What is This Blog?

2008-08-02 at 6:19 pm

Primarily, this is a blog about statistics, machine learning, computing, and other scientific areas where I have some expertise. Many posts will be quite technical, but some will be more widely accessible. I will also occasionally post on photography and other subjects that I have an amateur interest in, and on some societal topics, particularly those relating to statistics and to broader intellectual issues.

Many of my technical posts will point out flaws in research, methods, and tools that are commonly used. Such negative comments are essential to the scientific enterprise, being the social counterpart of the crucial role of self-criticism in individual research. I find that one of the main challenges in supervising PhD students is getting them to constantly ask whether their results, or the results of others, might be wrong. The aim in research is to discard bad ideas quickly, and with minimal effort. For this a blog is much more efficient than formal publication.

I will also try to publicize good work, including what I think is good work of my own. Traditionally, this is the role of conferences, but blogs may be a more efficient mechanism for this as well. Other technical posts will contain tutorial examples that illustrate important concepts, or present results that I think are interesting, but not significant enough for a formal paper.

I’ll sometimes post less technical examples and explanations of statistical concepts, accessible to readers with some general scientific background. Other non-technical posts will discuss statistical aspects of issues of personal or public significance. Sometimes I may discuss posts on other people’s blogs.

I may occasionally venture into other areas of science where I have less expertise. I’m an amateur photographer, and will sometimes post on technical aspects of photography, or just present a photo of mine that I like. I may post on other amateur interests as well.

Note that although I am a Professor of Statistics and Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and will occassionally refer to my work there, this blog is not approved by, supported by, or in any other way affiliated with the University of Toronto, or any other organization.

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