Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Enemy of the Good

Alice (not the real name) has a STOC submission with Bob and wanted to put the paper on a public archive. Bob insists that the paper not go public until the "exposition is perfect", which if taken literally means never. I told Alice about a phrase my wife liked to use

Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good.

I hesitate to write this post because we far too often have the opposite problem, authors who take their hastily written deadline-driven conference submissions and just put them out on the web in its messy state. But aiming for that impossible perfection in the exposition spends considerable time making tiny changes to an abstract that, in most cases, no one would have noticed. One can better spend their time in other ways, like doing research for the next paper.

So take a little time to clean up the conference submission but then don't worry about every little detail. As soon as possible make it available for all to see. If there are problems in the exposition, people will let you know (especially if you fail to cite their research) and you can fix the paper accordingly. Psychologically you will feel better getting that conference submission you had spent that hard concentrated effort on out of your mind, until it (hopefully) gets accepted and you have to work on the proceedings version.


  1. That's the whole point of ArXiv. You can do as many revisions as you want, and nobody expects the first version to be stellar.

  2. Does every really rush to post submissions on the web?

    What about the chances of someone "stealing your thunder"?

  3. well at least the arxiv provides a timestamp. the only risk is that someone improves your results, making your paper outdated.

  4. There is also the issue of conferences with anonymous submission. In these cases, posting your submission will likely "out" you to potential reviewers. In crypto, the IACR has explicitly said this should not count against you when reviewing CRYPTO/EUROCRYPT/etc. papers, but it is a concern.