Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Metablogging my research

When I started this blog in 2006, it was with the intention that I should write short blog posts explaining my own research in a more accessible way. It appears, however, that I haven't found the time to do much of that recently. (I was better at doing so in the first few years of the blog's existence - see some examples here, here and here.) The few blog posts I've written in recent years tend to be more general discussions about things such as human intelligence, conference acceptance rates or why I work so much.

While I still intend to write more blog posts explaining my research in more accessible terms, I am not saying I will get around to actually doing so anytime soon. However, some other researchers have been kind enough to write accessibly about research done in my group. So instead of a blog post about my research, this is a blog post about blog posts about my research. Here are some picks - if you have blogged about my research (or research I supervised) and want to be included in this list, tell me and I'll add it!

First we have Mike Cook at Goldsmiths, University of London. He's written several excellent posts on my team's work over at his own project blog for his Angelina project. For example, see this post on Antonis' work with Sentient Sketchbook, or this post on the Ropossum generator for Cut the Rope levels or maybe this post on the Procedural Procedural Level Generator Generator.

Tommy Thompson at University of Derby has produced a number of very well-written posts on his blog about games and AI recently, partly for the benefit of his students and partly for a general public. This post on PCG and the Mario AI Competition is a very good example.

Alex Champandard at AIGameDev.com (a very useful resource for industry-style game AI) did an interview with me a long time ago, soon after I finished my PhD. Re-reading my answers, I guess I was fairly naive back then. I probably still am.

There has also been a number of articles about my work in New Scientist, one of the more well-known and respected popular science magazines. These articles are generally written by competent and well-informed professional science journalists (unlike some of the coverage of my work in the mainstream press which I won't link to here, as they are more likely to confuse than enlighten). Other good, short pieces (blog posts rather than articles, though it's hard to distinguish the two) from quality news outlets are the following from Kotaku, Wired and Guardian. In addition to such secondary sources there seems to be dozens of "tertiary" blog posts that are essentially just reformulations of some of the posts and articles I've linked to above - the Mario AI competition in particular is the focus of most of them.

I'll finish with the following post, which was written in 2007 and is a rather acidic attempt to ridicule some of the earliest work I in my PhD. Apparently, I took this seriously enough back then to write an elaborate response post. I think I would have been much more comfortable with that kind of criticism these days, when I have established a position in the research community. However, as it's safer to criticise a PhD student than a respected researcher, nobody criticises me anymore. Which is a shame: there must be some people out there who think that what I do is completely misguided, and constructive, well-informed criticism would be very welcome. I've even tried actively seeking critical views (and of course promote myself) by posting stories about my work on Slashdot (for example here, here and here). Well, it turns out you do get critical comments, just not always well-informed ones...

So perhaps the conclusion is that while promiting your own and others' work (and mine!) to other researchers, students and the general public is all great, it's not necessarily the best way of finding out what people you respect really think about your work. For that, you have to go to a conference and get everybody really drunk.