Last week in review

By Will Angley
17 Jun 2017

I missed the Research talks this week while working to meet a deadline (perhaps a bit too hard in hindsight), but did learn about a paper that seems cool:

  • Segmental Recurrent Neural Networks” by Lingpeng Kong, Chris Dyer, and Noah A. Smith

    a neural network architecture specialized for the segmented nature of language, in any of text strings, handwriting, or speech.

Specializing the structure of neural networks greatly improves performance in other domains - convolutional networks do better at visual tasks, neuron-for-neuron, than other ways of building neural networks. Could this offer a similar advantage on linguistic tasks?

That said, I can’t say I understand this paper yet after half an hour reading on my Pixel while waiting for dinner out tonight; it’s harder than the scientific papers that I learned to deal with in college, and I don’t yet have much background in this field.

Google searches turn up advice on how to read a paper that seem worthwhile to try when I pick this up again, tomorrow or Monday. I’m out of “reading scientific paper” tokens for the night.


I’ve started refamiliarizing myself with JavaScript, with the aim of being able to build visualizations comfortably in D3.js. Visualizations were helpful explaining even surprising aspects of WiFi – viz. Avery Pennarun’s beamlab – so I’m hopeful they’ll help me explain surprising things about language, and how computers understand language, once I get more practiced with them, too.

I’m still surprised at how much of my day I spend looking at text-only terminals, and text-mostly web pages, fifty years after The Mother of All Demos showed how powerful graphical user interfaces can be.


Keeping a journal and looking back is often enough to surprise yourself, and at least one thing seems clear two weeks in: I skim far more articles on the Internet than I save to my Instapaper account, and I save far more to my Instapaper account than seems worth talking about on the Internet a week later.

This feels like an opportunity to free a substantial amount of time by building better habits here.