INFORMS 2010 Wrap-Up

I had a very productive and fun time at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. So I thought I’d share with you some of my observations about the meeting:

  • Analytics initiative by INFORMS: great idea! I believe that we (INFORMS members) have to jump onto the Analytics bandwagon and let everyone know that we can do Analytics too! It’s all about the power of words these days (see the country’s political arena for a perfect example). Starting today, I’ll tell everyone that I can do “Advanced Prescriptive Analytics” (optimization).
  • Panel on Social Networks: it was nice to hear from some of the most popular OR bloggers and learn about their motivations, fun stories, and blogging strategies. Great job Mike and Laura!
  • John Birge‘s plenary (Omega Rho Distinguished Lecture): very informative and entertaining. The simple and powerful take-home message was: align incentives. What’s good for the employees has to be good for the company as well.
  • RAS Problem Solving Competition: Michael Trick and I (a.k.a. Team MATHY) received an honorable mention at the Railway Applications Section (RAS) 2010 Challenge (certificate + photo :-). After watching the three finalists’ presentations, we were happy to see that our solution value of $11,399,670.88 was equal to the best solution found by the winning team, and better than the solution found by the other two finalists. Nobody managed to prove optimality, though. Interestingly, none of the finalists thought about scaling the problem (thinking in terms of tanks of gasoline instead of gallons of gasoline), which made a huge difference in the performance of our model. Overall, it was a lot of fun to participate in this competition and I want to thank the organizers for putting it together. Here’s a picture of team MATHY with Juan Morales from BNSF Railway.

    And here’s a picture of the railroad network we had to deal with:

  • Technical sessions: I watched many interesting and inspiring talks (as a matter of fact, I had some great ideas for my own research while watching a number of presentations). It’s nice to see that *a lot* of people are using Latex Beamer these days. Let’s aim for a Powerpoint-free INFORMS by 2020!
  • Idea for an iPhone App? I applaud the going-green initiative of reducing the number of conference program booklets that have to be printed out. However, for this to work it requires a lot of organization from each of us: we have to go over the program in advance, select the talks we want, and print the appropriate pages. I don’t know about you, but I never manage to get this done. So I propose we create an iPhone (mobile) app to allow participants to browse the program on-the-go. It’s not convenient to browse the program PDF on a phone. We need an app. We need to be able to filter by author, by chair, by topic/keyword, etc. We want a time-sensitive app that tells you what’s next. We want an app that sends notifications to your phone reminding you that a talk/event is coming up so that you ask for the check in time. If we had something like that, I think that a lot fewer people would ask for a printed program (myself included).
  • Thumbs up for all the vegetarian food: being a vegetarian myself, I was impressed with the generous availability of vegetarian food (i.e. not only salad) at both the Sunday and Tuesday receptions. Well done!
  • Austin’s Convention Center: in addition to being huge, the convention center’s numerous under-construction areas made it very hard to navigate from session to session. I always felt like I was taking the longest path from point A to point B.
  • Meeting old and new friends: it was great to make many new friends and to meet old friends from my PhD days at Carnegie Mellon at the Tepper Alumni reception. I also had some very productive research meetings with several colleagues.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank John Hooker, Christopher Beck, and Willem-Jan van Hoeve for agreeing to give a talk in my session, and Willem for inviting me to present in his session.

Time to say bye-bye to weird Austin and fly back to Miami! Hence, I had to put on my “U” shirt:

10 Comments

Filed under Analytics, Challenge, INFORMS, iPhone, Travel

10 responses to “INFORMS 2010 Wrap-Up

  1. Why have an iPhone app? Better to have a mobile-formatted website where anyone can view it on any smart phone (iPhone, Android, etc.). Plus then, INFORMS can update it freely for each conference.

  2. orbythebeach

    Greg: point well taken. My singling out the iPhone was biased :-) A web site optimized for mobile devices would be great. When I thought of the app, I envisioned it as being able to update itself each year simply by reading in the program PDF. Besides, I’m not sure if a web site would be able to have the alarms/reminders I was thinking about. But we have to begin somewhere, and such a web site would be an excellent first step.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention INFORMS 2010 Wrap-Up « O.R. by the Beach -- Topsy.com

  4. Since I’m a “fan” of Kaggle’s “How I did it” section [http://kaggle.com/blog/category/how-i-did-it/] where (data mining) contest winners describe the “becoming” of their solution (approach – i.e. first attempt, dead ends, improvements), I’d be interested to read sth. like this about your RAS-PSC submission.

    And: Congrats, btw.

  5. orbythebeach

    Thank you, Florian. I think that’s actually a great idea. I’ll be busy till early next week due to a paper submission deadline, but after that I’ll put together a blog post explaining what we did.

  6. Dude, you’re supposed to wear your “U” shirt _at_ the meeting, not afterward. (Well, maybe not when you’re chairing a session, but the rest of the time …) Show your colors!

  7. orbythebeach

    Gee! So I got it all wrong! (dressed formally as a spectator and wore the “U” as a session chair…epic fail :-) This kind of advice should be given to foreigners like me when we immigrate to this country. But you’re right. I should show my colors more. I’ve been thinking of creating a customized Beamer template with UM colors. I just need to take it easy and not put too much orange on the slides.

  8. Let me know if you need help with the Beamer template — I’ve customized a few to use MSU’s (much nicer) colors and some of our logos. Re the dress code, the rule is that you never pass up an opportunity to expose color-challenged people (which for me means the other U of M, the one in Ann Arbor) to aesthetically pleasing color schemes.

  9. orbythebeach

    If you don’t mind sharing your customized template with me, I’d love to look at what you did (and how you did it). Thank you! I’ll post my results here once I’m finished.

  10. I’ll e-mail it directly to you. Ironically, even as I’m bragging about it, I got a memo that it needs to be changed by next year (we’re doing a rebranding effort, which is marketing-speak for “wasting otherwise productive time”).

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