Day Five

Today, August 15, was the last day of UAI 2017. We had workshops, which you can think of as one-day conferences with fewer people. UAI 2017 offered three workshops, and I attended the Bayesian Modeling Applications Workshop. It was a small workshop with only ten of us present at the 9:00am starting time, though a few more would trickle in during the first hour.

Here were some of the highlights:

  • David Poole from the University of British Columbia gave the opening talk on Probabilistic Reasoning with Complex Heterogeneous Observations and Applications in Geology and Medicine. This one was largely about ontologies. Unfortunately, in the interest of time, he had to skip a lot of the content.

  • The other talks were more directly related to Bayesian networks, which I studied a lot in undergrad and also for my AI prelim exams.

  • There was another talk about OpenMarkov. I got mostly distracted when the speaker emphasized the advantage that the software was open source. Maybe this is me coming from Deep Learning, but open source should be the expectation, not the norm. (MuJoCo is the one exception for Deep Learning, but hopefully that will soon no longer be the case.) I was reminded of Zack Lipton’s blog post on a sober perspective of Tensorflow when he wrote that “A number of other news outlets marveled that Google made the code open source.”.

I don’t have much else to say because I didn’t take detailed notes.

Upon the evening of August 15, the conference officially ended. Tomorrow, I’ll board a 15-hour direct flight from Sydney to San Francisco, and life will be back to normal.

Closing Thoughts

What are some of my thoughts now that UAI 2017 has concluded? Here is a rough categorization of the pros:

  • I enjoyed giving a talk on my research. And the paper won an award!

  • I identified a few interesting papers and concepts from tutorials which I should investigate in more detail once I have time.

  • I met (a.k.a. “networked with”) a few students and faculty, and hopefully this will help spread my name. I should email them later.

  • The venue and location were awesome. This place is probably the best in Australia for tourism.

Here are the cons:

  • Captioning. Gah. As you know, it wasn’t set up on the first day, and even when the service was present, I still had a hard time following talks. The lack of mobility of captioners is also a drawback. Even so, it was better than nothing.

  • I don’t feel like I sufficiently networked. Yes, I networked a bit (as mentioned recently) but probably to a lesser extent compared to other students. How again do people normally network at conferences, particularly if they’re unpopular and unknown like me? (The rock stars, of course, don’t need to do anything, as people flock to them, not the other way around.)

Despite these not so insignificant drawbacks, I’m extremely happy that I attended UAI 2017. I thank the conference organizers for arranging UAI and hope that they enjoyed it at least as much as I did.

I should elaborate on the venue, location, and related stuff. The hotel had excellent service, and the breakfast buffet was awesome. I had to resist eating so quickly! A picture of an example breakfast of mine is shown below:

sydney My breakfast on August 15, the last full day of UAI 2017.

The coffee was great, both at the hotel and in the conference. I’ve used coffee machines that produced utter junk lattes and cappuccinos, but the ones at ICC Sydney made great coffee.

Darling Harbor, of course, is great. Here are two final views of it:

sydney A view of the harbor.

sydney Another view of the harbor.

Yeah. Someday, I’ll be back.