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SIGBOVIK 2014! (13 Apr 2014 at 10:29)
Almost two weeks ago there was SIGBOVIK 2014, the 8th annual April Fool's academic conference at CMU. When I say April Fool's conference, it's not that it's a conference about April Fool's Day or something, rather, it takes place on A.F.D. and contains "research" that may or may not be real, and is usually whimsical.

This year I emceed, labcoat and all, and begin with a one-day-hack "SIGBOVIK Plays Twitch Plays Pokémon Plays SIGBOVIK", where I rigged up a website with a controller that looks like this:



(told you I did it on the morning of SIGBOVIK!) and internet people could click the buttons to vote in real time on what a Nintendo emulator running this weird Chinese pirate NES version of Pokémon would do:



although it was delayed 10 seconds due to streaming to twitch.tv, just like the real Twitch Plays Pokémon. But the "twist" here is that the software then reads some bytes out of Pokémon's RAM, and uses those to pose the line drawing of a person, the idea being that the current SIGBOVIK presenter must take on the pose indicated, thus completing the Circle of Life and "playing" SIGBOVIK. Even though my prerogative as emcee is technically limitless, almost nobody followed this decree. It might have had something to do with the fact that the pose changed three times a second, due to bad planning/tuning. Still, it was there projected on the wall, always haunting you:



Connoisseurs of weird pirate versions of Pokémon will notice that we made it into Professor Oak's laboratory to select our beast, which took hours of trying to time the ten-second delay correctly. We accidentally exited the lab before selecting a Poké-egg.


There were many fine ideas at the conference, some of which are collected in the SIGBOVIK 2014 proceedings. My papers this year are even more abstruse than usual. The first was "New results in k/n Power-Hours", a ten-page hangover that revisits the incorrect or nonsensical theories in our paper from 2012, "Algorithms for k/n Power-Hours". Both are about a generalized version of the popular drinking game, but only the latter was written while sober. The results here are completely accurate, studied at length with real software. The "joke" in this case may be a little edgy for SIGBOVIK, the idea being to oversolve some pointless problem and then not even present it in a way that's humorous. It has some cool-looking figures, though. That one won the "Most Deserving of Being Real Research" award. Second I contributed "What, if anything, is epsilon?", a more or less serious descriptive account of how programmers set the value of epsilon in their software (spoiler alert: they range over 300 orders of magnitude!), whose results are obscured by absurd choices in data visualization. Third was "It still seems black has hope in these extremely unfair variants of chess", wherein I combine chess with populist board games, ruining it, and then study strategies for avoiding domination as player 2, using computer game tree search.

I think I started 7 other SIGBOVIK papers that I didn't finish on time, obviously, but I'm keeping the dream alive.

Up next: I have an idea for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and if I simply apply myself to something useful for once, I should be able to put together the apparatus in time (three weeks). In two weeks, another trip to Zurich with a stop in Lugano. Also: Barn-based board games.
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jonas (145.236.211.11) – 04.13.14 14:00:26
Was a paper about your research with learnfun & playfun one of those other SIGBOVIK papers you didn't finish?
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Tom 7 (67.186.7.254) – 04.13.14 15:15:34
Yes, I have two follow-up works in progress on that, one fun, one fancy. I know those projects are popular so if I finish them, it might not wait until SIGBOVIK 2015. :)
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Cort (66.44.102.164) – 04.13.14 18:06:50
Oh! A Marathon Costume Idea? You must execute it! :) Although must it bring you pain/agony?
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Tom 7 (c-67-186-7-254.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 04.13.14 19:07:34
Well, part of the fun is the unique challenge of running with some kind of impediment. I think I'm done with ice-skate kinds of stunts for now; this one may be heavy but mostly wholesome fun!
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jonas (catv-89-132-197-38.catv.broadband.hu) – 04.14.14 03:19:12
You already didn't wait, you have published two videos with new results. I was wondering if you would present the new research in those videos at SIGBOVIK.
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Tom 7 (c-67-186-7-254.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 04.14.14 18:27:32
Ah, no, that wasn't really new "research", in fact I deliberately didn't change anything about the program for those videos. Didn't seem worthy of SIGBOVIK! The stuff I'm talking about is changes to the technique, etc., which might be. :)
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Tadbot (172.56.28.128) – 05.05.14 14:00:05
I've been waiting for an entry for Ludum Dare 29, where the player cleans up the ocean by consuming discarded legumes.
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Tom 7 (c-67-186-7-254.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 05.05.14 19:19:33
I'm sorry... I almost always participate, but this time I was in Switzerland during the contest so there was no way! :(
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