Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009-07-07: Hypertext 2009

From June 30th through July 1st I attended Hypertext 2009 (HT 2009) in Torino Italy. The conference saw a 70% increase in submissions (117 total) compared to last year but due to the equally increased number of accepted papers (26 long and 11 short) and posters maintain last years acceptance rate of roughly 32%. HT 2009 also had a record of 150 registered attendees.

I presented our paper titled "Comparing the Performance of US College Football Teams in the Web and on the Field" (DOI) which was joint work with Olena Hunsicker under the supervision of Michael L. Nelson. The paper describes an extensive study on the correlation of expert rankings of real world entities and search engine rankings of their representative resources on the web.
We published a poster, "Correlation of Music Charts and Search Engine Rankings" (DOI), with the results of a similar experiment but of much smaller scale at JCDL 2009.

It was my first time attending HT and from my point of view there were four highlights that I would like to report on (in the order of their occurrences):
1) Mark Bernstein gave a very inspiring talk "On Hypertext Narrative" and also advertised his new book titled "Reading Hypertext". He further is the chief scientist of Eastgate Systems and the designer of Tinderbox.

2) Lada Adamic's keynote "The Social Hyperlink" (slides). She talked about various experiments with social networks e.g., the propagation of knowledge through social networks and how assets (such as dance moves) propagate in Second Life. She argued that it is often hard to differentiate between influence and correlation in social networks.

3) I got to meet and talk to Theodor (Ted) Nelson. Ted coined the term Hypertext and is the father of the Xanadu project. He authored various books including his last work "Geeks Bearing Gifts". The best newcomer paper award at HT is named after him.

4) Ricardo Baeza-Yates' keynote "Relating Content by Web Usage" where he argued that web search is no longer about document retrieval (a sad statement for IR fanatics) but about exploiting the wisdom of the crowds since that provides popularity, diversity, coverage and quality. Search moves towards identifying the user's task and enable its completion. He makes a case for search transitioning from returning web documents to web objects such as people, places and businesses since these objects satisfy the user's intent.

Besides the impressions I got from the conference a few useless facts that I feel like sharing:
Torino seems like a nice place but I did not get a chance to walk around and explore the city.
Italians dine (similar to the French) in several courses so do not make the same rookie mistake I did and fill yourself up on the appetizers assuming its all you get.
Italian cab drivers of course do not understand a single word of the English language unless it comes to how much tip you give them.
There are conference hotels on the face of this planet that do not provide irons for their guests...

Hypertext 2010 will be held in Toronta Canada June 14th - 17th 2010.

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