dotGo 2019

A couple of weeks ago I went to Paris to attend dotGo (thanks, MessageBird!), one of the biggest Go conferences in Europe. dotGo lasts only one day, and it’s single-track, but it’s a solid offering with great organization, excellent venue and awesome talks. I realize I sound like a dotGo commercial, but as a former academic I remain amazed at how much better professional conferences are, and in the case of dotGo we’re talking orders of magnitude.

Not all of the dotGo 2019 talks were brilliant, but I see even that as an advantage; it’s easy to make a good conference by putting an all-star speaker line-up. It doesn’t allow for younger, less known people in the community to present anything, though, and I think dotGo organizers’ decision to present a mix of established engineers and newcomers was very successful. They also succeeded in having a variety of topics, and many of the talks weren’t necessarily Go-specific. Sure,

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New Zealand

Last week I came to New Zealand for COIN@PRIMA workshop and PRIMA-13 conference. It’s the first time I’m on the southern hemisphere, and I have a couple of observations about New Zealand and the whole Oceania region I’d like to share.

  1. First off, New Zealand is soooper far away from everything. It took me more than 45 hours to get here from Bergen,1 and I just talked to a Kiwi friend who told me Wellington is the most remote capital city in the world, being furthest away from any other capital city. The feeling one has here is that while the country seems rather Western (lots of post-British architecture, English as the official language, lots of familiar products in the shops), it’s very exotic. You see Fiji Airways planes at the airports, and there are weird looking trees, birds and plants everywhere. Also, New Zealanders seem to often (implicitly) refer to Australia as the “big world”. Australia’s where the big cities are, it’s where you go to do your post-doc or PhD, and it’s where many people transfer for intercontinental flights. Still, from a European point of view, Australia is the end of the world in many ways – it’s vast, sparsely populated,2 and very far away from the rest of the world.3 Continue reading “New Zealand”

STAIRS/ECAI-12

I’m in Montpellier attending STAIRS/ECAI. The city is nice, and I’m experimenting with taking b&w-only photographs.

The main conference is very big, comparable to AAMAS in size, which is a bit surprising. The workshops on the other hand seemed much smaller. STAIRS however, where I had a paper, was a very peculiar experience: it’s basically a conference for PhD students that has AI “in general” as its topic and allows for… 15+5 min talks. This results in a number of very short and very fast talks on all AI-related topics, from machine learning through non-monotonic reasoning to logic and knowledge representation. On top of that you have an audience full of PhD students that basically don’t ask any questions (because they’re unfamiliar with most stuff outside of their respective narrow fields). Weird.

Also, I’d like to share 3 small observations about France/Montpellier, as it’s the first time I’m in this country:

  1. The food everywhere is fantastic. Seriously, beats Spain and any other country I’ve been to. It’s not very cheap though, but I guess that has something to do with the fact that Montpellier is a touristy place, and it’s August.
  2. People are very friendly, and most of them speak English quite well. They’re not very eager to speak it, though, e.g. they understand what I’m saying and, if forced, will reply in English, but they generally ask questions and reply in French. To which I always reply in English (unless it’s something really basic), and it seems to all work perfectly fine.
  3. Drivers are much more aggressive than in northern Europe. Feels almost like in Poland.