Last week, I attended the World Wide Web Conference (WWW) in Perth, Australia. The main days of the conference were Wednesday, April 5 – Friday, April 7, 2017. WWW has a pretty broad focus on issues that go beyond security and privacy, but most of the talks I attended were at least somewhat relevant to my interests.
Other conference recap posts (will) cover:
- What I took away from technical sessions.
- How my talk went, and what I learned about giving better presentations or asking better questions at conference talks.
- Fun things we did.
This post includes a short recap of the two keynotes I attended. I’m writing based on my notes, which include mostly low-level details that surprised me and overall thoughts, so the big-picture message might not be particularly clear.
Wednesday Keynote: Yoelle Maarek, the VP of Research at Yahoo argued that web mail (email) is not dead. I didn’t know this was up for debate, but I guess there have been many news articles over the past several years that make this claim since young people are less likely to have an email address/use email regularly than older people. She made her case based on an analysis of Yahoo emails. She spent a good deal of time explaining how these emails had been k-anonymized and only used internally. Although fewer people are exchanging personal emails, she claimed that overall use of email is still growing, just at a slower rate. She described the work they had done to figure out what folders people use or try to use to organize their emails (e.g., personal, social, promotions, etc. in GMail) and which ones Yahoo could automatically sort emails into with high enough reliability to be useful. They found that their automatic tools were really good at identifying and sorting machine-generated emails (e.g., flight confirmations, shipping notifications, the emails you get when someone adds you as a friend on Facebook). And it also turned out that 90% of non-spam email is machine generated, so this can actually be a substantial help for people organizing their inboxes.
Thursday Keynote: My advisor, Yoshi, really liked this talk, but I didn’t get a ton out of it. Mark Pesce gave a talk called “The Web-Wide World.” It looks like he’s posted basically the exact contents of that talk in a Medium post, so I won’t go into a lot of detail. I think Yoshi’s interest came from the connections he made between web technologies (the Internet) and augmented reality (AR); he’s been working on AR research along with Franzi and Kiron in our lab. I think my biggest problem was that I was put off by his demeanor, which matched what I would have expected based on how he describes himself on his website as “a leading futurist, author, entrepreneur and innovator.” He just didn’t feel particularly genuine or authentic to me – I didn’t want to believe him. I was also frustrated that he didn’t give sources for materials in his slides, and now I’m even more frustrated to see that this wasn’t fixed in the Medium post, either. For example he used the cartoon below, which it turns out was drawn by Steve Cutts, not Pesce. Also amusing were the slide transitions, which I managed to catch on video (also below).