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Showing posts from November, 2010

Guest Post: Why I'm staying at Harvard (by Michael Mitzenmacher)

[Michael Mitzenmacher is a professor of Computer Science and the Area Dean for Computer Science at Harvard. He is a dear friend and colleague and has been one of the role models for my own career. Michael wanted to respond to my earlier blog post on leaving Harvard with his own reasons for staying; I am only too happy to oblige. (I swear I did not ghost write this.) You can read more of Michael's own blog here, though he's not posting much these days. --MDW]

To begin, I'd like to say how sorry we are at Harvard that Matt's not returning.  Matt's been a great colleague, continually pushing to make CS at Harvard better.  His enthusiasm and tenaciousness have made us tangibly better in numerous ways.  I, personally, will miss him a lot.  Matt pushes hard for what he believes in, but in my experience he's always done so with open ears and an open mind.  We're losing a leader, and Google is lucky to have him.  I have no doubt he'll do great things for the co…

Why I'm leaving Harvard

The word is out that I have decided to resign my tenured faculty job at Harvard to remain at Google. Obviously this will be a big change in my career, and one that I have spent a tremendous amount of time mulling over the last few months.

Rather than let rumors spread about the reasons for my move, I think I should be pretty direct in explaining my thinking here.

I should say first of all that I'm not leaving because of any problems with Harvard. On the contrary, I love Harvard, and will miss it a lot. The computer science faculty are absolutely top-notch, and the students are the best a professor could ever hope to work with. It is a fantastic environment, very supportive, and full of great people. They were crazy enough to give me tenure, and I feel no small pang of guilt for leaving now. I joined Harvard because it offered the opportunity to make a big impact on a great department at an important school, and I have no regrets about my decision to go there eight years ago. But m…

SenSys 2010 in Zurich

I just got back from Zurich for SenSys 2010. I really enjoyed the conference this year and Jan Beutel did a fantastic job as general chair. The conference banquet was high up on the Uetliberg overlooking the city, and the conference site at ETH Zurich was fantastic. We also had record attendance -- in excess of 300 -- so all around it was a big success. I didn't make it to all of the talks but I'll briefly summarize some of my favorites here.

Sandy Pentland from the MIT Media Lab gave a great keynote on "Building a Nervous System for Humanity." He gave an overview of his work over the years using various sensors and signals to understand and predict people's behavior. For example, using various sensors in an automobile it is often possible to predict in advance whether someone is about to change lanes, based on subtle prepatory movements that they make while driving. His group has also used wearable sensors to gather data on conversational patterns and social inte…

Conference talk pet peeves

I'm sitting here at SenSys 2010 in Zurich and listening to some pretty interesting -- and also some pretty dull -- talks on the latest research in sensor networks. Now seems like an appropriate time for a blog post I've been saving for a while -- some of the things that really annoy me when I'm listening to a talk. Of course, I'm sometimes guilty of these myself, and I'm not the best speaker either. But I guess I have license to gripe as a listener.

There are lots of tips on there on how to give a good talk. David Patterson's "How to give a bad talk" is a great summary of what NOT to do. Some of these things are fairly obvious, like not cramming too much text on one slide, but others I see happen again and again when I'm listening to talks at a conference.

The dreaded outline slide: Nearly every 25-minute talk in a systems conference has the same format. Why do speakers feel compelled to give the mandatory outline slide --
"First, I'll give …