Pankaj Dayama — AAMAS 2015

Ph.D. student, Pankaj Dayama, gives us our second report on AAMAS 2015.

I travelled to Istanbul, Turkey to attend the AAMAS 2015 conference. I had a paper (“Truthful Interval Cover Mechanisms for Crowdsourcing Applications”) to present in the conference and also attended several talks/poster sessions. Overall the experience was very good. It was very diverse conference with many different tracks, so it was really difficult to shortlist the talks to attend.  I found the following ones very interesting:

  1. “Learning Submodular Functions with Applications to Multi-Agent Systems”, Invited talk by Maria Florina Balcan. This talk focused on use of machine learning in understanding submodular functions. In particular, it discussed recent work on studying the learnability of submodular functions with applications to the analysis of multi-agent systems. She discussed few general algorithms for learning such functions. Further, application of these algorithms for learning influence function in social networks was presented and empirical studies showed that it outperforms existing approaches.
  2. “Dynamic Influence Maximization Under Increasing Return to Scale”, H. Zhang, A. Procaccia, and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. This paper addressed the algorithmic question of maximizing the total number of adopters of a product at the end of finite time horizon T, where the decision maker faces a budget constraint B. They formulate a dynamic influence maximization problem under increasing return to scale and show that the optimal policy has a simple structure. It must spend the entire budget in single stage (“Best-Stage”). In the setting where time dependency of the cost function is  replaced by cumulative adoption, they propose “Best-K-Stage” heuristic algorithm and show that it significantly outperforms the “Best-Stage” algorithm.

I also got a chance to go around Istanbul and really loved the city. My hotel was very close to the conference venue near Taksim Square. It was just a few miles from old part of the city which has several museums and mosques. I did visit a few places:

  • Blue Mosque (also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque)  with blue domed exterior
  • Suleymaniye Mosque (largest mosque in Istanbul)
  • Grand Bazaar (with over 3000 shops selling leather goods, carpets, ceramic, etc): Any shopping here will be a test of your bargaining skills)
  • Spice Bazaar (with shops selling spices, nuts, dried fruit, Turkish Coffee, Turkish Delight,etc.)
  • Boat tour down the Bosphorus
  • Dolmabache Palace (new palace built towards the end of Ottoman period after Topkapi Palace)
  • Galata Bridge
  • Basilica Cistern: One of the largest underground ancient water cistern.

Regarding travel and food, the local commute in Istanbul is very efficient and cheap. I had some challenge finding good vegetarian food, but I did like the Aryan drink, Turkish tea, and sweets (Turkish Delight and Baklava).