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vzn
5:02 AM
hi all. various ppl have expressed various opinions about tcs.se over the weeks...
here is a chance to influence its future in one of the rare, biggest ways possible. a moderator election. it hasnt happened in 3yrs. its a very brief window. hope some here hear of it & seize the moment. carpe diem
@MarzioDeBiasi @juho @RealzSlaw @babiyu thx for your conversations here. would very much appreciate your vote if possible. =)
@babibu u2! havent forgotten about you although the se notification(s) probably has =(
@NicholasMancuso a vote for me is a vote for dna computing wink =D
@phil lets talk about P vs NP on the site :p
 
 
1 hour later…
6:29 AM
lol. not gonna happen
 
 
3 hours later…
9:49 AM
@vzn Please restrict your campaign to Theoretical Computer Science.
@vzn If anything, I'd be interested in your (public) answer to the last question of this interview:
7
Q: 2014 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire

Grace NoteIn connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Due to the lack of submission count, we have sel...

 
 
5 hours later…
3:00 PM
@Raphael is that a dead rat?
 
@RealzSlaw I hope I don't catch your meaning.
 
@Raphael your profile photo
 
I've always thought of it as a cat
 
@RealzSlaw Ahh. You answered to my link to Theoretical Computer Science Meta, so I did not know what you meant.
 
lol
 
3:08 PM
No, it's neither a rat (factual or urbandictionary-ish) nor a cat.
(If you mouse over chat messages, you can see related messages highlighted. If you don't want to answer to a specific message, best use only @-notify. And even if you do, I think it highlights the latest message by the notified user, duh.)
 
I know the chat is pretty quiet here (and probably even more so on CSTheory), but is it really active anywhere?
like what about the SO chat?
 
@Juho with more people would come more chat I think
(that is, more people in the site)
and yes, it is active elsewhere, math.SE, tex.SE are very active for example
 
okay, I see
I'm sure there are statistics, but I really have no idea how small CS.SE is compared to some other sites
 
@Juho I have had several nice discussions in TeX - LaTeX chat.
 
hopefully will grow to be of the largest :D
 
3:14 PM
:-)
I posted my first question on Tex yesterday
it's interesting how the atmosphere is just really different on different sites
 
@Juho "small" is relative.
 
well sure, and I don't even know how you'd measure the site of the site
 
@Juho Definitely. TeX - LaTeX is, imho, the best SE around (of the one I know, at least).
 
@Raphael except cs.SE :P
 
They have a great, knowledgeable community and little homework dumps.
@RealzSlaw No, not even that. We have far fewer really active people, and we have a higher proportion of uninteresting questions.
 
3:18 PM
I wonder why that is, the atmosphere I mean. I'm tempted to guess tex.se (or especially some non-technical sites) doesn't get "annoying" questions all the time
like exactly HW dumps
 
@Juho That's my big guess.
 
yeah, it would make sense
 
Sites where every crap is okay, or that don't get crap can be far more welcoming and inclusive in the rare cases somebody has a "dumb" question.
I don't think it would be healthy for Computer Science if we did that; we have to draw a very clear line.
 
I think we have done a good job at keeping the site clean
weeding out non-fitting questions, and so on
 
The kind of people that are attracted certainly also factors in. There are few students and industry professionals (no time, please solve my problem now, bye) but many academics who really care about (La)TeX and spreading the word.
@Juho I think so, too, although it can be frustrating.
 
3:20 PM
Right, that too
 
You can tell when semesters start...
 
:-)
 
And we have to thank Gilles for deleting obvious crap that has been closed.
I never think of that.
 
but in comparison to CSTheory, I like CS.SE much more. CSTheory just feels really random
but it is perhaps a bit same with MO in that sense
 
I like cs.SE much more than cstheory
lots of people with attitude problems there IMAO
 
3:23 PM
@Juho I have said once, and I still think it's true at least in part, that cstheory.SE suffers from a really narrow scope and according user base. The most active people seem to be "diggers" deep down in rabbit holes that have a very particular, shared point of view on mathematics and TCS.
 
though I never had any issues myself
 
I don't fault them for it, but I can't help but notice that complexity theory folks tend to be of that kind.
I remember several discussions where somebody would adamantly say that math topic I was ontopic on Computer Science and another was not, simply because complexity theory used the one but not the other. (They wouldn't agree that that was the reason, of course.)
 
right
 
@RealzSlaw Actually, I think most Theoretical Computer Science folks have a very mild attitude. I met Suresh and JeffE in person once, nice guys.
 
@Raphael I can't speak to individuals ofc
 
3:26 PM
(JeffE is definitely of the more ... rustic kind, if that is the right word. But I like that. :D)
 
I am just saying the general attitude that cs.SE topic stuff is off-topic there, even if it is an advanced question, there are always people just looking to match it to the pattern of "It isn't theoretical!! got one!"
 
@RealzSlaw I have only two users in mind who I have had problems with. One has very strong opinions (which is fair) that oppose mine more often than not, and the other has an acute self-inflation problem.
 
@Raphael and considering that cstheory started when there was no cs.SE, that is really snobbish
@Raphael furthermore, it would be half OK, if they spit upon the non-theory questions, but migrated them here, and then answered them or looked at them at all
 
@RealzSlaw That's their good right, and actually in our favor. The misrepresentation of the field (towards "theory A" over "theory B" which is a terribly nomenclature) worries me more.
 
@Raphael but instead they either just close it, or migrate it and don't bother looking at cs.SE
 
3:28 PM
@RealzSlaw No, it's not. They decided to make a site for their scope for several reasons, and they stuck to it.
 
@RealzSlaw I would perhaps also add that oftentimes they don't even seem to care about their own policies. One could probably find plenty of questions that are overly broad, asking for opinions, and so on there
then again, I don't really know how old Academia.SE is
 
@Juho yeah, every site does that too though
@Juho the most highly rated questions are the broad ones, on every site :D
 
:-)
 
@RealzSlaw I don't follow Theoretical Computer Science anymore, so I can't really say. If you see such things you think would be suitable for Computer Science, by all means, please flat them!
 
and many times they are closed, but still get enough points/comments first
 
3:29 PM
well then again, if the community upvotes a question and find it interesting, maybe it's all that matters hey?
 
Kaveh has stated that he stopped migrating because we complained about some bad questions being migrated.
 
@Raphael tbh I'd rather get the bad ones, and close them here
 
@Juho Academia is about our age. (check out the list on stackexchange.com)
 
okay
 
@Juho personally, I agree - sometimes a broad question is OK - and a good litmus test might be if it gets a lot of interest
 
3:30 PM
@Juho True. Most from the early times, iirc, which is a trap many sites fall into. We profited from Gilles' experience with the phenomenon and shut many of such attempts down from the start.
 
That's good
 
@Juho That's a knife with two sides. As long as they are on the side of policy, they should enfore the once decided rules. A small cabal of saboteurs should not be able to change the scope of the site by upvoting random questions. On the other hand, scopes may have to change, but that should be discussed on meta then.
@RealzSlaw No. Bad questions often get lots of interest because everybody gets them, everybody has an opinion, everybody thinks they can answer. Let me look at some examples.
 
@Raphael I agree, but what about the question is 'bad' then?
 
57
Q: Why are there so many programming languages?

SureshI'm pretty fluent in C/C++, and can make my way around the various scripting languages (awk/sed/perl). I've started using python a lot more because it combines some of the nifty aspects of C++ with the scripting capabilities of awk/sed/perl. But why are there so many different programming langua...

34
Q: Can a dynamic language like Ruby/Python reach C/C++ like performance?

IchiroI wonder if it is possible to build compilers for dynamic languages like Ruby to have similar and comparable performance to C/C++? From what I understand about compilers, take Ruby for instance, compiling Ruby code can't ever be efficient because the way Ruby handles reflection, features such as ...

 
heh
 
3:33 PM
I personally stopped flagging totally useless chatty comments on CSTheory after someone (I guess a mod?) declined them :-)
 
@Raphael ok, now reflect, what is sooo bad about those questions
I think they are useful, even if they aren't
 
275
Q: What papers should everyone read?

Ryan WilliamsThis question is (inspired by)/(shamefully stolen from) a similar question at MathOverflow, but I expect the answers here will be quite different. We all have favorite papers in our own respective areas of theory. Every once in a while, one finds a paper so astounding (e.g., important, compelli...

 
i.e as a future reference question - it is already existing, you can always point to it when the topic comes up again
 
123
Q: What Books Should Everyone Read?

Sadeq Dousti[Timeline] This question has the same spirit of what papers should everyone read and what videos should everybody watch. It asks for remarkable books in different areas of theoretical computer science. The books can be math-oriented, yet you may find it great for a computer scientist. Example...

 
haha
@Raphael see, I don't see the downside to these questions though
 
3:34 PM
Everything that does not have one or two clear-cut answers is inherently bad for the platform.
 
@Raphael howso?
 
Long lists are almost useless. Voting does not work as intended anymore.
Read the help section.
 
you are right about the voting
 
The SO blog.
 
@Raphael that is why they automaticlly get turned into community wikis
 
3:35 PM
I think it would be hard for anyone to understand why his/her new "broad" question is bad, if there are questions with +100 upvotes like "What should everyone read/do"
 
This has been discussed dozens of times, not need to rehash.
 
and ... perhaps the mods should turn them into community wikis right away
 
@RealzSlaw No, they don't.
 
whats the topic
 
CW is also no excuse for bad stuff.
 
3:36 PM
instead of deleting/closing or complaining about them or whatnot
@Raphael I've read the blogs - I think they are wrong about this
 
@Juho True. Other than say "sorry, but we had to learn that, too" there's really nothing you can do.
 
these questions bring a lot of search traffic IMO
from my own experience
 
@RealzSlaw Then go ahead and open your own platform. As far as I am concerned, SE staff makes the ultimate rules because it's their shop. They are very light handed about this.
 
and though they might not be constructive, they are good references, or at least references of what not to ask in the future
heh
I am too busy :D
 
But when they say, "shut down bad subjective questions", I'm going to do that. Even if I did not agree, which I do.
@RealzSlaw Yea, but bad traffic. We need traffic that sticks. And that comes only with quality.
 
3:38 PM
@Raphael I am not arguing that you shouldn't
 
I can't say I don't enjoy scrolling through book/paper recommendations from experts, but I have to agree they are not good "questions" for the site
 
@Raphael I am just saying that I personally disagree
 
See also
7
Q: How to increase our traffic

KavehMost stats for the site seem OK (though there is a place for improvement). The exception is the number of site visits, i.e. traffic. How can we increase the traffic? Note that a considerable part of the traffic should eventually come from search engines. An important factor for traffic is ...

 
@Raphael I've actually got a few wins on that :D
 
@Juho Exactly. Putting such lists in tag wikis (or even better, somewhere else that actually works for such lists) works better.
 
3:39 PM
posted a few questions on /r/compsci, commented on several SO questions pointing them to cs.SE
sometimes I saw names I recognized on cs.SE a few days later :D
I just don't have the time atm
 
by the way, what's the recent on CS.SE graduating? anything since that... one meta post I couldn't find quickly?
 
On a related note:
http://meta.cs.stackexchange.com/questions/552/analysing-this-sites-traffic/553#comment1677_555
 
hahaha
mmm
I already saw that apparently, upvoted
bad memory - at least I can laugh twice :D
 
See my comment on the last self-eval, @Raphael. We have a pretty serious backlog internally for graduations right now, but there's nothing here that would hold things up at present - keep on doing what you're doing! — Shog9 Jan 7 at 19:31
Internal eval: site looks good. No, really - there's nothing seriously wrong here, it seems healthy and all indications are it could sustain itself long term. When concerns tend toward laments over the cold analytically attitude of the meta membership on a CS site, you know things are in good shape. — Shog9 Dec 20 '13 at 18:06
Latest info I have. Looks good!
 
@Raphael :D
 
3:43 PM
Cool, thanks :-)
 
@RealzSlaw I have always seen my part in upholding quality on the site, both content- and formatting-wise.
I wish more people would edit, in particular fix tagging.
 
I do edit pretty often, but I think I rarely touch tags
mostly because I'm unsure about what they should be I suppose
 
(I even pinned one of the comments here (see to the right) but it shows only the link.)
 
tbh I haven't been very active for about 2 months
 
It's probably easier for a person who has changed them a lot, and knows what he/she is looking for, etc.
 
3:44 PM
really busy now heh
 
@Juho Well, you should consider starting to! Don't be afraid to make mistakes, if that's even possible, I'm around. ;)
I mostly look for a) one of the "big"/"category" tags to be there and b) removing obviously wrong/offtopic tags.
 
I'll try start doing more of that, sure
 
@RealzSlaw I had that perios sometime last year.
@Juho Thanks! :)
 
maybe it's also because I don't really use or care about tags
guess the volume of information is just so small right now
that it's easy and effective just to search
 
@Juho Me neither, it's still possible to follow the main stream. But tagging is important for proposing related questions to newbies (or so I hope) and people can selectively follow tags. If we want X questions to reach experts on X, we better make sure all such questions are tagged with X.
 
3:47 PM
well, to be fair, occasionally it is fun to browse through tags and see what has been asked
yes, makes sense
 
All true. I've be figuring that retagging will never be done, once the amount becomes unmanageable, so better do it right the first time.
 
mm. as long as we don't get too many new tags, and be forced to retag a whooole bunch of old questions
not likely :-)
 
It's also possible to blacklist tags -- that can ward off people that picked the wrong site. (I think we should blacklist , and and the like, but there are valid reasons against that.)
 
That's a good point
 
@Juho Some areas lack some tags, I think. I'm hesitant to create new ones, maybe to a fault. It would probably be best if every question had at least 3 matching tags. Everything that can't have more than one is probably a bad question.
 
3:50 PM
and I understand the reasons for NOT doing so also
to me, probably the most useful tag itself is reference-question
 
We actually have some black listed tags: ^cs$ ^homework$ ^untagged$
@Juho Ahh, I hate that one.
I always use that post:
14
Q: Reference answers to frequently asked questions

RaphaelWhy am I here? If you were sent here, somebody thought that your question lacked depth or displayed ignorance of basic knowledge and/or techniques one would learn in undergraduate courses. This is not your fault, but for us who write answers it has become a chore to explain the same things over ...

Which is more efficient, because it's arranged by tag and does not resort. Also, users should be pointed there.
 
well that's a nice list, too
 
afk, cake!
 
enjoy :-D
 
 
1 hour later…
5:06 PM
@Juho Thanks! One of our TAs was so lovely as to recruit us as beta testers for raspberry cupcakes. <3
 
haha, doesn't sound like a bad deal
 
@Juho Good company, freshly brewed espresso and raspberry cupcake? There was no deal, it was just great. :]
 
^-^
 
@Juho I hope that it's consistent with the questions tagged .
 
not totally sure about that
would be quick to count the number of items on that list and the actual questions tagged with it
seems like there's 9+6+3+3+2+2+1 items on the list
making a total of 26
yet I only find 20 questions with that tag?
 
5:16 PM
Careful, the list has double entries. :P
 
ah, okay
unless I missed something, it does have all of them
 
Good. :) I have two new candidates; the one about induction I linked above, and another I forgot. I have a tab open at home.
And we need one to close all these "what complexity does this for loop have?" dumps with
FYI, since we talked about it, I just created a new tag:
A pitty that such things always flood the main page, but SE has been unmoved by several requests to change that on Meta Stack Overflow.
 
I see
 
6:24 PM
Aw I was just about to post a question about the complexity of a loop
;)
 
@NicholasMancuso Bleh.
Not that all loops were trivial, though.
 
Of course not! But it is sad that the beginning of each semester brings a flood of those questions
 
Yea. I wonder a) how a bad a job the teachers must be doing or b) how unattentive/dumb some students seem to be.
 
c) lazy? :-)
 
Little bit of b) and c) less bit of a) I would imagine.
 
6:28 PM
@Juho That would be true if it would not take more time to post the question than to answer it, given that a) and b) are both false.
@NicholasMancuso Let's hope so.
These MC-questions make me wonder.
 
@Raphael, how is your program coming along?
 
@NicholasMancuso Err, which?
 
Academic, not software
PhD
 
Oh, we don't call it that.
Did you just ask "How's your research going?" *gasp*
 
NO no no no, never.
;)
 
6:35 PM
I think you might just have. :P
Well, admittedly not too nicely. I've been involved in teaching which tends to use up my time. I need to stop that and work on my ideas. Soon, I hope.
 
Perhaps
I know how it is man
cheers beer
 
Cheers!
I should get a T-shirt saying, "No, I will not fix your grades"
 
Hahah. Such is the life of a T.A.
 
If it's possible, I should get a visualisation of our Git repository with all the exercises and solutions in it and put it in the hallway.
"That's what it takes, you ungrateful lot! Now, as long as you spend less time than me on that course, don't tell me it's too hard."
Course administrator, even, if that's a term.
 
Instructor?
 
6:38 PM
I have 8 TAs to do the grunt work, but I have to manage them, create exercises and solutions, make fixes to existing ones.
No, my advisor reads himself. I did step in when he was away, though.
 
don't the other TAs help out with coming up or creating the exercises?
 
That's not their job. They grade student hand-ins and give exercise sessions for 10-20 students each.
 
or perhaps that's more common for programming assignments
 
I do the exercise management and a big exercise for the dumber problems.
 
6:42 PM
@NicholasMancuso you probably have more experience from the US, but to me, it seemed that there you always had separate people doing the grading (graders) and holding the exercise groups (TAs). Maybe it varies from school to school though (depending on the resources, too).
 
@NicholasMancuso Jup. We do take teaching seriously. Too seriously, sometimes.
I does interfere with our research, but that's pretty much by design in the German system.
@Juho In some mass lectures they do this, but we don't have these at our department. Everybody grades the people they see and talk to.
 
@Juho, yes. Our program here at GSU just finally implemented the recitation groups. So TAs are now split between grading and lecturing/helping during those.
 
That's not a problem, too, because exercises don't give credits, only the right to participate in the exams.
 
@Raphael, TA'ing/admin'ing interferes with research universally.
The semesters where I had to teach and take a course are the semester where research grinded to a halt [not that it was moving much beforehand anyways]
ground*
 
Yea, and we have teaching every single term.
 
6:47 PM
Well, we only teach once a year. But do have to TA the other semesters.
 
We are two doctorands and split the 8 and 4 credit courses alternatingly (approximately) but it means you never get time off.
So you actually read courses?
 
Yeah. I taught the CS dept's discrete math this past semester.
Like I said, our dept is somewhat small, so PhD candidates have to help teach
I think that might be changing. Not sure. Hopefully I'll graduate in the next year so I wont find out ;)
 
That's not allowed here. In order to teach you have to have at least a PhD. If you are not a (Jun.-)Prof. or at least habilitated, you need to get special admission.
If they can't cover the mandatory courses, they have to buy replacements.
 
I wish it was like that here ;)
What areas of research are you chaps working on anyways?
 
Yea, one line in the sand at least. It's bad enough that some profs make their people write papers, reviews and grant applications for them.
If they could pass on teaching, too...
Well, algorithm analysis, broadly speaking.
My colleague has been digging into Yaroslavkij's Quicksort doing formal analysis, my boss is doings some bioinformatics and I want to go into parallel algorithms.
You?
 
6:51 PM
I'm working on a certain graph coloring problem, proving bounds, building algorithms and hardness results. So kinda the usual kind of CS stuff :-)
 
Formalists, huh? ;) Very cool. I wish I was smart enough for those areas.
I'm working in bioinformatics. Specifically viral population analysis
 
What kind of things are you looking at there
 
Working on some error-correction clustering algorithms as well as sequence reconstruction. Not much. Trying to get into population fitness stuff, but its hard.
 
to me, whenever people work with something really really applied if you will, I always wonder if it's really satisfying for anyone because you typically get no formal guarantees of anything, really
 
@NicholasMancuso Jup, quite formal. If we manage the analyses. My boss in quite involved in the AofA and Analytic Combinatorics communities; I just hope I'll be able to live up to that. Things get nasty quickly in parallel settings.
@NicholasMancuso Bioinformatics is very interesting, but awful to work in. Hard to publish, hard to convince biologists of ... anything, difficult models.
 
6:55 PM
@Juho, well the tools generate a hypothesis and the biologists go verify!
@Raphael, agreed! Population genetics kills me. Everything is some model that uses EM to find [local] optimal parameters, or MCMC, or Gibbs sampling
 
@Raphael Aren't you guys close to Saarbrucken?
 
@Juho That's the fun part: biologists are happy for any scrap of information. Sure, they are going to say "We found A!" when all you did write an algorithm making loads of assumptions that spit out numbers roughly consistent with A, but still. :)
 
:-)
 
@NicholasMancuso Do they bother to check whether the models make sense?
@Juho One train hour.
I had a hypothetical option to go to MPI there, but it wasn't a good fit in both directions. So I stuck around in K-town.
 
I met some people from there this summer in a SAT/SMT summer school in Helsinki... I actually didn't realize they were so close to you.
right
 
6:57 PM
@Raphael, definitely. No one in GWAS would be published if their models were awful [at least in respectable journals]. As for error-correction, those models are typically just how the sequencers work, and not so much the underlying biological process. It depends.
 
@Juho Germany is not that large, but yea, Saabrücken is close even by our standards. :) I have met a few people at MPI, but that's it.
@NicholasMancuso "Our" biologists keep using the same clustering algorithm because it's accepted. They rejected proposals for faster algorithms but yielded other results.
 
Alright guys, it was fun chatting. I wish you both luck in your respective work. I have to run. Take care. Pray vzn doesn't become mod of CST otherwise Kaveh might kill himself.
@Raphael, yup. First algorithm to market tends to settle in and stay there. Hard to take over. ;)
 
@NicholasMancuso Thanks, likewise!
 
haha, thanks, you too :-)
 
I won't comment on the elections further than I did; got that diamond stuck to my name... ;)
@NicholasMancuso Especially if the experiments to validate a new one cost a lot.
 
7:00 PM
will be interesting to see what comes out of the election over there
 
I don't think we'll be surprised.
 
most probably not :-)
given that there aren't that many candidates even...
 
Jup.
Gotta run and catch my bus home. Cya!
 
yup!
 

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