Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An unintentional Sociology of Blogs experiment

Yesterday I posted a list of books that I want reviews of as SIGACT NEWS Book Review Column Editor. This resulted in an unintentional study of Sociology and Blogs which would make an awful paper but a reasonable posting. Some comments below, plus response to comments, and some pointers.
  1. So far 12 books have been claimed. More than 12 people made requests but some of the books were already claimed. Of the 12 only 1 has reviewed for me before. The typical column generates 3 or 4 requests, and even those are usually from people who have reviewed before. Why is the blog so much more effective than my column for finding people to write book reviews for me?
  2. The most popular book by far was not Knuth Vol 4 Fascicle 0, nor any of the other algorithms book, or crypto books (usually a popular topic) but was instead the book Concentration of Measure for the Analysis of Randomized Algorithms. Why that one? The catchy title? The hotness of the topic? Perhaps several of the other books on my list people already have from the publishers as they are potential textbooks, but this one is not in that category.
  3. One of the commenters wanted to know if you need to be an expert to read a book. NO. But you have to be interested and actually read it and have the background to read it.
  4. One of the commenters wanted to know what level the books were at. Alas. In the far future there may be a way to, given a book title, type it into what might be some kind of Engine of Search and find out more about it. Next time I do this I will supply more information about the book, unless by some miracle some sort of Search Technology has evolved to make such unneeded.
  5. Below I have the revised list with the books that are already claimed removed.
  6. Deadline for reviews is Jan 14, 2010, though the intention is to finish them before your next semester starts. If you need more time then tell me. LaTeX template is at here. Plaintext is also fine if the review does not have too much math in it.
Books on Algorithms and Data Structures
  1. Algorithmic Adventures: From Knowledge to Magic by Juraj Hromkovic.
  2. Algorithms and Data Structures: The Basic Toolbox by Mehlhorn and Sanders.
  3. The Algorithms Design Manual by Skiena.
  4. Combinatorial Geometry and its Algorithmic Applications: The Alcala Lectures by Pach and Sharir.
  5. Algorithms for Statistical Signal Processing by Proakis, Rader, Ling, Nikias, Moonen, Proudler.
  6. Nonlinear Integer Programming by Li and Sun.
  7. Binary Quadratic Forms: An Algorithmic Approach by Buchmann and Vollmer.
  8. Parallel Algorithms by Casanova, Legrand, and Robert.
  9. Mathematics for the Analysis of Algorithms by Greene and Knuth.
  10. Concentration of Measure for the Analysis of Randomized Algorithms by Dubhashi and Panconesi.
  11. Vehicular Networks: From Theory to Practice Edited by Olariu and Weigle.
Books on Cryptography
  1. Introduction to Modern Cryptography by Katz and Lindell.
  2. Concurrent Zero-Knowledge by Alon Rosen.
  3. Elliptic Curves: Number Theory and Cryptography by Washington.
  4. Secure Key Establishment by Choo.
  5. Algebraic Cryptanalysis by Bard
  6. A Course in Number Theory and Cryptography by Koblitz.
  7. Cryptanalytic Attacks on RSA by Yan.
Books on Coding Theory
  1. Algebraic Function Fields and Codes by Stichtenoth.
  2. Applied Algebra: Codes, Ciphers, and Discrete Algorithms by Hardy, Richman, and Walker.
Books on Theory of Computation
  1. The Calculus of Computation: Decision Procedures with Applications to Verification by Bradley and Manna.
  2. Models of Computation: An introduction to Computability Theory by Fernandez.
  1. Applied Combinatorics by Roberts and Tesman.
  2. A Course in Enumeration by Aigner.
  3. Chromatic Graph Theory by Chatrang and Zhang.
  4. Design Theory by Lindner and Rodger.
  5. Combinatorial Methods with computer applications by Gross
  6. A combinatorial approach to matrix theory and its application by Brualdi and Cvetkovic.
Misc Books
  1. Quantum Computer Science: An Introduction by Mermin.
  2. Complex Social Networks by Vega-Redondo
  3. Branching Programs and Binary Decision Diagrams by Wegener.
  4. When Least is Best: How Mathematicians Discovered many clever ways to make things as small (or as large) as possible by Nahin.
  5. Stories about Maxima and Minima by Tikhomirov.
  6. Decision and Elections: Explaining the Unexpected by Saari.
  7. Creative Mathematics by Wall
  8. Is Mathematics Inevitable? A Miscellany Edited by Underwood Dudley.
  9. Comprehensive Mathematics for Computer Scientists 1: Sets and numbers, graphs and algebra, logic and machines, linear geometry by Mazzola, Milmeister, and Weissmann.
  10. Difference Equations: From Rabbits to Chaos by Cull, Flahive, and Robson.
  11. A Concise introduction to Data Compression by Salomon.
  12. Practical Text Mining with Perl by Roger Biliosly.


  1. How about upping the ante and publicly announcing the names of all the reviewers against the books they have promised to review. This commits them into turning something in, and also winnows out the ones that did it out of a rush of blood.

  2. I assume the reviews will be published along with the full name of the reviewer? If so, should pre-tenure folks be involved in such a task, lest they step on the toes of those who might someday have too much power over them?

  3. I second that suggestion (about publicly announcing the names of reviewers)

  4. I like the fact that the first comment, advocating the announcement of reviewer names, is anonymous.

  5. Why is the blog so much more effective than my column for finding people to write book reviews for me?
    Perhaps more people read your blog than SIG ACT news?

  6. 1) I have never had a problem with someone promising to do a review and not doing it. If this becomes a problem I may take some action like those suggested.

    2) YES the reviewers name appears with the review.
    Most of the reviews are not of the type
    THIS BOOK SUCKS. Its more
    a matter of telling us whats
    IN the book and WHO the audience is. IF a pre-tenure faculty gets a book from me and things
    and wants to opt out of reviewing it, I would certainly allow that.
    It has never happened.

    3) A private email suggested
    (correctly) that this blog
    is far more widely read than SIGACT news, and thats why I got so many more people. Yes, but there
    are people who told me directly that they read my column, but the blog is more IMMEDIATE.
    Could be a reason for the
    better response.

  7. Mitzenmacher mentioned Concentration of Measure ... the other day.

  8. An Luca also


  9. Why the deadline? Can you no longer get free copies from the publisher after that date? (Seems a little unlikely, since some of the books you want reviewed aren't particularly new.)

  10. The most popular book by far was ... the book Concentration of Measure for the Analysis of Randomized Algorithms. Why that one?

    Probably because it was mentioned recently on two blogs.

  11. I'd like to add my voice to those who found Concentration of Measure to be a book of considerable interest ... and thanks also for posting such a great list of books!

    It often happens in simulations (both classical and quantum) that random dynamical processes act to concentrate trajectories in small regions of state-space.

    Does this kind of stochastic/dynamical concentration have connections to the concentration of measure? Are these two phenomena (at bottom) pretty intimately related mathematically?

    Thanks to Dubhashi and Panconesi, these questions now seem more confusing to me than ever ... and hey, that's progress! :)

  12. Why a deadline? So that people will
    ACTUALLY GET IT DONE. If you don't give a deadline people tend to drift.

    Misc Thought: In the future when a book review comes out I will announce
    it on the blog and link to it.

    Update: I have either send out or
    had the publisher send out
    a total of 24 books.

  13. Why is the blog so much more effective than my column for finding people to write book reviews for me?

    Maybe because the blog is free?

  14. From email and your comments
    the sociology experement turned out to be even less interesting than I expected:

    1) Blog is free

    2) Blog has far more readers than SIGACT NEWS

    3) If you are already online it is less effort to just email me then if you are reading SIGACT NEWS in your easy chair.

    A more careful study would likely not reveal any more than that.

    However, given that the blog has so many more readers
    (a fact I did not know before) this really does say I should post a pointer to the reviews after
    they come out in print.

  15. Do you accept anonymous reviews? As indicated on your blog, an anonymous comment (or book/paper review) can be very respectful and thoughtful.

  16. To write a review is worth a book, well that's showing respect for the reader!