SIGIR ’09 is in full swing!
I arrived on Sunday evening, and the reception was like Cheers (“where everyone knows your name“)–only that, at least in my case, I was meeting many people face-to-face for the first time in years, and in some cases for the first time, period! I reconnected with some of the SIGIR regulars whom I’d missed last year (Singapore was a bit far for me), finally met my editor, Diane Cerra from Morgan & Claypool, and even ran into someone who is evaluating my company’s technology. And that was just Day 0.
Day 1 started bright and early with the 7:00 am newcomer’s breakfast, which brings together newcomers and “old hands”. I believe my role as organizer qualified my as an “old hand”, even though this is only my third SIGIR. Which might explain why Justin Zobel, a real old hand (and one of this year’s program chairs) joined my table. Of course, he hadn’t read my post about his recent SIGIR Forum essay, so we chatted a bit about recall. Not surprisingly, we mostly agreed, and I have to give credit to the essay for provoking that and other good discussions today.
Then the conference started in earnest, with Liz Liddy bestowing the Salton Award to Susan Dumais. In the tradition of the award, Sue delivered a keynote recounting her personal journey through the space of information retrieval. I was thrilled that her recognition called out her working to bring together information retrieval and human-computer interaction. Of course some of us were ahead of the curve by recruiting her as the keynote for HCIR ’08. Of course, I asked her a question about why transparency, which she called out as a reason that users in her Stuff I’ve Seen work preferred to explicitly sort results by date rather than accept the systems best-first relevance ranking, was so absent in web search. Her answer was interesting: she feels that transparency is most useful for re-finding, and least useful for discovery. I’m not sure I agree with that explanation, but I’ll at least think about it a bit before I commit to disagreeing with it.
Some coffee, and then off to the first session of research papers. The presentation that stood out for me in this session was “Refined Experts“, presented by Paul Bennett. The paper offers a nice technique for improve on hierarchical classification (by addressing the problems of error propagation through the hierarchy and the inherent non-linearity of hierarchies), and Paul is an outstanding presenter.
Then Diane Cerra and Gary Marchionini took the Morgan & Claypool authors (and a few authors-to-be) to lunch at Brasserie Jo. Great food, and even better company. My only regret is that I missed one of the talks in the first session after lunch, “A Statistical Comparison of Tag and Query Logs“. I did like David Carmel‘s talk on “Enhancing Cluster Labeling Using Wikipedia” in that same session, though I’ll need to do some homework to figure out what distinguishes it from other work in this area, such as an ICDE 2008 paper by Wisam Dakka and Panos Ipeirotis on “Automatic Extraction of Useful Facet Hierarchies from Text Databases“.
In the following session, I attended a couple of the efficiency talks. The talks were well presented, but in both cases I wondered if they were addressing the right problems. I’ve felt this way before at SIGIR efficiency talks, so perhaps my tastes are just idiosyncratic.
Then came the poster / demo reception. Even with three hours, there was far too much to take in–and of course that session is as much about networking as it is about the posters and demos. I enjoyed the three hours, but I’ll have to go back to the proceedings to learn more about what I saw–and what I missed.
Finally, I wrapped up by leading a crew to Tapeo for dinner–apparently a popular choice for attendees, since another table of 6 arrived shortly afterward. It was a nice cap to a fantastic but exhausting day.
I can’t promise I’ll keep this up daily, but I will blog about the rest of the conference when I have the chance. Meanwhile, here are some other folks blogging about SIGIR ’09:
- David Karger is live blogging on the Haystack blog.
- Jon Elsas is blogging and posting some pictures.
- Jeff Dalton posted detailed notes about Sue’s keynote.
- Mary McKenna is blogging at the SemanticHacker blog.
- John Battelle and Gene Golovchinsky couldn’t attend, but have both blogged about the conference.