Saturday, April 15, 2006

Author Ordering, II

In the comments to my previous post, Janos Simon points out a pair of hilarious articles by Martin Tompa that were published in SIGACT News in 1990. The title of the first one is 'Figures of Merit', and in it, Tompa proceeds to define measures like the spotlight factor (basically the likelihood that you'd be first author if your co-authors were chosen randomly), and the coefficient of obliviousness (roughly speaking, how indifferent to fame you are by choosing co-authors prior in the order to you).

In his second article, Tompa updates the calculations after a year. As he puts it:
The purpose of this survey is to bring the community up to date on the most recent bounds, so that we may collaborate to improve them
I don't do the original articles justice with my dry rendition of their contents. You have to read them to encounter gems like:
There is one known instance in which a resourceful Ph .D . student named Yehuda
outspotlighted his advisor Shimon Even . When it came time to publish the results of
their collaboration, Even announced his inevitable intention of being first author. Yehuda responded by legally changing his name to Bar-Yehuda.
and, in his acknowledgements:
I thank the numerous contributors who inundated me with suggested additions after the Follies presentation, I can only wish that my serious research would stimulate half as much enthusiasm in the community.
The best line was a 'disacknowledgement' in part II (you'll have to read the articles for it to make complete sense):
Avi Wigderson refused to collaborate with anyone later in the alphabet, even in the interest of scientific advancement.
Update (4/16): Avi Wigderson reconsiders after 15three years of (unknowing) resistance !!
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