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The Morning Paper: a short summary every weekday of an important, influential, topical or otherwise interesting paper in the field of computer science.

There are several ways to take your morning paper:

During the course of a year, we’ll cover a broad range of computer science topics. I’m an expert in none of them! To the extent that I manage to bring any insight to the papers that I write up, this mostly comes from (a) reading a lot of papers across the various sub-disciplines, and (b) getting to see a lot of companies through my role as a Venture Partner with Accel in London. (It probably comes as no surprise if I also tell you that I spent the first 20+ years of my career in technical roles before finding myself at a VC firm!).

I’d like to take just a few moments to share with you what to expect from The Morning Paper, and offer a few suggestions for how you can make the most of it.

In terms of paper selection, my only real rule is that I find it interesting and that I believe it’s worth sharing. I’m naturally curious and love learning, so the set of things that I find interesting is pretty broad!  To read, understand (to the best of my ability) and write-up each paper takes me a minimum of two hours,  more often two-and-a-half to three hours and occasionally longer. My goal is to produce a piece that you can read and digest in around 10 minutes or less that gives you the essential ideas. I.e., something you can consume during a coffee (or tea!) break. Over the course of a year, you’ll be exposed to the ideas from 200+ papers.

I recently came across the following quote from Andrew Ng:

When I talk to researchers, when I talk to people wanting to engage in entrepreneurship, I tell them that if you read research papers consistently, if you seriously study half a dozen papers a week and you do that for two years, after those two years you will have learned a lot. This is a fantastic investment in your own long term development. (Inside The Mind That Built Google Brain: On Life, Creativity, And Failure)

Not all of us can make the time to seriously study six papers a week, but if you can manage to take on board the key ideas from five that’s still pretty good in my book! Please don’t feel pressure to read every single edition of The Morning Paper though. It’s fine to just read the ones that pique your interest, but I do strongly encourage you to dip into some of the papers from outside of your own area of expertise.

I believe we get the most out of a paper (and the ideas within it), when we actively engage with the material. Creating the write-ups is one of the ways that I do that, and having a few thousand people expecting their daily paper write-up to arrive in their inbox keeps me going on days when I don’t otherwise feel like doing it. (Thankfully, there aren’t many days like that – I love learning and sharing, I wouldn’t be able to keep going if I didn’t!).

Here a few suggestions for time-efficient ways of engaging with The Morning Paper write-ups that will help you get even more out of them:

  • Try explaining to a colleague or friend during a coffee or lunch break what today’s paper (write-up)  was all about.
  • Encourage a group of your friends and/or co-workers to also subscribe. (Just send them to this link). Get in the habit of chatting about the paper of the day socially in the office (or the chat forum!). Is there an analogy to some situation in your own environment?
  • You might even go so far as to create a mini reading group / discussion group within your company that meets once a week to discuss the week’s paper write-ups. It’s a bit like an in-house papers-we-love meetup, but without the difficulty of having to find speakers to present every time. If you do set up one of these, please do let me know. I’d love to hear any stories about how you’ve found it once it’s been up and running for a while too.
  • Forward a paper write-up to people you think might enjoy it and add a few comments of your own by way of introduction.
  • Share a paper that you enjoyed with your social network. I’m @adriancolyer on twitter, and I tweet each day’s papers as the write-ups go online.
  • Start a discussion on HackerNews or Reddit about a post that catches your interest. (I tend to focus just on writing the content – that takes enough time as it is! – but if readers help spread the word about the research I’m covering then that is always appreciated!).

If you’re a battle-hardened practitioner, I hope you find it stimulating to (re?)-engage with research ideas. With the gap from research to practice narrowing considerably in key areas of our field there’s plenty you can use, and I always like to cover papers that I believe practitioners can get immediate benefit from.

If you’re a researcher, I encourage you to especially take the ten minutes a day to read the paper write-ups from areas outside of your core research area. I believe many of the most interesting ideas and breakthroughs come from cross-fertilisation across the different (sub-) disciplines. Distributed systems, database systems, and machine learning communities all have plenty to teach each other as a simple example. If the paper of the day does happen to be in your area of expertise and you can add additional insights, please do leave a comment on the blog so that everyone can benefit. (Comments are moderated because spam, so sometimes it can take a while for them to appear).

If you’re an under-graduate or recent graduate, welcome! If only I had started this habit when I first graduated – think of all the compounding of ideas over the years!!

For whatever reason brings you to The Morning Paper, I hope you find at least one or two ideas every now and then that excite and inspire you, or that you can put into use. If that happens, I’d love to hear about it.

All the very best, Adrian.

About me: I’m a Venture Partner with Accel in London, where it’s my job to help find and build great technology companies across Europe and Israel.  If you’re working on an interesting technology-related business I’d love to hear from you: you can reach me at acolyer at accel dot com. Prior to joining Accel I spent over twenty years in technical roles, including CTO roles at Pivotal, VMware, and SpringSource.

Thanks for reading The Morning Paper!

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Martina permalink
    February 26, 2015 4:36 pm

    I found this blog today, searching for the title of one of my papers. I feel honored that you talked about it. And the blog went directly to my RSS reader, when I found some fantastic references to read. Great job.

  2. Lu Liu permalink
    June 18, 2015 4:22 pm

    Adrian, really enjoy your blog. Would it be possible to do a series on security?

    • June 20, 2015 5:50 am

      Hi Lu, thanks! I try to avoid papers that are heavily mathematical in order to keep the morning paper easily digestible. That still leaves plenty of scope for security-related material though. I’ll see if we can schedule something in for the 2nd half of the year – I don’t know the body of work in this area very well at all, but that’s a good reason to start reading!

      Regards, Adrian.

  3. June 25, 2015 3:41 pm

    I really enjoy reading the papers you find. Where and how to do you find new papers to summarize? I’m looking for more from the ICSE, but their website only seems to list titles of papers w/out any hyperlinks. Have any resources you can share?

    • June 27, 2015 8:32 am

      Hi Gabriel,
      There’s a paragraph in the middle of this post that describes some of the ways I source papers: https://blog.acolyer.org/2015/01/07/reflections-on-100-editions-of-themorningpaper/.

      I agree with you though that the ICSE website this year is very unhelpful! ICSE is on my list of conferences to keep an eye on, so I persevered, but couldn’t find any better process than looking to see what titles sounded interesting, googling for pdf copies of those papers, and whittling things down from there. It would have been much more useful to have had at least the abstracts on the website – often I’ve found great papers hiding behind innocuous looking titles… I downloaded maybe 15 papers in order to find the 5 I eventually selected for last week.

      Regards, Adrian.

  4. July 29, 2015 8:28 pm

    Best CS blog I’ve seen.

  5. September 10, 2015 3:44 pm

    Congrats, Adrian. Never seen a clearer picture of where tech is heading. Keep it up.

  6. Chao Wang permalink
    October 30, 2015 8:34 pm

    Very good! I am now looking into some interesting projects on graph computing and other similar big data applications, and I have a team working on GPU and FPGA accelerators.
    Stay tuned!

  7. Terry Critchley permalink
    February 8, 2016 6:34 am

    This looks good but 1 Q. What is CS??

    • February 9, 2016 11:16 am

      CS = Computer Science!

      • Terry Critchley permalink
        February 9, 2016 3:01 pm

        Thanks. I thought there was a deeper, spiritual, quantum mechanical meaning!

  8. woolie permalink
    April 21, 2016 3:12 pm

    Hi Adrian, this is great blog and I’ve been following for a month or so now, thanks!

    I was wondering what hardware/software you use to create the freehand diagrams and notes that often accompany your summaries? Are they drawn using a graphics tablet?

    • April 21, 2016 4:42 pm

      Hi Alistair,
      Many of them are just drawn with pen and paper and then scanned. More recently I’ve been experimenting with Notability (and sometimes Paper) using the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil…

      Regards, Adrian.

  9. testuser permalink
    April 25, 2016 3:14 pm

    Hi Adrian,

    I follow your paper reviews every morning…. Just too good.

    My question: How much time do you spend per review and writeup. As a graduate student I find myself struggle reading one paper a day, and writing a review is currently not even on the priority agenda. So what are the techniques that you follow that will help fellow grad students like me to improve reading/writing skills.. A blog post just on this aspect will be truly beneficial for all.

    • April 25, 2016 9:08 pm

      Hi ‘testuser’,
      Many thanks for your kind words about the blog! I wrote a little about the process I use to read papers, and how long it takes (about 2-4 hours per paper, typically 2.5) here: https://blog.acolyer.org/2015/03/30/end-of-term-and-how-i-read-a-paper/ . Everyone is different, but for me the act of writing up notes on the paper really helps – otherwise I find I my retention of what I’ve read is not that great. And even with the notes, I often have to go back and re-read them (at least that’s quicker than re-reading the whole paper again!) when I’m thinking about a subject area.

      The only other thing I will say is that it does get easier with practice, both (a) you get better at quickly extracting and synthesising the key information in a paper, and (b) the more you read, the more of the background you already have which helps a lot too.

      All the best, Adrian.

  10. Richard permalink
    April 27, 2016 10:45 am

    Dear Adrian, I just stumbled upon your blog via a retweet by raspberry pi. I subscribed immediately. Great blog! Thank you for the effort.

  11. May 17, 2016 8:01 pm

    Adrian, Thank you for your blog. I have really found it useful.

  12. September 7, 2016 3:44 am

    Dear Adrian, it has already been some time since I started reading your blog. It is now becoming a habit of mine to check themorningpaper every time I get to the office in the morning while having my coffee. Your blog ranks along with Scott Aaronson’s blog, Shtetl-Optimized, in my list of personal favorites. I admire the discipline you have developed through reading and understanding papers with varying range of content complexity, almost every single day. I have not gone through all your previous reviews though but one thing I’d like to ask is, if possible, could you write a post about how you review papers? Do you have an outline maybe? I suppose after reviewing some considerable amount of paper you have some how come up with a personal guideline on how to write an effective review.

    Thanks Adrian.

  13. Chang permalink
    September 27, 2016 11:51 am

    Hi Adrian, I found your blog a couple days ago. Soon it became my daily reading together with HN and etc. What I really admire is your discipline (as mentioned in the previous comment). At first I couldn’t believe there could be someone keep writing reports everyday, but you truly did. My respect to you, man!

  14. October 17, 2016 2:09 pm

    Adrian, I have a request for you. Looking for some blog post related to Smell technology for example http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6676916/?section=abstract

  15. Peter Hawkings permalink
    November 12, 2016 9:31 am

    Hi Adrian, I really enjoy your blog. Please keep it up! Given your interests in databases I wonder what you think about the work of Alvin Cheung et al on combining programming language techniques and databases?

    • November 13, 2016 9:23 am

      Thank you! I haven’t read any of his work – sounds like I should :). Is there a particular paper you’d recommend?

      • Peter Hawkings permalink
        November 14, 2016 6:40 pm

        Hm I’m not sure. Maybe their work on converting ordinary java code to spark? (along with their earlier work on compiling fortran to halide using similar techniques)

  16. seamusit permalink
    January 19, 2017 2:59 pm

    Hi Adrian great blog is it possible to reblog some of your articles on my blog ?

    • January 20, 2017 5:37 pm

      I’m glad you like the blog, thank you. It’s fine to reblog or extract selected pieces so long as there is always a reference and prominent link back to the original source (e.g. ‘reposted from ….’ at the top of the piece). Thanks, A.

  17. February 10, 2017 12:02 pm

    Hi Adrian,
    which SW do you use to draw the diagrams in https://blog.acolyer.org/2017/02/01/explaining-outputs-in-modern-data-analytics/ ?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • February 10, 2017 12:47 pm

      Hi Tom, Those are hand-drawn using the Notability app on an iPad Pro… Regards, Adrian.

  18. February 16, 2017 5:38 pm

    great stuff, it’s already in my daily reading list.

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