Why YOU (an introverted nerd) Should Try Public Speaking

You should be speaking at conferences.

Not an extrovert? Great. Speaking is for introverts!

We go to conferences to meet people (and learn things from people and find opportunities… from people). Meeting people at events takes a lot of energy, especially if you don’t look like the average dude at a conference. You have to explain your story to every single person you talk to, listen to theirs, and try to see if you have overlapping interests. It’s inefficient and takes a lot of time.

By being a speaker, you can tell your story just once, to everyone, and the people who are excited about what you have to say will come find you. You will actually save energy if you get up on stage.

It’s a great hack.

Before you say, “fine, but I’m not good at speaking”, please take a look at this:

People who are way less intelligent than you give excellent talks every day (you might not agree with what they say, but do try to appreciate the skilled delivery). If they can learn to do it, you can learn to do it.

A few years ago, I decided to learn how to speak. I started by studying people whose techniques I admired, and distilling their techniques down into algorithms that I can understand and try to apply to my own presentations. I’m very much a student but have really enjoyed talking to people about giving talks, so I’m going to do an experiment and post one speaking hack per week here on my blog on Fridays. Let me know what you think.


Conference: Search and Social Media 2010

I recently attended the Third Annual Workshop on Search and Social Media, an academic workshop with very strong industry participation. The workshop was packed, and had some of the most informative and interesting panel discussions I’ve seen (not counting the one I spoke on!).

Daniel Tunkelang did a great job of writing up the specific presentations on his site and on the ACM blog, so I won’t attempt to re-create the presentations line by line at this late date. Rather, I’d like to highlight a few open problems and research questions that came out of the discussions that I hope to see developed in the next year.

Social search consists of a set of problems including (but hardly limited to) search of social content like status updates, real-time search, generating, labeling, and finding user-generated content, ‘long-tail’ events and interests, finding vs re-finding, and trend identification.

What data is available to social search? There are many kinds of social data, from e-mail (private) to blogs (public) and tweets (mostly public) — what is and should be searchable? How do we handle issues of privacy and identity management?

How do we compute relevance, taking into account freshness, accuracy, and degrees of social separation?

Will the architecture of these search engines look like the search engines we’re currently familiar with?

How do we evaluate accuracy and truthiness of social data?

How do we characterize social connections, around concepts like strong vs weak ties, and friend-of-a-friend vs friend-of-a-friend’s-friend? Can we converge on a single social graph representation?

How do we best filter social data to lead to accurate recommendations for content discovery? How do we accommodate the fact that as we move beyond static factual data, two people using the same query may be looking for very different results?

Finally, how do we deal with the chasm between the industry participants (who have LOTS of data) and the academic participants, who suffer from a lack of public (and publishable) data?

Thanks again to the organizers – Eugene Agichtein, Marti Hearst, Ian Soboroff, and Daniel Tunkelang – who put together a fantastic event.

For more on this and a cool demo, check out Gene Golovchinsky‘s look at the SSM2010 twitter coverage.