cloud services, e.g., flexible and dynamic service provisioning, increased resource utilization, improved energy efficiency, and ultimately decreased operational costs. Despite these efforts, the ability of NFV to satisfy performance demands is often questioned. Tackling these challenges opens a set of research questions that felt short in the current discussion and are of particular relevance to the SIGCOMM community. In this position paper, we therefore provide an overview on the current state-of-the-art and open research questions.
Nandita Dukkipati , Yuchung Cheng, Amin Vahdat.
Many algorithms proposed in networking research papers are widely used in many areas, including Congestion Control, Rout- ing, Traffic Engineering, and Load Balancing. In this paper, we present algorithmic advancements that have impacted the practice of Congestion Control (CC) in datacenters and the Internet. Where possible, we also describe negative examples, ideas that looked promising on paper or in simulations but that performed poorly in practice. We conclude the paper with observations on the characteristics shared by these ideas in taking them from research to impacting practice.
Mat Ford, Lars Eggert
This report is a brief summary of the Internet Research Task Force and Internet Society workshop on Research and Applications of Internet Measurements (RAIM) in co-operation with ACM SIGCOMM that took place on Saturday, October 31, 2015 in Yokohama, Japan. The workshop provided an opportunity for researchers and practitioners in the field of Internet measurements to become acquainted and share their work.
Prasad Calyam , Glenn Ricart
The Applications and Services in the Year 2021 workshop was successfully organized on January 27-28, 2016 in Washington DC through funding support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the workshop was to foster discussions that bring together applications researchers in multidisciplinary areas, and developers/operators of research infrastructures at both national, regional, university and city levels. Discussions were organized to identify grand challenge applications and obtain the community voice and consensus on the key issues relating to applications and services that might be delivered by advanced infrastructures in the decade beginning in 2020. The timing and organization for the workshop is significant because today’s digital infrastructure is undergoing deep technological changes and new paradigms are rapidly taking shape in both the core and edge domains that pose fundamental challenges. The key outcomes of the discussions were targeted to enhance the quality of peoples’ lives while addressing important national priorities, leveraging today’s cutting edge applications such as the Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, Robotics, The Industrial Internet, and Immersive Virtual/Augmented Reality. This report summarizes the workshop efforts to bring together diverse groups for delivering targeted short/long talks, sharing latest advances, and identifying gaps that exist in the community for ‘research’ and ‘infrastructure’ needs that require future NSF funding.
Selecting a technical program committee (PC) for a conference or a workshop can be an intimidating and time consuming process. PC selection needs to balance several potential considerations; e.g., industry vs. academic participation, inclusion of under-represented communities, ensuring “coverage” over topic areas, among others. This paper presents the design of an open-source tool called EZ- PC which formulates these considerations as a simple constraint satisfaction problem to help PC chairs systematize this selection process. We report on some of the features we have incorporated and experiences in using the tool.