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April 29, 2010

What have I been doing these past 8 years?

The other day while contemplating this whole business of being a university professor, recruiting students, etc., it occurred to me that my current website doesn't have the usual blah-blah-blah boilerplate descriptions about the topics I work on and the questions I'm interested in. I'll probably write something eventually, but for now, I decided to take a data-driven approach to describing what I do: I took the text of almost all the papers I've written since 2003, threw them into a text file, munged things a little [1], and made a of the results.

Voila. Here's what I work on.


[1] The munging is not strictly necessary, but wordle.net's implementation of the word cloud algorithm doesn't do "stemming", i.e., it doesn't see that words like "distribution" and "distributions" are really the same. So, some munging is necessary to combine words that are really the same.

posted April 29, 2010 06:34 AM in Self Referential | permalink


Those boilerplate descriptions are actually exceedingly useful.

Posted by: Mason Porter at April 29, 2010 08:38 AM

I mostly agree, and I'll almost surely have some boilerplate text written up by the Fall. But, in the meantime, it sure was fun to take a data-driven approach. I must remember to do this again in a few years to see if much has changed.
p.s. Nice word cloud on your blog!

Posted by: Aaron at April 29, 2010 04:42 PM

Thanks! I liked your idea, so I blatantly stole it. I gave credit, though. :) I needed to mess around with the colors and fonts to get the more garish style that I preferred, and it gave me a nice thing to do for 15 minutes instead of the paper I should have been revising... I was going to do a word cloud for my blog, but the RSS didn't give the right set of text (it seemed to only pick up a very small number of recent entries), and I didn't want to figure out how to get it right.

Actually, I think I'll try to use a word cloud for some recruitment talks (though the choice of words will vary depending on talks).

Posted by: Mason Porter at April 30, 2010 12:11 PM