#ProfGiri #LovingMyFacultyLife An amazing year of my faculty life!

A few days back, when I logged into Facebook, it asked me if I wanted to make a video of the year gone by. That was the trigger for this blog. Just a peek at the year gone by… a collection of the #ProfGiri that I did this year, 2016. It has been one roller coaster ride!

Since it is about ProfGiri, let me begin with students, my lifeline, in every sense of the term. Students who took courses with me, both at the  Undergraduate level and Masters have joined amazing institutes for their further studies, like Carnegie Mellon University (my alma mater), GaTech, UIUC, USC, ASU, and other brilliant places in the world. Some students also started working at places like Apple, GoPro, MasterCard as UX Designers, or moved from one place to another better avenue like Microsoft in the US, etc. Through the year, I was also able to host some bright students from outside IIITD, students came from IIT Guwahati, College of Engineering Guindy, NIT Trichy, IIIT Sri City, and other institutes from India.

Traveling for work and meeting IIITD alums is something I always enjoy doing; this year has been splendid in this regard. Looking back it looks like I have met many brilliant and successful alums around the world. My earlier blogs on meeting alums from Europe and alums from the US. I also got a chance to meet many other alums within different cities in the country. I graduated one PhD student Paridhi Jain this year, who is now working at Accenture Research. This year’s graduation at IIITD was a treat for me. It rained awards for students who have been working with me! Megha Arora received the chancellor’s award, Mansi Panwar & Shashank Gautham received the award for  best BTP thesis, and Sarthak Ahuja received the Best All-Rounder Student award. I couldn’t have asked for more. An exciting period in the year is when admits from graduate schools around the world start coming in. That’s when I know where all my bright students are headed for higher studies. I had written a blog “This is Why I Love My Job: Students are the backbone of Faculty life!” just dedicated to all those students who have made me and my institute proud. Most of these students and other students living in the US and Europe usually back home for a winter break and so it is alum-visiting time around Christmas/New Year. This year we have already had 4 of our Alums come-by, many are scheduled in the next 2 – 3 weeks. Last but not the least, I had a good crop of research papers published / accepted this year; to name a few venues, CHI 2017 (camera ready version getting prepared), CSCW 2017 paper, BHCI 2016 paper, SocInfo 2016, etc. Rest of the papers can be seen from our publications page.

Another integral part of #ProfGiri is Teaching. The Privacy and Security in Online Social Media course that I taught on NPTEL had 5,250 students signed up. It was a very different experience, my blog on the experience. At IIITD, I taught Designing Human Centered Systems in Spring 2016. It was highly appreciated by the students, which reflected in the course feedback. A big thankyou to all those students. The course always ends with a Building Better Interface (BBI). This year’s edition of BBI was particularly a grand success with a variety of projects and students displaying their creative front to the best. The Foundation to Computer Security course in Fall 2016 also received high rating from the students. It is probably not just about high rating, this feedback is a healthy platform where students can communicate what was good and what went wrong in a course. It gives a sense of satisfaction and creates motivation for a faculty to improvise on the course content and delivery mechanism.

ProfGiri does not end at IIITD, I do it outside too. This year I was invited to some prestigious institutes in and outside the country to give talks and lectures on various topics associated with my research. Some Indian academic institutes I visited this year were, IIIT Hyderabad, IIT KGP, IIT Guwahati and, LNMIIT. I visited The Berkman Center for Internet Safety at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), GaTech, Northeastern University (NEU) in Boston, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County in a span of one week. It was one of kind US visit, full of talks and, meeting alums in multiple cities. It was in this trip that I met my advisor after seven long years! It was really nice to relive some old memories and update each other on current activities. In the Europe, I visited ETH Zurich, GESIS Cologne, Germany and, Bern Switzerland for an APWG workshop. I also visited Singapore to give a talk in a workshop, and visited NUS; thanks to my alums who are in these places, who spend time with me when I am visiting their city / campus. This is definitely a high point of profgiri! One continent I hadn’t visited until this year was Australia, a week-long visit to University of New South Wales (UNSW) gave me an opportunity to see that part of the world too. I met some very accomplished faculty and hardworking students there. I also had the opportunity this year to be part of the Microsoft Faculty Summit in Pune. Another major highlight of this year was the TEDx talk. I was invited to give a TEDx talk by TEDx Juhu, Mumbai. I am not sure of how the talk went or if I enjoyed the whole process but it definitely was an amazing experience.

This year was one of the best years for research funds that I have raised as a faculty, I received 1,68,70,000 INR from Government of India and some other funds from different industry organizations. This year was also exciting for two very different reasons, one I got added to the ACM Distinguished Speakers of the world, and got an offer to be an Affiliate Faculty at IIIT Hyderabad (I have spent 2003 / 2004 also at IIITH, so it was a different feeling!).

This year was very productive in terms of kick starting interesting projects, some ideas getting translated into technology, used by several users and appreciated by the media.

  • KillFie – was the most talked about project that I have had in the recent years. I had written a blog just about our experience with news media. Never had any of my project garnered so much media attention. There were many friends of mine who got to know it themselves on different media and did not know that I was part of the team doing this work, and were surprised when they got to know it. Among many others (100+ popular venues), this work was on MIT Tech Review, front page of Economic Times in all editions in India, front page of Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Home page news of CMU & IIIT Delhi, many Radio channels and some TV channels. Stay tuned for the app that we are building! Paper can be found here. Below is an image which captures the different new media services where KillFie was covered, and the languages in which it was covered.
  • News Bugle, a Free basics news RSS feed app. This is an RSS aggregator service that gives a live update of news from top sources under different categories. This has about 800+ active users every day.
  • Google Chrome Spying Extensions. We analysed 43,000 browser extensions, and found 218 spying users’ sensitive information and sharing it to the creator of the extension. Anu’s blog on the results & Paper.
  • Helix – We developed this tool to help identify the tag in an image uploaded on Facebook. Chrome extension & Firefox extension.

An annual event I have been conducting for the past four years is the Security and Privacy Symposium. This year’s edition was held at IIITD campus and was attended by 160+ people, including students, faculty, government and industry. Pictures from the event.

To conclude, I can definitely say I had a very satisfying year, lots of lessons learned, lots of brick walls faced, many scaled, some in progress … Hope to continue #ProfGiri in the coming year and many more years to come 🙂

Killed it with a #Killfie: Journey from an Idea to a Global Media Phenomenon

31,000+ likes, 34,000+ shares, 1,000+ Tweets!

Most research goes through some natural phases; formulating the problem statement, collecting and analyzing data, submitting a research paper to a conference, writing a technical report, and then hoping the paper will get accepted at the conference and the work will be appreciated/acknowledged by the community (happily ever after!). I had never imagined that one such research topic, which went through some initial natural phases, will take such an interesting turn at some point and receive such an overwhelming amount of attention!

A lot has been said and written about our recent work (you can infer that from the title, and see ‘Who is talking about this research’) both in the technical community and press. I want to share my behind-the-scenes experience of going through this amazing phase of research – when it gets hard to count the number of mentions about your work returned by a quick google search! A news article about someone dying just after taking a selfie was posted on the Precog mailing list on June 2, 2016. Definitely not a conventional cause of death, this disturbing news made some members of the group to dig into the what, how and why of selfie deaths around the world. It was just a small idea that we started working on, discussions trickled, and some compelling observations followed. All culminated into a well written paper, submitted to a conference and the technical report going online on Arxiv on 7th November.

The report was first picked up by Sun UK news and some twitter handles like VickiTurk  on 9th November and what followed was a whirlwind of news articles and technology blogs across the globe, and across all media. It had become a sensation! It seemed to have touched all time zones from California (GMT-8) to New Zealand (GMT+13). The news buzz peaked on 18 November when three of us, Hemank Lamba, Megha Arora and myself, went on a spree of giving interviews. We had news reporters wanting answers over email, phone and skype, following up with us through the day. Here is what 18th November entailed for all three of us:

  • 0700 hrs IST: Call with CBC Canada, me sitting in IIT Kharagpur guest house and Hemank and Megha taking the call from Pittsburgh
  • 1000 hrs IST: Call with BBC UK Radio, I was taking it alone from in IIT Kharagpur, CSE department
  • 18 00 hrs EST: BBC World TV News, Hemank took this alone from Pittsburgh
  • 2130 hrs IST: NBC US, I took the call during my transit from Delhi Airport to IIITD
  • 2330 hrs IST: CMU, Hemank and Megha sitting in Gates building in CMU and I was at home in Delhi

This does not include the 25+ unique emails that we probably sent out answering questions or fixing timeslots for more interviews. While 3 of us were engrossed in this craziness, Mayank Vachher, Varun Bharadhwaj, and Divyansh Agarwal had their hands full providing backend support, collating the hits that we were getting in news and social media, and getting more specific insights from the data which the reporters were interested in. Three of them played an integral role in ensuring that we had a smooth run. In the meantime, we also had our group meetings to discuss the feedback that we are getting from people around the world.

The news about this research has been spreading across many newspapers, and online social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. As of this moment, the following numbers summarize the traction garnered by this research:

  • Total Articles written (unique ones): 160
  • Total Facebook posts: 100+
  • Total Facebook likes: 32,108
  • Total Facebook shares (shares of the articles + posts): 33,937
  • Total Facebook comments: 2,795
  • Total Twitter tweets: 1000+
  • Total Twitter RTs (of all the above tweets): 1075
  • Total videos created on the project: 15
  • Radio interviews: 11
  • TV interviews: 2
  • Total number of requests for the dataset: 6

Below is a tag cloud capturing all the major news agencies which featured our work and the work was featured in 17 different languages.

Lessons learned through this media frenzy:

  • For a research to get popular, the topic has to be relevant to ‘people’
  • Reporters ask interesting ‘research’ questions, be prepared
  • Sociological/psychological studies around ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the research are important
  • Feedback from people is helpful in identifying potential issues in the research
  • Having captivating titles for the paper helps

Below is an infographic capturing the research work.

For those interested in knowing more about this research, here are some useful links:

Teaching #PSOSMonNPTEL in a country of a billion: Experiences and take aways

Recently finished teaching my first course on NPTEL (National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning). NPTEL is like a Coursera of India. It is a joint initiative of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and is managed by faculty from IIT, Madras.

I taught my signature course Privacy and Security in Online Social Media (PSOSM). The course was assigned noc16-cs07 number. I have taught this course previously at IIITD (CSE648, 4 times) and at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil (2 times). Below is the flier and here is the teaser video we created and used for the promotion of the course. The registration started on May 1 and went till July 15, by the end of this deadline, I had about 2200 registrations, but that number went up manifold when the registration date was extended by a couple of days. All efforts in promoting the course paid well, I had 5250+ students signed up for the course.

I had four amazing TAs assisting me on this course, all being my own Ph.D. students. Anupama Aggarwal, Prateek Dewan, Srishti Gupta and Niharika Sachdeva. They not only helped with tutorials, quizzes and tests but also functioned as tech support throughout the course. Special thanks to Prateek who took care of editing the videos and responding to the mailing list (there were even emails to prateek, referring him as faculty of the course!) and Niharika for managing the entire NPTEL portal.

I was getting mentally prepared for spending more time in preparing for this course, but it took way more time than what I had foreseen. It was my first time using Camtasia for recording lectures. Previously I have had my lectures recorded while I taught physically in a class. It feels very natural teaching a class full of curious students, interacting with them, asking / answering questions, but it is quite a different feeling teaching a class consisting of only one laptop and that too in your own office!

After some initial teething problems with recording and uploading, the course went on smoothly. As of writing this blog, I have 23,000 views on all the lecture videos that we uploaded as part of the course. Apart from videos, I also had one AMA (Ask Me Anything) session and one physical meeting at IIITD, where students could ask questions, clarify doubts or share their concerns directly with me and the TAs.

What the students felt, I will share later in this blog but personally it was a very satisfying experience. Many students all over India got to know me. Students from many smaller towns have taken this course. I received emails from college principals from tier II, tier III cities saying they had made this course a part of their curriculum and they have their best students taking this course. In my opinion, this is the biggest advantage of such online courses, it breaks geographical barriers and makes quality education and knowledge accessible to a larger audience. Out of the 5250 students, 152 students registered for the final exam and appeared for the exam; students have to pay some nominal fee to take this exam. I was super excited to have so many students pay for the course and take the exam.

NPTEL maintains a mailing list of all students registered for the course and that acts as a good medium for all of us; faculty, TAs and students to interact on a regular basis. This is where I was told that I have an American accent when I speak L or that in some videos my voice was very feeble. Also, as a practice, NPTEL requests students to fill a feedback form and shares the feedback with the faculty teaching the course and students also sent some through the mailing list. It feels very heartening to see some comments from the students and I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate them for their time and effort in finishing the course and giving a constructive feedback on the course. Some comments:

  • “Thanks for giving me a sense of satisfaction of doing a course.“
  • “Thanks a million to the whole Team. One of the best online course I ever had. There were days when I started posting queries at 10PM in the forum and TA’s helped me till I get what I wanted, some of the discussions went on till 1AM too. This shows how dedicated the team is!.”
  • “Feedback for an awesome course like this is really worth. Thank you PK sir for opening up such a treasure of knowledge. The best part of the course and it actually made the course different was the meet up at IIITD and also the hangouts session. The tutorials are really nicely presented and challenging for us.”
  • “I have gone through couple of other NPTEL certifications in recent years but this one was the best I would say…. Special thanks to Dr. PK. He was very interactive and an enthusiast. “
  • “firstly i am happy for taking this course, i did well in exam and very very thanks to all.. teaching faculty.. all teaching faculty did beyond the expectations..now i realise what are the skills  i have..  and thank you PK sir..and  lastly i say thank u NPTEL team.”
  • “5/5… Thank you IIIT-D, PK sir and the awesome TAs.

Below is the certificate that my TAs got for helping with the course.

Lessons learned / suggestions for doing a good job with teaching on NPTEL:

  • Prepare the lectures and record it before-hand (well before the date of uploading)
  • Have wonderful TAs, they are the secret for success!
  • Try to have Ask Me Anything or physical meeting sessions at least a couple of times
  • Keep the mailing list very active
  • If you are teaching a course that you teach otherwise in campus, please be aware that the students taking the course are not so well equipped compared to students in your class in campus.

I would definitely love to teach a course on NPTEL again! Until then goodbye to the NPTEL community!

#IIITDStudentsRock in the US!

Continuing on my fascination about exciting things that IIITD students do around the world (see my earlier blog post on #IIITDStudentsRock in Europe! and my meetup with students in Singapore and Bengaluru), I was traveling in the US (east coast) in the second week of October when I met some IIITD Alums. It is generally exciting to see alums of IIITD pursuing higher studies in the US and some coming back to academia after a stint in the industry; you will see many such examples in this blog!

Pittsburgh / Carnegie Mellon University (My alma mater): As most of you know, this place is special for me! Below are the students who are at CMU now and I was able to meet all of them.

  • Hemank Lamba: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2012 (first batch). Currently pursuing a Ph.D. from the School of Computer Science at CMU. Has interned at IBM, Newcastle University, Data Science for Social Good. Has probably taken all the courses that I taught during his time 🙂 Was one of the first B.Tech. thesis that I had at IIITD.
  • Megha Arora: Finished her B.Tech. this year, 2016. Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science at CMU. Has interned at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland, University of Southern California, and EMC^2. Has taken all courses from me and she has actually spent the last 3+ years with Precog.
  • Mudita Khurana: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2013. Currently pursuing Masters in Information Security at CMU. Spent time at Sapient, and Accenture during time between IIITD & CMU. Has taken some of my classes.
  • Rushil Khuarana: Finished his B.Tech. in 2013. Finished MS in HCI from GaTech in 2015. Currently pursuing Ph.D. in HCI at CMU. Did some very exciting project on technology for physically challenged users in my Designing in Human Centred Systems course!

Below is a picture with all of them, taken inside the Gates Hillman Centre at CMU.

Atlanta / GaTech: From a place like CMU which I knew more than any other academic campuses, I went to GaTech; this was my first visit to GaTech! I have booked tickets twice in the past and did not end up going there, once cancelled the trip from India, and the other one, the flight did not take off from DCA airport because of snow! At last the jinx was broken and I was so happy to go to GaTech. It was nice to see students from first batch of IIITD, 2012 to the current batch of IIITD, 2016 studying at GaTech, i.e. to show that students of IIITD come back to academia after some years of work experience. I learned that “Georgia Tech.” is referred to as the “Tech” or “GaTech” and never “Georgia Tech.” Below are the students who are at GaTech now and I was able to meet all of them.

  • Rohan Katyal: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2016. Currently pursuing Masters in Human Computer Interaction at GaTech. Has interned at Google Summer of Code, EMC, and Inria France. Taken all my courses at IIITD.
  • Bhanu Verma: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2012, first batch of B.Tech. from IIITD.    Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science at GaTech. Has interned at CISCO. Spent some years in the industry before coming back to academia. Has probably taken all the courses that I taught during his time 🙂
  • Nikita Juneja: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2014, second batch of B.Tech. Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science at GaTech. Interestingly, she has never taken any of my classes! Worked at EMC & Flipkart before coming back to academia. She was also at the IIITD Alums meet in Bengaluru in Summer 2015.
  • Vedant Das Swain: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2016. Currently pursuing Masters in HCI at GaTech. Has probably taken all my courses! Should be credited to some of the cool fliers that I have used in the last 1 year or so!
  • Nilaksh Das (not a IIITD alum, RA of IIITD): Graduated from NSIT with a B.Tech. in 2014. Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science at GaTech. Worked for 1.5 years with me at PreCog full time before going to GaTech.

Below is a picture with all students from GaTech; you can see in the background, that “First session. Oct 7, 1888” at GaTech.

Baltimore / UMBC: My next stop in this trip was University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).  During my visit, I got a chance to see the inauguration of the new PI^2 Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab.  As in CMU & in GaTech, got a chance to meet with some of my own students, below is a list of students who are doing some cool stuff at UMBC. It is also an incredible feeling when your own students from IIITD are working together in a different context now, i.e. Aditi my first Ph.D. student and Sudip my first Dual degree student from IIITD are currently working together on a project at UMBC!

  • Aditi Gupta: My first Ph.D. student graduated in July 2014. Currently a Post-doc at UMBC.
  • Sudip Mittal: Graduated with a B.Tech. & M.Tech. in 2014. Currently pursuing Ph.D. in Computer Science at UMBC. Has interned at GE Research. Probably has taken all my courses at IIITD, except HCI. Completed his BTP and MTP with me.
  • Srishty Saha: Graduated with a B.Tech. in 2016. Currently pursuing Masters in Computer Science at UMBC. Completed her BTP with me. Has probably taken all the courses that I taught at IIITD.

Below is a picture with Srishty & Sudip from UMBC, in front of the ebiquity Lab.

I always try and connect with students while traveling, something that I rejoice so much these days. It is always fun to sit with IIITD alums and talk about their time at IIITD and update them on happenings in campus. Some of them are very curious about things in campus and some are already quite updated too. I request all students of IIITD to update their current city in Facebook, this will help me connect while traveling. Continue IIITDing!

If you are an alum of IIITD and if you are planning to attend the Retrace on 7th of Jan, 2017, please drop me a note, will be happy to catch up with you.

This is Why I Love My Job: Students are the backbone of Faculty life!

It is that time of the academic year when convocation at IIITD just got done (Aug 27, 2016), and all graduating students and Research Associates have moved on to the next phase in life (started work, grad school in India, grad school outside India, etc.). Below is the picture from the convocation #IIITDConvo5! Convocation message by the Chief Guest Mr. Naveen Tewari, Founder & CEO InMobi, “Do what you love” “Have faith” “Crazy is good”!

There are a few reasons why I love my job: (1) majority of the times, I am surrounded by young, energetic, and smart people; (2) most students are successful in doing whatever they are doing, so there is a lot of positive energy and excitement around me; (3) of late, I have started seeing students coming back with an incident or gyan that I gave at some point in time during their interactions with me which has helped them and this feels good! As a faculty, I would like to believe that I play some role (hopefully, positive) in shaping the students’ academic life and sometimes beyond.

Below is the list of students (arranged in alphabetical order of last name) who have spent significant amount of time working with me and / or I have written Letter of Recommendations (LoRs) for their admissions / job and are now moving onto the next page of life with full zest and enthusiasm.

  1. Megha Arora: Has taken many of my courses, did her UG thesis work with me. She received the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for the batch of 2016. Starting her Masters’ in Computer Science program at Carnegie Mellon University (my alma mater!).
  2. Sonia Dalal: Has taken some of my courses, and did an independent project with me. Starting at Bloomberg London.
  3. Shashank Gautam: Has done some of my courses, did his UG thesis on MeriAwaaz with me. Received the Best BTP Award in Entrepreneurship! Joining KPMG in Delhi.
  4. Sonal Goel: Has taken some of my courses, completed her M.Tech. thesis with me, “Image Search for Improved Law and Order: Search, Analyse, Predict image spread on Twitter.” She is continuing to work with me as a Research Associate.
  5. Shantanu Goel: Has taken many of my courses, including Designing Human Centred Systems, and Privacy and Security in Online Social Media. Started his Masters in Management at Singapore Management University.
  6. Shrey Gupta: Has taken some of my courses, and completed his UG thesis with me. Started MBA at Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi.
  7. Ananya Harsh Jha: Ananya is taking a break of one seemster to work with a startup enabling enable drug discovery for different strains of cancer.
  8. Gandharv Kapoor: Has taken many of my courses, including Designing Human Centred Systems. Starting Masters in Computer Science at Stony Brook University.
  9. Aarushi Karnany: Has taken many of my courses, including Designing Human Centered Systems and did an interesting Independent project with me. Starting Masters in Computer Science at University of Florida.
  10. Rohan Katyal: Has taken many of my courses, did his UG thesis work with me. Starting his Masters’ in Human Computer Interaction at Georgia Tech.
  11. Mudita Khurana: Graduated from IIITD in 2013, spent time in the industry and will be starting her Masters’ in Information Systems at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University.
  12. Jayasi Mehar: Has taken multiple courses with me, did her UG thesis work with me, co-founded Backpack, a learning management system that we built. Will be starting MS in Computer Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  13. Pradyumn Nand: Received his M.Tech. from IIITD, completed his Masters thesis with me. Joined MakeMyTrip.com recently.
  14. Mansi Panwar: Took some of my courses, completed her UG thesis with me on MeriAwaaz. Received the Best BTP Award in Entrepreneurship! She’s managing MeriAwaaz now.
  15. Gandeevan Raghuraman: Graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy / Chennai in 2015. Spent some time with me as Research Associate, and will be starting his Masters’ at INI, Carnegie Mellon University.
  16. Hareesh Ravi: Spent close to 2 years with CERC, Cybersecurity Centre @ IIITD. Will be starting his Ph.D. work with Dr. Mubbasir Kapadia in the Computer Science Department at Rutgers University, working on problems in computer vision.
  17. Srishty Saha: Has taken many of my courses and did her UG thesis work with me. Will be joining the Masters’ in Computer Science program at UMBC.
  18. Yatharth Sharma: Spent more than a year as a Research Associate with us; he is a UG from JIIT. Started Masters’ in Computer Science at Arizona State University.  
  19. Archit Srivastava: Started working with me from May 2014, was working with me even during the semester. Graduated with B.Tech. from NIT Durgapur in 2016. Started Masters’ in Computer Science at University of Southern California
  20. Vedant Das Swain: Has taken many of my courses, helped me with many designs that I have made in the last few years. He’s starting his Masters’ in Human Computer Interaction at Georgia Tech.
  21. Aakriti Tayal: Completed her UG thesis with me.

Below is picture with most of the above mentioned students. I sincerely thank each one of them in adding some colour in my faculty life!

I wrote LoRs for a few other students who received graduate school admissions and jobs this year, these are students who may have taken only one course with me or one Independent project with me.

It is very satisfying to see students achieve what they want to achieve and even more satisfying to feel that as a faculty we play a role in their achievements.

Here is a pointer to the blog that I wrote in 2014 about the graduating students and their next steps http://precog.iiitd.edu.in/blog/2014/06/students-are-the-dna-of-faculty/ Many of them are successful in what they are doing, some are doing great things now!

A Picture is Worth 32.33 Words: Importance of Analyzing Images on Online Social Media

Do you remember the last time you rushed or saw any one rush to get an “autograph” of a famous personality? No, right? Because those days are long gone. Today’s generation believes in taking a selfie instead. And why not, digital media is forever, or at least, it can easily outlive a piece of paper with an autograph! There is an explosion of data that is generated on the Online Social Media (OSM), we see 422,340 tweets on Twitter, 3.3 million updates on Facebook, 55,555 pictures uploaded on Instagram every second [1]. In the recent past, with the updates, large fraction of it is images / pictures; one analysis shows that 1.8 billion photos are shared on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp every day [2]. It is also found that updates with images increase the engagement of the posts, like [3] shows 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets when the tweet has an image compared to only text updates. Another article reports 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook have an image [4]. Researchers are also studying what makes an image popular on networks like Flickr [5].

In last few years there have been many academic papers, technologies in real world all looking at this growth of content and analyzing them; we see most of them analyzing only the textual part of the content. Here is a non-comprehensive list of publications in some of the top tier conferences in this space; all of these papers look at content generated in English [6 – 20]. Some researchers are also looking at studying the sentiment and textual characteristics of non-English content on OSM [21 – 27]. Languages include, Farsi, and Hindi.

I have been curious for a little while now about non-textual content on OSM; some of my recent interest has been to look at images and videos on OSM. I recently had my student Sonal Goel investigate images on OSM, she completed her Masters thesis “Image Search for Improved Law and Order: Search, Analyse, Predict image spread on Twitter” where she predicted the virality of images on OSM using tweets from multiple events. Prateek Dewan, my Ph.D. student and I have been playing around the broader topic of images and OSM. We believe that the inferences that we draw from textual analysis can be different from the analysis done with images from the same posts. For example, textual analysis done in Hurricane Sandy [28] and Boston Marathon [29] could have classified the posts with images (along with text) to be legitimate, whereas, if we analyze the images itself it may be fake. Below is a fake image which went viral during Sandy, but textual analysis for the posts with these images could have leaned towards credible content.

 Sentiment analysis of the OSM content is used to make decisions on the pulse of citizens, customers, etc. Sometimes the sentiment of the textual content is very different from the images posted with the text. Below image was posted with the content “Thank you Piers Morgan for speaking truth. #PrayForParis #MuslimsStandWithParis“ [30] Text analysis will give positive / neutral sentiment, while the content from the image attached with the post is negative. We found other examples to substantiate this point, post being negative and image being more positive [33, 34] and post being positive and image being more negative [35].

Just to test our hypothesis of how much information is spread through images, we analyzed some events for which we have been collecting data. Below is the table which shows data for 9 events; consistently we see that on average about 20 – 25% of the content has only images without text. In most of the analysis that is done now with textual content will miss this information. In one of the event that we are analyzing now, we were able to extract text from 8,200 images; these images were posted on OSM with no text. To understand the amount of text that are shared through images, we got images annotated and using Tesseract OCR [31], we were able to get 1,030,471 words from 31,869 images.

Column “with text” refers to the number of posts containing the “message” field as returned by the Graph API. This field contains the status / text message posted by the user. The “with image” column represents the number of posts where the “type” of post is “photo.” Facebook automatically determines this “type” while a user is composing a post. This field is assigned to ALL posts, and can take up one of the following values: link, status, photo, video, offer [32]. This makes column “text and image” an intersection of previous two columns. Similarly, “image and no text” is a subset of column “with image”, and “text and no image” is a subset of column “with text.” All values in the table in parenthesis is percentage value.

Event Total posts Posts with text  Posts with image  Posts with text and image  Posts with image and no text  Posts with text and no image 
AirAsia flight missing 2014  22,820 6,868 (30)  10,192 (44)  538 (2) 9,654 (42) 6,330 (28) 
Cricket world cup 2015  20,960 17,217 (82) 7,463 (36) 5,756 (27)  1,707 (8)  11,416 (54) 
Ebola outbreak 2014 67,453 28,030 (42) 12,386 (18) 1,553 (2) 10,833 (16) 26,477 (39)
Euro cup 2016 109,189 77,355 (71) 61,119 (56) 40,518 (37) 20,601 (19) 36,837 (34)
Wimbeldon 2015 111,417 80,469 (72) 52,756 (47) 37,862 (34) 14,894 (13) 42,607 (38)
Paris attacks 2015  131,548 78,803 (60) 75,277 (57) 32,861 (25) 41,416 (32) 45,942 (35)
Malasiyan MH17 crash  2014 22,490 5,270 (23) 2,947 (13) 316 (1) 2,631 (12) 4,954 (22)
IPL8 cricket 2015  48,329 31,526 (65) 19,116 (40) 9,251 (19) 9,865 (20) 22,275 (46)
Gaza unrest 2015  31,537 10,142 (46) 6,157 (20) 1,716 (5) 4,441 (14) 8,426 (27) 

Given this growth of images and pictures on OSM, and less work done on topics related to OSM & images, there is a great scope for contributing in this domain. There are full-fledged and dedicated traditional conferences like IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), and IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) which look at images. There needs some knowledge transfer from these classic domains to OSM. It may also be the case that, in the past, image analysis was not as advanced as it is now, so, advancements in image analysis, including neural networks now makes it possible to do some really cool image analysis which could have been difficult or impossible to do it earlier. Given the large amount of data on OSM, and with advanced image analysis techniques, we should be able to answer some very exciting research questions.

Some specific topics and problems that I think that will be interesting in this space of OSM and images (these are just my random thoughts and they are non-comprehensive):

  • Spread of untrustworthy / Mis-information on OSM through images
  • Leakage of personal information like current location, etc. through images on OSM 
  • Leakage of sensitive information like DOB, gender, etc. through images on OSM

If you are interested in keeping updated about our activities at Precog, you can visit our website or our Facbeook page If you have any suggestions or ideas to explore in this direction, feel free to write to me.

Acknowledgements: I thank my brilliant students Prateek Dewan, Niharika Sachdeva, Indira Sen, Kushagra Singh, Megha Arora, Hemank Lamba, and Varun Bharadhwaj for helping with putting together these thoughts / some numbers / analysis in this post. Thanks to all members of Precog group where the idea of studying images and trying it out from different perspectives started.


  1. http://www.smartinsights.com/internet-marketing-statistics/happens-online-60-seconds/

  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/were-now-posting-a-staggering-18-billion-photos-to-social-media-every-day-2014-5

  3. http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/twitter-images-study/493206

  4. http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/1749-photos-make-up-93-of-the-most-engaging-posts-on-facebook

  5. https://people.csail.mit.edu/khosla/papers/www2014_khosla.pdf

  6. Pollyanna Gonçalves, Matheus Araújo, Fabrício Benevenuto, and Meeyoung Cha. 2013. Comparing and combining sentiment analysis methods. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Online social networks (COSN ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 27-38. DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2512938.2512951

  7. Tomer Simon , Avishay Goldberg, Limor Aharonson-Daniel, Dmitry Leykin, Bruria Adini. Twitter in the Cross Fire—The Use of Social Media in the Westgate Mall Terror Attack in Kenya, Plos-One.

  8. Saritha SK, Devshriroy D (2013) Semantic Orientation of Sentiment Analysis on Social Media. International Journal of Computers & Technology 11 (4) 2401–2409.

  9. Munmun De Choudhury,Scott Counts, and Eric Horvitz.2013. Predicting Postpartum Changes in Emotion and Behavior via Social Media. In Proc. CHI ’13

  10. Munmun De Choudhury, Scott Counts,Eric J Horvitz, and Aaron Hoff. 2014. characterizing and predicting postpartum depression from shared facebook data. In Proc. CSCW ’14. ACM, 626–638.

  11. Munmun De Choudhury, Andres Monroy-Hernandez, and Gloria Mark. 2014. “Narco” Emotions: Affect and Desensitization in Social Media during the Mexican Drug War. In Proc. CHI ’14. ACM.

  12. Satarupa Guha, Tanmoy Chakraborty, Samik Datta, Mohit Kumar, Vasudeva Varma. TweetGrep: Weakly Supervised Joint Retrieval and Sentiment Analysis of Topical Tweets. In the proceedings of ICWSM 2016.

  13. Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy. A Semi-Automatic Method for Efficient Detection of Stories on Social Media. In the proceedings of ICWSM 2016.

  14. David Alvarez-Melis, Martin Saveski. Topic Modeling in Twitter: Aggregating Tweets by Conversations. In the proceedings of ICWSM 2016.

  15. Tim Althoff, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Dan Jurafsky. How to Ask for a Favor: A Case Study on the Success of Altruistic Requests. In the proceedings of ICWSM 2014.

  16. Efthymios Kouloumpis, Theresa Wilson & Johanna Moore 2011. Twitter Sentiment Analysis: The Good the Bad and the OMG! (ICWSM ’11)

  17. Alexander Pak and Patrick Paroubek 2010. Twitter as a Corpus for Sentiment Analysis and Opinion Mining. In LREC, vol. 10, pp. 1320-1326.

  18. Aliaksei Severyn, and Alessandro Moschitti. Twitter sentiment analysis with deep convolutional neural networks. Proceedings of the 38th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval. ACM, 2015.

  19. Cícero Nogueira dos Santos, and Maira Gatti. Deep Convolutional Neural Networks for Sentiment Analysis of Short Texts. COLING. 2014.

  20. Duyu Tang, Furu Wei, Nan Yang, Ming Zhou, Ting Liu, and Bing Qin. Learning Sentiment-Specific Word Embedding for Twitter Sentiment Classification. In ACL (1), pp. 1555-1565. 2014.

  21. 1. Vaziripour, Elham, Christophe Giraud-Carrier, and Daniel Zappala. Analyzing the Political Sentiment of Tweets in Farsi. Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. 2016.

  22. 2. Peng, Nanyun, Yiming Wang, and Mark Dredze. Learning Polylingual Topic Models from Code-Switched Social Media Documents. ACL (2). 2014.

  23. 3. Weerkamp, Wouter, Simon Carter, and Manos Tsagkias. How people use twitter in different languages. (2011): 1-2.

  24. 4. Volkova, Svitlana, Theresa Wilson, and David Yarowsky. Exploring Demographic Language Variations to Improve Multilingual Sentiment Analysis in Social Media. EMNLP. 2013.

  25. Anupam Jamatia, Bjorn Gambäck, and Amitava Das.  2015. Part-of-Speech Tagging for Code-Mixed English-Hindi Twitter and Facebook Chat Messages. Proceedings of Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing, page 239.

  26. Sujan Kumar Saha, Partha Sarathi Ghosh, Sudeshna Sarkar, and Pabitra Mitra. 2008. Named Entity Recognition in Hindi using Maximum Entropy and Transliteration. Research journal on Computer Science and Computer Engineering with Applications, pp. 33–41.

  27. Ayush Kumar, Sarah Kohail, Asif Ekbal, and Chris Biemann. 2015. IIT-TUDA: System for sentiment analysis in indian languages using lexical acquisition. Mining Intelligence and Knowledge Exploration, pages 684–693.

  28. Gupta, A., Lamba, H., Kumaraguru, P., and Joshi, A. Faking Sandy: Characterizing and Identifying Fake Images on Twitter during Hurricane Sandy. 2nd International Workshop on Privacy and Security in Online Social Media (PSOSM), in conjunction with the 22th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW) (2013).

  29. Gupta, A., Lamba, H., and Kumaraguru, P. $1.00 per RT #BostonMarathon #PrayForBoston: Analyzing Fake Content on Twitter. IEEE APWG eCrime Research Summit (eCRS), 2013.

  30. https://www.facebook.com/americanmuslims1/photos/a.809524959106862.1073741828.527806667278694/990645217661501/?type=1&theater

  31. https://github.com/tesseract-ocr/tesseract

  32. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/reference/v2.7/post#read

  33. https://www.facebook.com/ChristianChronicle/photos/a.83579936833.99565.11127431833/10153806013491834/?type=3&theater

  34. https://www.facebook.com/roberta.metsola/photos/a.406836966100205.1073741826.406824526101449/839065439544020/?type=3&theater

  35. https://www.facebook.com/516601545154233/photos/a.519535361527518.1073741828.516601545154233/574613042686416/?type=3&theater

#IIITDStudentsRock in Europe!

It is amazing to see IIITD students going places. In the last 3 months I met many students / Alums of IIITD in different parts of Europe. It almost feels like, I can find a IIITD alum in most major cities that I travel. #LovingMyFacultyLife Here I present IIITD ambassadors who are making a difference in the world, listing them in reverse chronological order of meeting with them. Thanks to each one of them for taking time to catch up. 

Zurich –  About a week before my visit, I did this search on Facebook, “my friends in zürich” something I do very regularly before I visit a city! Below are 2 students whom I met there (more details about them and my connections with them). Below is a pic with Mridula and Aritra during my visit.

  • Mridula SinghGraduated from IIITD with an M.Tech. in 2014. She has taken my CSE 645: Privacy and Security in Online Social Media course. She started Ph.D. at ETH Zurich in May 2016. She spent the time 2014 – 2016 in Xerox Research Centre in India (XRCI); many of our ambassadors are at XRCI, including my own Ph.D. student, Paridhi Jain
  • Aritra Dar : Graduated from IIITD with an M.Tech. in 2015. Started Ph.D. at ETH Zurich in May 2016. He has never taken a class with me, but he was a member of Cybersecurity Education and Research Centre (CERC)He also spent his time 2015 – 2016 in Xerox Research Centre in India (XRCI). 

My host in ETH Zurich is the Ph.D. advisor for both Mridula and Aritra, he was so happy with the performance of both of them. He appreciated the skills that both had and was very happy to have them as his Ph.D. students. As a faculty, we are always pleased to hear good things about our students.

During this visit to ETH, I also realized, in addition to direct influence or impact by a faculty, how much of indirect influence or impact that a faculty can have on students of his / her institute. My host in ETH mentioned [paraphrased] “I would not have looked at Mridula and Artira’s Ph.D. admission application, if I did not know PK. IIIT Delhi is not an institute which ETH was aware of, and I had to do some paperwork to get Mridula & Aritra admitted.” Both Mridula and Artitra are not my students, and I did not write a letter of recommendations for them too.  I was more than elated and happy to hear this and realized the indirect influence.

I met with Prateek Gaur and Srishty Grover in Berlin.

  • Prateek Gaur : Graduated from IIITD with a B.Tech. in 2012, our first batch of B.Tech. 🙂 He finished his Masters, Information Technology for Business Intelligence from Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. He is currently working as a Senior Data Engineer at Automotive Startup in Berlin. Prateek has taken many of my courses in the first 3 years at IIITD, like, Research Methods, and Foundations of Computer Security
  • Srishty GroverGraduated from IIITD with a B.Tech. in 2013. She is currently finishing her MBA from Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, New Delhi. As part of her MBA she was in Berlin at ESCP Europe and now is interning at Eurosender in Berlin. Srishty has also taken many of my courses, including CSE 501: Designing Human Centred Systems, and Foundations in Computer Security. 
Below is a picture with Prateek & Srishty.
  • Megha AroraFinished her B.Tech. at IIITD this year, 2016. She is currently interning at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland. She is heading to CMU in mid Aug to do her Masters in Computer Science incidentally my Alma Mater too! She had a paper to present at 10the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM-16) in Cologne, Germany. I was also attending the conference. Here is a blog that Megha wrote about her paper presentation and here are the Slides of her talk! Megha has taken almost all courses from me and she has actually spent the last 3+ years with Precog. Below is a picture with Megha outside the venue of the conference. 
  • Aditya GulatiGraduated from IIITD with a B.Tech. in 2014. Spent some time in Industry, now doing Masters in Saarland University and he is focussing on HCI. He told me that he has taken CSE 501: DCHS course that I teach in campus. In his own words “I still remember and value HCI lecture[s] offered by you” #satisfying Below is the picture that Aditya and I took in front of the MPI-SWS building (see the IIITD Tshirts both of us are wearing). 
  • Denzil CorreaHe started his Ph.D. at IIITD on the same day as I started my faculty job at IIITD. I remember the first interactions with him (or should I say ‘they’, and I am sure they remember the interactions better than me, right Samarth? Kuldeep? Himanshu?) Graduated from IIITD in 2015, spent some time as Post-Doc at MPI-SWS and now joins as a Data Scientists @ Bayer. I met him in MPI during his last week / day @ MPI. Below is the picture of Denzil (top left in a black tshirt) with Precogs in one of our outings in 2011 while he was still a student at IIITD. 

I plan to try and connect with students while traveling, something that I have started doing in the recent past. We did a small get together of all IIITD alums in summer 2015 in Bengaluru, below is a picture from meetup. Thanks to all the students who take time to catch up when I travel. Interestingly, I just realized that, Mridula, Aritra, Samarth, Himanshu,  and Kuldeep mentioned in this post are in this picture!

P.S. I request all students of IIITD to update their current city on Facebook, I missed meeting with a student in one of the cities that I visited here recently, because I did not know she was living there 🙁 I would have really loved to catch up with her! I got to know about her being there only a few days after my visit.

P.S. I missed mentioning about the IIITD ambassadors in Singapore; met with them on Nov 5, 2015. Thanks to Priyanshi Mittal, Vibhas Kumar, Jatin Kumar and Ankit Sarkar for taking time in meeting with me. Below is a pic from the meet up.


Some fun experiences in the last few days, the world is so small. I am loving it!

I am at the CMU New Students Reception on July 18, 2015, sharing some life-changing experiences that I had at CMU. The reception was at Mint Masala in Bengaluru. It is about 9pm, a 20 some years old person walks to me and says “Are you PK, the one who is going to give a talk at IBM – IRL later this week”, I said, “Yes” Then he introduces himself saying, “I am Varun, I work at IBM – IRL, I am a friend of Samarth, I saw an email from Samarth about your talk at IRL.” Varun’s sister is going to CMU for her graduate school. I was so surprised, and happy that people walk to me and connect to things that I am doing otherwise. That was a very satisfying feeling. When I went to IRL to give the talk, Varun helped me with all the logistics of entering the building, setting up the room for the talk, etc., as Samarth (Ph.D. student of IIIT Delhi), my host was busy in a meeting. Samarth, Varun, and I ended up spending some time together after the talk.

It is about 1100pm in the same CMU New Students Reception on July 18, 2015, and a teenager walks up to me and stops me, and says “Aren’t you PK?” I am like, what is going on! I say, “Yes”, he replies, “I am a student of DPS Bangalore (North), I have attended your “Stay Safe Online” workshop in my school.” I ask him for his name, he says “Gaurav” (I hope, I remember this correctly!) and he was so happy to connect with me at the hotel and I was completely bowled by this experience, very humbling. I saw his parents waiting for him to leave, as it was already late. I told him, thanks for connecting and he left.

As usual, I walk out of the cafeteria in Adobe after lunch on July 21, 2015, and a young lady stops me and says, “What are you doing here? I saw you in the CMU New Students Reception last week!” I replied, I am doing my summer sabbatical here. I did not meet her during the CMU event, so full credit to her for stopping and reaching out to me! She is going to CMU for her graduate school. We left after these few minutes of interaction. Usually, I forget names after the first interaction, but thankfully this time I got it! So back in my room, I reached out to her and decided to have lunch on 23rd (that was the only day we could have met, before I leave for Delhi). We meet for lunch and I understand about the program that she is joining, it turns out that she is joining the Masters in Information Technology – Privacy Engineering. I laugh and say, this is the program that my Ph.D. thesis Advisor (Lorrie Cranor) Co-Directs and then she goes onto the say that she will be doing an RA with her and we talk a lot about the courses that she can take in the program, etc. Below is the selfie that we took before we bid adieu!

Moral of the story: The world is so small! And I think being a faculty also adds to it, more so, in India. One can do so many interesting things, participating and sharing the experience from our alma mater, giving talks in research labs, sabbatical life, reaching out, etc. I am loving the fact that I am able to enjoy my life as a faculty in India.

Founding / Running a company vs. an academic institute. Some ramblings, inspired after reading a book!

Thanks to amazing students who gift me books, each of it is a treasure! Last 6 weeks has been a gift season in terms of students gifting me books. Books I received were: 0. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, 1. The Hard Thing about Hard Thing: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz, 2. Billionaire Boy  by George Beahm, 3. Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Students who gifted the four books were AnupamaSamarth and Kanika. You can see how students influence my thinking with these kinds of books 🙂

Usually, I try to write a blog after reading a book capturing all my notes from the book, but, this time, I am making a twist in this. I just finished reading “Hard Thing: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers”, the book is a wonderful read, I couldn’t put the book the down! The book talks about a CEO, his qualities, his team, his aspirations, etc. Half way through the book, I thought, these are great things Ben is talking about, but, these can also be looked at from an Academician’s point of view. So, in addition to my notes (not arranged in any particular order), I am going to pose questions / reactions about how the thoughts from the book can be applied in an academic scene in India, if at all. If anyone (CEO / Academic Administrator / Director / Student) has any reactions to it, please leave a comment, I will be happy to hear your thoughts.

P xi: “There is no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for leading a group of people out of trouble; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs;”

PK: Would it be appropriate to say there is no recipe for building a high-quality top-ranked institute in India and there is no recipe for being the top-ranked institute in India?

In the chapter “Ones and Twos” Ben describes about CEO transitions, and says “CEO transition is hard.”

PK: How does transition in academic institutes happen in India? Are there any processes and procedures that are followed?

In one of the chapters, Ben mentions the strategies to decide on the next CEO, where he describes the way in which 2 companies adopted different ways to replace the CEO. Keeping this in mind, while looking for a Director for an academic institute, how should one make a decision, take somebody from the institute or find somebody from outside or get somebody from one or two levels below in the hierarchy (inside or outside the institute) as General Electric did during Jack Welch’s appointment? What works in India?

P 32: “peacetime CEO to a wartime CEO.”

PK: Are there examples of institute Directors who have played the wartime Chief and gotten the institute out of some trouble and made it big?

P 242: And as they say in the mutual fund prospectuses, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

PK: Is this true in academic scenario? I somehow feel that for a faculty, past performance can be a good metric to predict future results.

P 67: “Build a culture that rewards – not punishes – people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.”

PK: Any academic institution that has tried/does this? Or are there bigger bodies (e.g. UGC, AICTE) who lay down the rules and everyone follows?

In the chapter, “Programming your culture” Ben says that recruiting employees who are aligned with the culture of the company is important.

PK: If I think about it from the academic scenario in India, due to scarcity of good faculty candidates, we tend to recruit faculty who are very good at what they do, but, mostly in our recruitment process, we don’t evaluate the candidate for “alignment with the culture” explicitly. Is there anything done in academic institutes in India to evaluate this alignment of the candidate viz. informal interactions / dinners / lunches etc.?

P 120: “As a result, big company executives tend to be interrupt-driven [and not strategy, planning, fore-sighted-driven].”

PK: Is this true for academic institutes too? i.e. How much time do Directors of large institutes spend on strategy vs day-to-day activities / interrupts?

P 121: “When you run a large organization, you tend to become very good at tasks such as complex decision-making, prioritization, organizational design, process improvement, and organization communication. [When you are building an organization] you have to be very adept at running a high-quality hiring process, have terrific domain expertise (you are personally responsible for quality control), know how to create process from scratch, and be extremely creative about initiating new directions and tasks.”

PK: I can relate to this point so much, seeing Prof. Randy Bryant at CMU (running) during my graduate school life and now Prof. Pankaj Jalote at IIITD (building).

P 150: “As defined by Andy Grove, the right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory. The wrong kind of ambition is ambition for the executive’s personal success regardless of the company’s outcome.”

PK: I always thought that this is a mutual relationship, i.e. I grow and IIITD grows, IIITD grows, I grow, but Grove’s view is slightly different. Is Grove’s view also true in academic scenario?

P 202: “The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.”

PK: Is this true in the academic world? Or can one prepare himself / herself to run an institute by doing various roles in the institute? If so, what are the roles, qualities to build? Or attend executive MBA programs or courses on higher education management?

Overall, for Directors running institutes in India, I strongly recommend this book, it may give you a different perspective to things. A few chapters that you will definitely like are: “How to minimize politics in your company”, “The right kind of Ambition”, “When smart people are bad employees”, “Programming your culture”, “Ones and Twos” “Peacetime CEO / Wartime CEO”

Some other interesting points from the book:

P 191: “It is much easier to add new people to old processes than new processes to old people.”

P 124: “If you don’t know what you want, the chances that you’ll get it are extremely low.”

P 133: “Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers – it’s strictly for amateurs.”

P 82: “Ironically, the key to an emotional discussion is to take the emotion out of it.” I only wish, I can implement this well in my life!

P 89: “There is no silver bullet for this, only lead bullets.”

P 207: “Focus on the road, not the wall.”

P 59: “the first principle of the Bushido – the way of the warrior: keep death in mind at all times.”

P 66: I liked this line “In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust.”

P 36: “Gentlemen, I’ve done many deals in my life and through that process, I’ve developed a methodology, a way of doing things, a philosophy if you will. Within that philosophy, I have certain beliefs. I believe in artificial deadlines. I believe in playing one against the other. I believe in doing everything and anything short of illegal or immortal to get the damned deal done.”

P 46: This was completely surprising to read “It turned out that when you accounted for turnover rates and the cost of recruiting and training, Cary, North Carolina, engineers were cheaper to hire than Bangalore, India, engineers.”

P22: “No matter who you are, you need two kind of friends in your life. The first kind is one you can call when something good happens… who will actually be more excited for you than he would be if it had happened to him. The second kind of friend is somebody you can call when things go horribly wrong – when your life is on the line and you only have one phone call.”

I hope you got a glimpse of the book from my summary. Please feel free to react to my questions / thoughts. I look forward to learning.

Students are the DNA of faculty! They make our life colorful.

Students are like DNA for faculty, this is something I have always believed in and even tried talking about it wherever possible. I am taking the liberty of describing how the current students that I have are making a difference in the world, at our own level, in particular, I am going to capture the amazing things that the 2014 graduating batch has done and some students who worked with me in the past, who are starting their graduate student life soon. I am only going to talk about students who have spent significant amount of time with me or I would like to think that I played a role in their academic stint.

[List arranged in alphabetical order of last name.]

  1. Raghav Anand. B.Tech. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. He has taken multiple of my classes, and did his BTP with me on Fair Fare. He has accepted the Masters in CS / HCI program at University of Washington and deferred it for a year to take up Young India Fellowship. He is very keen on developing liberal arts skills through the YIF program, and then taking up the world of HCI through the Masters program.
  2. Sampoorna Biswas. B.Tech. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. She has taken multiple of my classes, and did her BPT with me on Privacy in online social networks. She has accepted the Masters in CS program at University of British Columbia, Canada with full RAship. She will be starting in Fall 2014, she will be working with Prof. Lakshmanan at UBC.
  3. Abhishek Bhola. M.Tech. IIITD. 2012 – 2014. Abhishek is doing his Masters thesis with me; he will joining Hikari Tsushin, Inc, Japanese company starting Oct 2014.
  4. Karan Gupta. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. He has taken multiple of my classes, and did his BTP with me on Fair Fare. He has accepted the Masters in CS / HCI program at University of Washington. He will be starting in Fall 2014.
  5. Mayank Gupta. DTU. 2009 – 2014. He did his BTP with me where I played the external advisor’s role, and he continued working with me for the last one year as Research Associate. He had multiple admits for Masters in CS, and finally decided to go to GaTech CS program starting this Fall 2014. He has been part of many systems that we have built in our group.
  6. Neha Gupta. M.Tech. IIITD. 2012 – 2014. She has taken some of my classes and TAed my classed too. She was the first M.Tech. student of the Centre, CERC, that I helped put together. She will joining EMC in Bengaluru starting July 2014.
  7. Hemank Lamba. IIITD. 2008 – 2012. He has taken all the courses that I taught during his stint at IIITD, and did his BTP on Network Science. He was very strong on his goals of going to be the best schools for graduate studies (Ph.D.), he got admitted into many schools, including, GaTech, NEU, CMU, etc. He did a quick visit to the campuses in April to decide on the school, and he finally chose CMU and will be joining Ph.D. in the School of Computer Science in Fall 2014. It was an amazing feeling when he went and met Lorrie, my Ph.D. thesis advisor during his visit to CMU, I don’t know to describe this feeling, but when my students meet Lorrie, I get some feeling of “satisfaction” in particular, in situations like these, where Hemank had an admit into CMU and was meeting Professors to make up his mind on where to go.
  8. Sudip Mittal. IIITD. 2009 – 2014. He is one of our first students to receive Dual Degree from IIITD, UG & M.Tech. He also had multiple admits for Ph.D. and will be joining UMBC in CS department starting Fall 2014.
  9. Apoorv Narang. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. He has taken multiple of my classes, and did his BTP with me on Backpack. Backpack was nominated for Best BTP Award in Engineering category by the evaluation committee. Accepted the Masters in CS / HCI program at University of Washington. Deferred it for a year to take up Backpack full-time as a startup. He is currently frantically (with all enthusiasm and interest) trying to register Backpack as a company, and build a team to take it to the next step.
  10. Kanika Narang. IIITD. 2008 – 2012. She has taken all the courses that I taught during her stint at IIITD, and did her BTP on Network Science. She also had admits from multiple schools, and will be joining CS department for Ph.D. at UIUC starting Fall 2014. Kanika and Hemank will have (hopefully) a special space in my faculty career, as they were my first BTP students from IIITD.
  11. Aditya Kumar Nayak. IIITD. 2009 – 2014. He has taken a couple of classes with me, and did his BTP on Ingage. Got nominated for Best BTP Award in Entrepreneurship category by the evaluation committee. We already have completed 2 successful sales (made real money) of the product.
  12. Apoorv Saini. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. He has taken multiple of my classes, and did his BTP with me on Wizters. Wizters got nominated for Best BTP Award in Engineering category by the evaluation committee. Wizters has already transferred (made real money) to a company in Delhi and they are looking at building a startup around it in the US.
  13. Soumya Singh. IIITD. 2010 – 2014. Surprising, has never taken a class with me, but did his BTP on “Stopping Agent Smith from entering the Matrix: Malware Detection and Prevention. Will be joining Airtight Networks.

I have had wonderful experiences with each one of them; for sure, there were ups and downs (which relationship does not have!), but overall, they have added colors to my life. I have learned things from each one them, it is such an awesome feeling that within 5 years of being a faculty, I have had this great opportunity to work with such amazing students who are making some difference in the world. Time will show what and how much they do! I owe each one of them (listed above, many others who have worked with me, and currently working with me) a lot to things.

There are a few other students who are going to grad school for whom I wrote recommendation letters this year, but, given this blog is about students who have spent a lot of time with me, I am not mentioning them here. I am extremely excited about all my current students, I am sure they will do great things which will make them proud and people who are associated with them proud.

I am indebted, fully thankful to all the faculty, researchers, and staff who have influenced me in pursuit of a career as a professor.