The Last Blog!

It is an amazing and indeed a fortunate opportunity to be among the first few students of the Institute and your advisor. Why? Because being the first few puts you in the experimental zone, especially for the advisor; this allows all parties (institute, advisor and oneself) to explore the best way growing together. Institute was new and flexible, rules were still to be imposed, Prof. Jalote and other professors would interact on a daily basis and it was a flat open culture. I believe and in my experience, those were the most productive and professionally healthy years, but the organisation and structure followed and a little of the culture got lost.

This blog is not about cribbing; It is about learning, appreciation and growing up. I am writing of my nostalgic 6 years at Precog and IIIT-Delhi. I am writing of the time, that had constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I am writing of the time when I grew to maturity. My advisor, and Institute were excited to have first of their PhD students. But, allow me to focus on PK’s excitement over the years and the learning I had from him.

Lead: People say that I have a part of PK’s personality in me now. PK has a wonderful charisma and ability to lead. He started Precog, founded CERC, first in the Institute to help establish the brand, organised SPSymposium, collaborate, and network. He actually has a ‘following’ of every genre of professional career and that shows the impact of his leadership. I tried to learn a bit of it on a small scale. Learn to drive and push group sessions (Brainstorm paper reading), lead a small group to competitions, motivate fellow PhDs and help them, and most importantly lead myself! Long way to do things at the scale PK does.

Generous: I have always been a generous person, not in money but in time. PK has been a generous person both in money and in time (to me, because we had little distractions in initial years of my PhD and this is the advantage of being the first few). I have heard from many that their advisors pay a little heed on what you are doing, most forget the problem their PhD students are working. PK fluctuates in this behaviour. He micromanages at some times, else leave to let us swim on our own. He generously gives away his travel, invitations, talks, etc., when any of us starts complaining of his time. Well, I believe it needs courage to prioritise students over oneself. He made sure that he was there to help fulfil our dreams, he certainly did mine. Working with such an advisor made me realise the organisation of priorities. I try to work with fellow PhDs as much as I can to offer time, review cycles and help. I have now become generous in money too, btw!

It’s okay to fail: I really wish to talk about the group dynamics and behaviour here. I just love and appreciate Precog’s true culture of helping and criticising, sharing and fighting, growing together and selfishless attitude. Niharika, Srishti, Prateek, Anupama, Aditi, are the few fortunate ones to have worked with me! (:P) The group made sure that everyone is doing fine, technical errors were thrashed (not humiliated). We still complement each other and I believe that is the power of Precog. It is important to have calm, confused, impatient, strong, hyperactive, and mature people, all seated in the same room together. They constitute a part of my support structure and they were there when I ‘Failed’! So, whenever the group has a rejection, we celebrate! Funny! I distributed chocolates when I got my rejections. The group teaches you the power of collaboration, company and failure. I really missed all of you at the convocation!

My fellow future PhD graduates, I really wish that you make the best of the opportunity (or create a few for you / others). In industry, I see the importance of independence, the attitude of running with one’s problem and most importantly, fall in love with your work each day.

Good luck Precog and to IIIT-Delhi PhD students. Strive, Fight, Connect, Learn from Other’s Failures, Talk, Present, Do the Quality Work, No Shortcuts, Trust your advisor, Trust yourself, Believe and Fight Back!

“It’s not how hard you hit. It’s how hard you get hit…and keep moving forward.” Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

To maturity, to success!


            Dr. PK with Dr. PJ on our graduation day!

Precog: The Phenomenon

A normal afternoon day, with the heat scorching its way through to every one of our rooms at NIT Trichy. I was scrolling through my mails, as usual. However, today something caught my eye. A particular mail from my ACM student membership subscription that looked like this:

I am a huge fan of Social Networks research by the way. Right from its theoretical aspects – centrality measures, the small world phenomenon, etc.. up to its more applied research aspects – mining important data from Online Social Media, creating core systems that constantly evolve and adapt using the humongous data obtained from social networking sites, OSM Analysis has never failed to amuse me.  So the moment I read and researched about Dr.PK, I knew he was one professor anyone would really desire to work with, and that this is the kind of work I would like to pursue.

From looking through the window, To being welcomed inside

The most significant characteristic about this group is that, Precog means business. They are a bunch of researchers who have made their mark all over the world simply by doing what they love, bounded by no restrictions whatsoever.  This is what made this research group an even more desirable organization to be a part of. The urge to be a part of this only increased every day ever since I read about it. I applied to PK soon after, and after a structured and elaborate induction process, on another sunny afternoon, a mail popped up in my inbox.

I got my offer letter.

“Make us proud, by making yourself proud.”

 PK’s words from his mail to me lingered in my mind as I sat in the CERC lounge on my first day, waiting for my mentor and PhD scholar Prateek Dewan to brief me on my project. Prateek came, we exchanged pleasantries and got down to business immediately. The words Prateek said:

“You’ll be working on the Image Analysis domain for this summer. In particular, you will be working on Extracting the Sentiment (Emotion) from an Image. All the Best.  Always here to help you if you need anything.”

The meeting lasted 10 minutes. I was taken by complete surprise. The most image analysis I had ever done before was to see if an image on my Facebook news feed was worthy of a like or not. 😛

But that’s the very beauty of Precog. Remember how I told you about there being no restrictions whatsoever here? This was a standing example of that. My objectives were clear. But I had COMPLETE freedom to pursue any path I wanted to get the job done by the end of the summer. [1] Thus said, I embarked on a journey of pure knowledge discovery and fun.

 The Liam Neesons of Precog

Hardly a few weeks had gone by during my internship, and I was LOVING it here. My work was going on a smooth pace. I was slowly getting a hang of the state-of-the-art in Image Analysis and constantly surveyed relevant literature. Of course, I was nowhere near even charting a course to achieve my goals for the summer, but I knew I was on my way. I had lots of motivation and initiative, but at regular intervals of time, I also needed direction, perspective and feedback. Here is where I introduce the Liam Neesons of Precog, or as PK calls them, the “Pillairs” of Precog. Why Liam Neeson though? Well, that’s because every member at Precog has a “very special set of skills” that make them really powerful and strong in their domain of computer science. Each member here specializes in something unique, working on a completely different problem altogether but with just one common cause – to help the common man and do social good. Needless to say, this eclectic mix turned out to be a gold mine of information for me. Every interaction I had with each one of them, there was some take away from it. The weekly brainstorming sessions we had, discussing important and high-impact papers were a huge repository of information too.

“In Precog, data and information were not just something we worked on, but something we gained too. “ [2]

But none of this would be complete without mentioning the pioneer behind it all, PK. PK always kept us on our toes by pointing us to interesting articles/research/technology as it released and encouraged us to probe more into each one of them. Perhaps the one person with the highest motivation levels in Precog is PK himself. There was never a dearth of motivation in the lab. PK always made it a point to keep throwing new ideas in the air, and if something seemed viable, included everyone in bringing up a solution. He had this knack of just sparking a small thought in our minds and leaving it at that. That thought would transform into an idea, the idea into something else until it lead to some really big solution for a confounding problem. His heartfelt and personalized greetings, wishes and guidance will put you in utter disbelief – how could such a busy and accomplished person still have time for each one of us and care about each of us and our projects with such attention? All of this made me grow very attached to PK and the group as a whole, to the extent of worrying about my fast approaching last day. 

The Technical Details

Keeping this part very short, with constant guidance from my mentor, we were able to propose two novel architectures – one to find the expression of all faces present in an image using special facial features and the second to classify an image as a whole as positive or negative based on a deep network architecture. Never had I thought I would be successful in establishing a working model for this if not for the constant support of PK, my mentors and all members of Precog as a whole.

 The Fun Parts!!

Apart from all the rigorous working, pulling all-nighters and meeting deadlines, the fun quotient was also extremely high here at Precog. We went on a lot of outings, right from nearby ice-cream desert shops to malls in Noida. Recounting all those experiences now, as an intern, I felt like I experienced almost everything there is to experience at Delhi. How much ever Precog works, they have fun equally or even much more! Ultimately, be it a tough problem to crack, or a big pizza to finish, we did it as a group, together. 😛

 We go live in 5…4….3…

As a result of all the collective hardwork of the Image Analysis team I was a part of, Helix, an Image Analysis tool was born. I now reminisce over my internship and think about how the journey was as wonderful as the elated feeling I get when I see a small part of my work being used by live users everyday. The fun discussions I had with the PhD scholars, the homely feeling I got every time I entered the lab, all the fun I had with my newly found friends, and of course all the knowledge I gained – everything was worth it at the end. What I was when I started, and what I am now.  It was then that I knew, this was the true goal of my internship. [3]

With a sense of fulfilment and content, my internship was complete. Not a day goes by, when I don’t see the Precog sticker on my laptop and recount the wonderful experience I had at Precog.

A pic of me with my mentor and close friend, Prateek:

The Head Fake

No Precog blog is complete without Randy Pausch’s wisdom being in it. As Randy describes it, A head fake is something that we are made to do, but its purpose is completely different from what is presumed. Observe above in the blog that I have put the numbers [1], [2] and [3] at several points. Those were the head fakes of my internship.

[1] This internship of mine was not solely aimed at the result alone. The freedom I got to pursue my desired path throughout the internship lead to a huge inflow of ideas and thoughts in my mind. This refined my thinking, not just for the problem, but for everything else too. I wasn’t fed fish. I now knew how to fish. This was my first head fake.

“I knew how to fish.”

[2] By the end of the summer, I had more skills than I could possibly have expected to get just by working on my problem alone. This is completely attributed to the sessions we had, information we shared and discussed.  I had so much more skills now that I could confidently add to my kitty than I could imagine. This was my second head fake.

“I too got a special set of skills.”

[3] Finally, I got a family. A permanent set of close friends, and an evergreen connection to Precog, no matter where I proceed further in life. This was my third head fake.

“Once a Precog-er, always a Precog-er.” 

For all the prospective future students reading this blog:

The final head fake: The blog was not just to pen down my experience at Precog. It was to motivate you guys to come and experience the phenomenon that is Precog. 🙂

If you are interested in #PrecogSummer 2017, please do checkout

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 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 Many of them are successful in what they are doing, some are doing great things now!

First Time’s the Charm

I had to select courses to register for in the Winter semester of 2016. One of them, DHCS, caught my eye but I was a bit hesitant to register for it. My friends had to persuade me to take DHCS instead of another course just so that we could form a group to do the course project! When I attended the first lecture of DHCS, I knew I would love the course. I was not proven wrong. The assignments were enjoyable, though challenging. I learned the design process that is followed in order to create usable interfaces. I faced obstacles and jumped high over them. My interest in HCI increased tremendously.

BBI fun with group members

The course had a showcase event to present our final project to a team of judges. This showcase was a unique experience for me since we were expected to not only present the mobile app but to market our mobile app to the judges. The teams went all out in this final presentation and it was heartening to see the effort we all put.

Preparing for BBI

When I registered for DHCS on the cold December night, little did I know that I was registering for much more than a course. Taught by PK, the course was everything an HCI student could dream of. I continued my association with PK over the Summer through an internship.

I worked with Niharika Sachdeva on analyzing Policing and OSM. Niharika Ma’am is an amazing mentor. I learned several new techniques and analysed several papers as research for my project. Her feedback was insightful and aided me in making my project more streamlined. She asked several questions to which I had no answer. This made me read about the concepts behind my work. In the process, I learned several new things.

Another highlight was meeting all the Precogers, as we call ourselves. (Yes, I am a Precoger now!) The amount of intelligence in the room tangibly increases when all the Precogers are together. We have several interactive sessions where everyone gets together and talks about their project or any new ideas they have had. The insights provided by the Precogers give a fresh perspective to the problem we are working on. This system of feedback ensures we stay on the top of our game.

A few of the Precogers

To be a part of PreCog is to be inspired. I have loved my journey here so far and I look forward to several more memorable experiences.

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.







  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=

  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.







#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.


Gracias Precog

Hi All!,  As I am about to finish my B.Tech in Computer Science. I feel this is the perfect time for me to pen down my story of association with Precog. It’s an experience described in 3 Stages:

Stage 1 : Getting Introduced to Precog                      [First year, Second Semester]

It was during my second semester in Probability and Statistics(P&S) course when I got introduced to Precog Research Group. P&S was my  first course taken under Dr. PK. I clearly remember, while Dr. PK was  taking our class, I saw Prateek Sir entering lecture hall from the front-right door and he was carrying our quiz question papers. Along with the  quiz papers, I had noticed that the  T-shirt  he was wearing had a logo named “Precog”. And then within next few minutes,our head TA, Srishti Gupta entered the hall wearing the  same  T-Shirt. I wondered what is so special about “Precog”. Is it a conference , company or a brand?? (That time, I had no clue of research groups @ IIIT-Delhi).

After attending all my lectures, I sat  down in the cafeteria and searched about “Precog”.And that’s when I realized that Precog is a research group which is run under  Dr. PK. I had looked each and every page of Precog website. Then I skimmed through personal websites and LinkedIn profiles of all core members.In short, I “stalked Precog” for about an hour. After looking at the projects like “Finding Nemo” or “Call me Maybe”, I felt very motivated towards working on problems related to social media particularly.And so, I decided to do projects in this field.

Stage 2 : Approaching Precog -The First time.     [Second year, Fourth Semester]

As I had stalked Precog, I knew who were the core members and whom to contact first. I remember spending an hour with Paridhi Ma’am  in the common room of Girls’ hostel talking just about Dr. PK and projects in  Precog. She told me to mail Sir and ask for an appointment .She focused that my mail should be “short and effective” enough to impress PK Sir. So, I had emailed him hoping that he would consider my application.And Yes! he called me for an interview. During my interview, he marked that there would be a selection process where I would have to submit my resume  and SOP…Isn’t somewhat similar to MS application? Oh Yes! except that, you don’t need LORs here.

On PreCog website, there was a section where I had uploaded all my required documents. After 2 weeks or so, I got a mail with the subject “ Application Decision”  from Niharika Sachdeva. With a lot of excitement, I opened the mail which stated“I should apply again next year.” I felt dejected at that point of time. But then, I decided to look for other opportunities in Security field. So, I landed up having an internship in CERC@IIITD under Dr. A V Subramanyam.

Stage 3 : Finally Precog-ger!!                                                 [Third and Fourth Year]

In the fifth semester, during Foundations of Computer Security course, one of my batch mates told me about PreCog openings.I applied again but with not much expectations. After few weeks, yet again, Niharika Ma’am had sent me a mail but this time, with  a different subject as “Interaction and interview with Precog member”. So, now finally after two rounds of interview, I had a chance to do BTP under the supervision of Dr. PK. My BTP project was on “Detecting Obscene Content on YouTube” where I had worked  with  Payal Bajaj from Adobe Research, Bangalore, and Rishabh Kaushal. My work mainly focused on real-time detection of obscene content on youtube videos used for parenting purpose using Deep Learning. I had developed Deep CNN model to detect abrupt transitions having obscene content in cartoon videos in real-time with 81.4 % accuracy. I must say, this period of BTP was knowledge gaining plus fun-filled experience.

I would like to highlight the following  points about Precog and why I still cherish my times here:

  • People over here are friendly and they treat you like a family. You can crack jokes, ask for help anytime and do party.

  • The knowledgeable-cool bunch of researchers works on interesting- complex problems.

  • Dr. PK  helps us in  dealing with professional matters and always intends to show us the correct path. Thank you Sir!

  • When you are at PreCog, you will realize the actual meaning of  “Workload” And I  mean it.

  • Apart from project-related emails, Dr. PK  used to send us inspirational quotes. I have jotted down a few them:

             a). “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”

             b). ”Good Scientists Solve Problems, but Great Scientists know What’s Worth                          Solving”                      

  • Fun- part : You will be a part of  “Pizza Parties” and BBQ visitsSo it’s like “Work Hard  & Have Fun”.

I would like to owe my sincere gratitude to PK Sir, Rishabh Sir, and all PreCog members for helping me throughout.Now, time is approaching  to  leave IIITD and move on to pursue higher studies at UMBC.But this couldn’t have been possible without being a Precog-ger.

This blog isn’t enough for me to pen down my learning experience@ PreCog and with PK Sir. So here are some  pics to describe my association:

Meetup with Dr.PK
PSOSM poster session

Magic of Appreciating Words: DHCS experience

It was that time of the year again when all students were supposed to register for courses for the approaching semester. Like everyone, I was confused and in a fix about what course to opt for. I wanted to explore and was looking for interesting courses then. I came across “Designing Human Centered Interfaces” course offered by Dr. PK. Everyone in IIIT knows Dr. PK is one of the coolest professors and nobody ever regrets taking his course because he is quite flexible and has bunch of engaging activities. Also, I had heard about this course before and decided to go for it. I never knew this course would contribute so much to what I was seeking for so long. I never had much interest in coding and when I attended the introductory class, I realized that something was there for me, something I would enjoy and love to do. Dr. PK showed some very interesting projects from previous year and it motivated me to come up with one. So our team came with women security app called “Suraksha”.
Dr. PK makes sure his course has fun elements and incentives for students. I still remember in his very first lecture, he mentioned about awards he had given last time and no doubt it was a driving force to work hard for our projects and win such award. Also, his words of appreciation and motivation at each stage kept us going. Getting appreciation from professor was a big thing for me as it was the first time I was ever appreciated in IIIT :P. I still remember the day when he called our group “Underdogs” and we were so elated to hear that. It motivated me so much that I wanted to do best in each iteration. We were supposed to complete tasks in each iteration. Conducting Contextual inquiry in one iteration and task analysis in another. Roaming the entire city, gathering the user data, interviewing people and taking feedbacks were few things we did during the course. No doubt it was a nice excuse to hangout with friends while doing your project 😛 and that was also one reason we loved this course :P.
The best part of this course is BBI session. It’s like a Grand Finale of some kind. Each group wants to showcase their project in best way possible. The entire CCD area looks beautiful- so colorful and full of creativity. We wanted to do something out of box so we prepared a rap song for BBI session as an invitation. Video

Preparing poster for BBI session was one hell of a task because we wanted it to be the best. Making it as informative as possible and creative at the same time was really a challenge. The night before BBI session, our hostel room was a complete mess. It looked something like this :P.

Reserving the space for poster for next morning was not a child’s play. Our poster was quite big. So we needed more space and our group literally sat entire night safeguarding the space. All this was so much fun :D.

But all this was so much fun because we hardly get to do these things in other courses. Everyone appreciated our efforts. Also, Dr. PK gave me the golden opportunity to be the evaluator for the next BBI session. I was extremely happy and no doubt it was a wonderful learning experience.

The course concluded but it showed me a path. I remember the very first lecture slide had a quote by Randy Pausch which goes like this “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” And I made this my moto. I decided to give design entrance exam. The things I learned during the course helped me a lot in building my portfolio and even during interviews. I showed my DHCS project in interviews. Luckily, I got into Interaction design at IIT Kanpur and this couldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken this course.

I am glad our institute offers such wonderful courses and give chances to students to explore and learn. Moreover, I realized how much vital role “words of appreciation” plays in student’s life. Few words of motivation by teacher are instrumental in changing student’s life and help them achieve their dreams. So glad and lucky to have such rocking and cool faculty at IIIT Delhi.

I have been Precog-ed: Part 3

Hi! A big thank you for landing here. I don’t blog often; when I do, it feels great that someone else took out time to read it and hopefully take away a few things from it as well. If you know me already, you might have read Part 1 and 2 of my journey. If not, take out a few more minutes and read them first. You will be able to connect the dots much better, I promise!

From the work I did with Prof. Kristina Lerman at University of Southern California in summer 2015, we ended up writing a research paper. After many hours put in, more than a dozen skype calls and half a dozen blacked out draft reviews from PK, as I sat down with a copy of my first paper, I was pleased. It was due for submission to a big conference. A month and a half later, I sat down heart-broken with my first paper rejection. I had no clue how acceptances at these conferences work out. Pillars (that’s what we call the Ph.D. students at the Precog lab and the metaphor couldn’t be more appropriate) told me it was a close miss. For me, it was as if a part of my world crashed (yes, I can be that dramatic!).

After incorporating some suggestions from the reviewers, we sent it to ICWSM 2016, another great conference (source: Pillars). This time, I decided to be less hopeful and stopped thinking about it. I remember having difficulty sleeping the night before the result was due. The paper got accepted. After a few congratulatory messages and phone calls, I realized that brooding over the previous rejection was an absolute waste of time. I have such revelations when I am extremely sad or happy. The most I had learned from this phase was when I was doing the analysis, which the paper was based on. The acceptance was just going to be a line in Font 12 on my resume and an end to the journey of working on my first paper. That’s about it! But life had something else in store for me.

Kristina wrote to me that she cannot make it to Cologne, Germany, where ICWSM 2016 was going to be held. David, one of the co-authors, was going for the conference and I thought he would present our paper. After a few weeks, I found out – PK is going to attend the conference and so am I. From that moment began the journey of my first paper presentation. I had never attended one. So I was miles away from knowing what a good paper presentation is like. I got a few slide decks for reference from the Pillars and after a few iterations on my deck, it was time for my first practice talk in the Precog lab. Now, these adorable people in the lab have the potential to thrash you in and out if your work doesn’t meet the ‘Precog’ standard. They DID NOT like my presentation, and that’s me putting it politely. PK was going to join in the next practice talk from Germany over Skype (yes, he always goes the extra mile for his students). I had worked on the suggestions that came after the first practice talk. However, I still felt a little clueless and the reviews I got reflected that I was nowhere close to the mark. I am not that bad with presentations but presenting a paper is not the same. This time, I was upset. Determined to deliver a good presentation, I boarded my flight to Cologne.

I reached Cologne a few days early as I had planned to explore the city before the conference. PK was going to come in another 2 days. I spent time listening to recorded versions of my presentation and practicing with my friends over Skype and Hangout. I did take occasional breaks to cruise off the coast of river Rhine, try some German delicacies and explore the Roman cathedrals all over the city. Europe is as beautiful as they say it is! I also attended the ICWSM slam, which was organized by David. ICWSM is the only conference that has this sort of a creative event.

Cruising off the coast of river Rhine..
Cruising off the coast of river Rhine..

PK arrived on the morning of 18th May, the first day of the conference. I was looking forward to it as I wanted to take away a few things for my presentation, which was scheduled on 19th afternoon. I asked PK to rate each presentation on a scale of 10 so that I could differentiate between good presentations and the ones that were very good. I spent most of my time diligently making notes that could benefit our work at Precog. Another discovery that day made me uncomfortable. I was one of the only two undergrads at ICWSM who were there to present. The other one was from Stanford. I should have felt accomplished belonging to this minute fraction of attendees, but it only made me more nervous.

The evening reception for ICWSM was in the Chocolate Museum (isn’t ICWSM the best conference ever?). I had – fun and intellectual conversations, a couple of drinks, and a lot of chocolate. It was time for my final practice talk with PK. He was ready with a notepad and I didn’t feel nervous at all. The list of suggestions was much smaller this time and he felt I had improved considerably. I couldn’t be more glad, or it would have been another sleepless night with my slide deck.

In front of the Chocolate Museum.
In front of the Chocolate Museum.

It was the day of my presentation. I could feel my stomach rumbling. Breakfast was difficult to swallow. I was sitting in the presentation room, but mentally I was in the Precog lab and my practice talk wasn’t going well…. It was the coffee break before my slot and I went to check if the laptop and the presenter were working smoothly. It was 11:20, 2 spotlights on my face, my slide deck on the projector and in the audience, people who did this for a living (told you I can be dramatic!). 14 minutes later, I was asked two questions. I answered, came downstairs, went to PK and asked – “How much on a scale of 10?”. The number he typed on his phone was way beyond my expectation. I couldn’t talk much then but I knew two things. I didn’t mess it up and PK was just trying to make me feel better as he had gauged how nervous I was.

Presenting my paper at ICWSM 2016
Presenting my paper at ICWSM 2016
Presenting my paper at ICWSM 2016.
Presenting my paper at ICWSM 2016

In the lunch session, everyone I talked to started the conversation saying – “Good/Great talk!” I ignored it thinking that researchers are way too polite anyway. It slowly started sinking in that my presentation went well. Someone told PK that they haven’t even seen Ph.D.’s deliver presentations with such confidence (something along those lines…). The hashtag I use to describe such moments is #happinessUnbound. That evening I spent some quality time with PK. I didn’t know when I was going to meet him again (oh yeah, I missed that detail!). I have completed 4 years of my B.Tech. at IIIT-Delhi and am headed to Carnegie Mellon for an MS in Computer Science.

My take away from my first paper and presenting it – ‘If you only do what you can do, you will never be better than what you are.’ :’) It has been 4 wonderful years working as a Precog-er. There is a lot I can write, but words cannot do justice to describe this time. I am still going to try to sum all of it up in my next blog. Stay tuned!

PS: Link to the paper and slide deck.

Precog @IIITD — my journey and the people

A journey is best measured in friends!

Of course we are doing some breath taking work!
Of course I highly recommend everyone to apply for open positions here!

But I won’t talk about the work (everyone else already is). I will talk about what really makes Precog — the people@Precog.

Outsiders see it as a group, insiders see it as a family

In my second semester I had taken up a course in Probability and Statistics under Prof. Ponnurangam Kumaraguru “PK”. This is how I got introduced to Precog and PK.

It was 2013, at that time I was trying to figure out my niche as a CS major . I was in search of a new and exciting opportunity. A friend who had been working with Precog told me about an opening. As I have already mentioned in another post of mine, I have a threefold criteria while evaluating opportunities:

Is it aligned with my short and long term goals?
It was definitely aligned with my short term goal of getting my hands dirty with new technologies. At that time I didn’t realise the extent to which Precog would contribute towards moulding me into an aspiring product designer in the long run.

Is there exciting work that I can contribute to?
Without divulging any details, let me just say it was a product of national interest. The research and development activities at Precog are making their mark in more ways than meets the eye ( of course I can’t speak about it :P, If you want to know apply and get in! )

The people I will be working with
This was and still is the most compelling reason. Not only are they really smart researchers and developers but also very helpful. Precog alums and collaborators are everywhere: Facebook, Apple, Princeton, UIUC, CMU, Georgia Tech etc

(PS: I will be joining Georgia Tech this fall for my masters. I already know so many there because of Precog. I am staying with an Ex Research Assistant from the lab)

After a month of interviews and coding tasks I was picked as a software developer for the project. Over the next couple of months I got to know the entire team, even people who weren’t working on the same project as I was (very welcoming people!).

In the coming time I collaborated with different people from the lab, learnt so many different things from them, specially from PK. He’s helped me not only with professional, but also personal matters (thanks!). He’s invested much more time than a normal advisor would’ve in making this relation stronger.

My lab mates taught me the real meaning of ‘with great responsibility comes great power’, after the first time I messed up some daemons on the server (:P) Everyone in the lab has contributed in so many ways that I don’t even know how to write it down. From helping in my assignments to giving me feedback on my applications.

While concluding I would strongly recommend everyone to apply for the open positions@Precog, you won’t regret it.