Thursday, September 11, 2008

Communications of the ACM, Theory Bias?

Anyone else noticing a pleasantly refreshing pro-theory bias at the "new" Communications of the ACM? One news article on spectral graph theory extensively quotes Fan Chung Graham, Milena Mihail, and Jon Kleinberg. Another on privacy extensively quotes Cynthia Dwork and Frank McSherry. One of the presented research papers is on Distributed Selection by Fabian Kuhn, Thomas Locher, and Roger Wattenhofer (from SPAA 2007), with a perspective given by Hagit Attiya. Finally, there's a puzzle column by Peter Winkler.

I admit, I'm no longer just automatically throwing it away. The entire magazine seems more interesting since the editorial refreshening. But deserving nods to the work of theory community will certainly help hold my attention.


Daniel Tunkelang said...

I'll admit that I'm happy about this this too, but I'd like to see a few more data points before extrapolating.

Paul Beame said...

The biggest change has been to remove an extreme MIS (Management Information Systems) bias, rather than to introduce another one. There will be some catching up on the 20 years that CACM lost its way and I would guess that theory has been particularly under-represented during that time.

For me, the Research Highlights have been the biggest reason to read the magazine. MapReduce and LSH were a great start in the 50th anniversary issue. I thought that the spectral graph theory article (in the News section, not Research Highlights), despite some good history and quotes, seemed somewhat dated. An identical article could have appeared almost ten years ago. I was surprised that it completely missed out on the view of pagerank as a spectral algorithm.

As CACM caches up, I would expect to see review articles on topics like pagerank and weighted majority algorithms in the near future.