Posted by: jonkatz | February 21, 2012

Ideal World vs. Real World

The ideal view of writing a paper:

  1. The paper is written weeks before the deadline, so that all the authors can check correctness of the proofs and possibly improve the results.
  2. The day of the deadline is spent doing final polishing, to make sure the paper is clear and readable. After all, the goal is to disseminate your ideas throughout the research community.

The real way most papers are written:

  1. We had the results 3 months ago, but we’ll only finish writing them the day before the deadline. (We were too busy getting other results, that we will sit on until the day before the next deadline.) We don’t really need to check correctness — conference reviewing is so good that the referees will surely verify whether the proofs are actually right.
  2. The day of the deadline is spent playing with margins and moving random portions of text to the appendix, just to satisfy a ridiculous page-limit requirement. I guess we’ll sacrifice readability; the main goal anyway is to get the paper published so we can add a line to our CVs.

(No, I’m not cynical at all…)



  1. If we are in the stand-alone model, as we were back in the grad school days, realizing the ideal functionality is indeed doable.

    However, we don’t usually operate in the stand-alone model. We interact with external sometimes adversarial entities such as deans and undergrads, and concurrently executing multiple protocols such as teaching. And since finishing a writeup early implies commitments, we know it is impossible to achieve what you wrote, at least not in the plain model.

  2. Hope this is the first post in the “Ideal World vs. Real World” series…

  3. What? 12 pages including references in the LNCS style? I didn’t know that ICALP is only accepting short papers… =)

  4. @hoeteck: lol

  5. I second Anonymous above

  6. It is a matter of priorities. Yes, people work closer to deadlines and this is bound to happen. However, it’s possible to begin a month before the deadline and not a week before. If a paper is not ready enough, then it’s also possible to just wait and submit to the next conference. I am not a saint and I also can work up to a deadline. However, most of the work can be done earlier, in a more relaxed and rigorous way, if you just find it to be important enough.

  7. The main question is whether you can distinguish between the two worlds. As long as you can fool the committees as a simulator, you’re fine 😉

  8. lol, really funny, the comments too

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