Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WSDM 09 : Your mileage may vary

So, for the second year WSDM arrives, attendance has remained constant (despite the economic downturn) and we're all packing t-shirts rather than bags. However, unwrapping the packaging, what do we find?

Initially, the conference seemed promising, beginning with an excellent speech by Jeff Dean. A 101 on efficiency at Google since 1999, well rounded with explanations and statistics in equal measure. Unfortunately, this staring performance seemed to overshadow the rest of the conference - a benchmark never surpassed.

If I was to use one word to describe WSDM'09, then it would be inconsistent. There were some nice speeches, Eytan Adar's talk on detecting how the web changes over time springs to mind (also best student paper), and Songhua Xu gets bonus points for turning up with an interface paper to a predominantly text-based conference. However, many were poorly presented, insubstantial or both.

The dominating topic of the conference was unsurprisingly Wikipedia, with well over 40% of papers giving it a mention. Ignoring the proliferation of Wikipedia papers over the last year, high point here was Eytan Adar's paper on Information Arbitrage Across Multi-lingual Wikipedia, for coming up with something which might actually be useful in practice.

The videos from the conference should be up soon on, and I would recommend Jeff Deans opening speech - for those of you who can survive watching in tiny eye-strain-o vision which comes with flash. As for the rest remember - your mileage may vary.

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