Jeffrey D. Ullman
Jeff Ullman is the Stanford W. Ascherman
Computer Science (Emeritus).
His interests include database theory, database integration, data
education using the information infrastructure.
What's New |
Automata Course Rides Again
The third offering of my Coursera Automata Course will start Sept. 1, 2014, for 6 weeks + final exam period.
You can sign up at
Experiments as Research Validation -- Have We Gone too Far?.
Added 8/4/14: I was pleased to learn that the question about experiments mentioned in that article has now
been modified to be much more inclusive of other approaches to validation.
Follow Me on Google+
I refuse to get involved with Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or any of the old social-network
sites, but I have started to post observations and reports of my trips and such on Google+.
I'm ullmanAtGmailDotCom (you can figure it out!).
Along with a number of colleagues, I have been looking at the question of algorithm design
for Hadoop (MapReduce). Foto Afrati and I started with a technique for optimal implementation of multiway
joins using a single MR job: Optimizing Joins in a Map-Reduce
Environment. This idea was applied to the problem of finding triangles and more complex structures in
graphs using MR: Enumerating Subgraph Instances Using Map-Reduce.
We then started looking at the problem of similarity joins using MR: Fuzzy Joins Using MapReduce.
The outgrowth of these studies was something that I believe is really important: a model of MapReduce
computation that gets at the heart of what makes it different from plain old parallel computing.
In Upper and Lower Bounds on the Cost of a Map-Reduce Computation.
The theory explained here lets you get lower bounds on the amount of communication needed, as a function
of how much work each reducer is assigned. That, in turn, lets you know when your algorithm can be
improved and when it cannot. We already have a number of surprises in this regard, and we invite interested researchers
to help explore the many problems and algorithms that can be analyzed this way.
There is a Tutorial
at the SoCC on Oct. 17, 2012. The tutorial covers these developments and a number of others related to MapReduce
and its extensions.
Gradiance is a system for creating and administering class exercises.
These homeworks and progamming labs are designed to teach students, rather than merely
to test. Through the concept of a "root question," students can repeat the same
work several times, and are given advice when they make an error.
The Gradiance contract with Pearson (Addison-Wesley + Prentice-Hall) has terminated, and
we have decided to turn Gradiance into a FREE service.
If you are an instructor who wants to use the system, start
by creating an account for yourself at www.gradiance.com/services
NOT at the Pearson site.
Note: passwords are >= 10 letters+digits,
with at least one of each. Also, we cannot make an account be an
instructor account for a book if the same account has registered
as a student for a course using the same materials.
Then, email your chosen login,
with the book whose materials you want, to firstname.lastname@example.org
We'll enable you to create a class using those materials.
There are manuals at www.gradiance.com/info.html
that should enable
you to use the system without problems, but feel free to email
email@example.com if you encounter difficulties.
In addition, we have created eleven free "omnibus classes" covering Databases,
Automata, Compilers, Operating Systems, Introductory Java, Data Structures,
and Data Mining. Students wishing to join either one of these classes
will find the Student Directions useful.
Free Book: Mining of Massive Datasets
The book Mining of Massive Dataasets by Anand Rajaraman and me,
based on the CS345A course we have been teaching (now CS246 in the Winter and CS341 in the Spring),
Has just been
published in hardcopy by Cambridge University Press. It can be purchased in hardcopy
By agreement with Cambridge Press, it may still be downloaded gratis Here.
Another Free Book: Foundations of Computer Science
In 1992, Al Aho and I published a book called Foundations of
Computer Science, whose goal was to present CS theory as something
integrally connected to CS practice. For example, we viewed recursive
programs, recursive definitions, and inductive proofs as the same thing.
We believe the book deserved a better fate, but the publisher took it
out of print years ago. Having received back the rights to the book, we
are happy to make it freely available Here.
I Would Like to Hear From You, But...
I generally enjoy getting emails, even if it is to tell me of a mistake
in a book.
In fact, those notes are particularly important; they help not only me
and my coauthors, but more importantly, later readers of the book.
I try to respond helpfully and in a timely manner to email that isn't spam.
However, there are two classes of emails that I think should not be
written and that get a form response.
As part of my role as old curmudgeon (replacing my previous role as
young curmudgeon), I have been writing a few articles about things I
think especially stupid. I hope to write more.
Experiments as Research Validation -- Have We Gone too Far?.
For a long time, I've had the feeling that we -- the database community and maybe the CS community at large -- put too much
stock in experiments to justify research, and not enough stock in traditional analysis of algorithms. So I wrote a little
essay on the topic.
Answers to All Questions Iranian.
Am I the only one who gets peppered with questions from Iranians? They're
technical questions or political questions, but there seems to be a system
behind them. So I decided to save time and answer them all here.
Shortly after 9/11/01, I wrote this article on
fundamentalism --- the nonnegotiable belief in some unproven hypothesis.
It's been added to periodically, and rambles a bit, over the foolishness
of the Palestinian leadership, the drug warriors, the politically correct, the
anti-abortion crowd, and a few others.
This article also advocated research on a system like "Total
Information Awareness," (now known as PRISM) although I doubt that it had any
influence on that development.
4-Way Stop Signs.
Dumb traffic policies have always been way up on my list of things I'd
like to fix but can't. The global problem is that those with the power
to decide, focus on specific risks, which they can see.
But in solving one problem, they
often introduce far more harmful effects --- e.g., pollution.
The problem is that the harm is distributed sufficiently widely so that
no one can point to a particular death and attribute it to a particular
instance of some dumb
traffic policy. This polemic, originally written for Club Nexus (the
prototype for Orkut),
focuses on the 4-way stop signs on Stanford Campus, but the principles
Attack of the Fifty Foot NIMBY's.
Throughout my life, I've been infuriated by the tendency of our social
structure to allow theft, as long as the loss is distributed in tiny
parcels among a large number of people. "Affirmative action" is probably
the best known of
these subtle thefts, but this essay is not about affirmative action.
Rather, it's about a theft that occurs on our streets every day, yet no
This article was written for the Knuth Prize. Don, who is of course
ineligible for the Knuth Prize, would probably say we should get rid of
all patents. I don't agree, but I do feel that in the software area,
things have gotten out of hand. Here, I tried to argue that courts
should apply the same standards that are used when choosing papers
worthy of presentation at a conference, to the matter of whether a
certain software idea deserves a patent.
University of California
The UC system, unlike every other
university in this country,
refuses to offer the maximum
confidentiality that the law allows for letters of recommendation that
they solicit. Members of the various
computer-science departments in the UC system
understand that this policy makes letter-writing irrelevant and deprives
them of an important source of advice. However, the policy comes from
so high up that it is impossible for them to do anything about it. I
have therefore endeavored to put in place a solution similar to that
used in response to the equally foolish "Buckley amendment," which gave
student applicants the right to see their recommendations. The document
referred to is a pledge that the person about whom you are writing a
letter can sign, to assure you that you can write an honest and frank
letter without fear of later reprisal or embarrassment. I wish the UC
departments would themselves solicit this pledge, in order to preserve
your anonymity as well as your privacy, but apparently they are
forbidden to do so.
Books --- Past and Future
For some sets of notes and materials for supplementing current books,
Jeffrey D. Ullman
ullman @ cs.stanford.edu