ACM SIGMM Executive Committee Newsletter – 1, 2022


The Special Interest Group in Multimedia of ACM, ACM SIGMM, provides a forum for researchers, engineers, and practitioners in all aspects of multimedia computing, communication, storage, and applications. We do this through our sponsorship and organization of conferences and workshops, supporting student travel to such events, discounted registrations, two regional chapters, recognition of excellence and achievement through an awards scheme, and we inform the Multimedia community of our activities through the SIGMM Records, social media and through mailing lists. Information on joining SIGMM can be found at https://www.acm.org/special-interest-groups/sigs/sigmm.

The SIGMM Executive Committee Newsletter in SIGMM Records periodically reports on the topics discussed and the decisions assumed in the Executive Committee meetings to improve transparency and sense of community. 

SIGMM Executive Committee Meeting 2022-03-16

Attended: Alberto Del Bimbo (Chair); Phoebe Chen (Vice-Chair); Miriam Redi (Conference Director); Changsheng Xu, Ketan Mayer-Patel, Kiyoharu Aizawa, Pablo Cesar, Prabhakaran, Balakrishnan, Qi Tian, Susanne Boll, Tao Mei, Abdulmotaleb El Saddik, Alan Smeaton (SIGMM Executive Committee members); Xavier Alameda Pineda (Invited guest)

Sent justification and comments: Lexing Xie (SIGMM Executive Committee member). 

We discussed the 2022 SIGMM budget. The SIGMM budget is in a good shape, and we foresee room for new initiatives to strengthen and expand the SIGMM community and improve our communication via existing and new channels.  

We approved a revision of SIGMM bylaws (proposed by Susanne Boll) to improve diversity: the chair and vice-chair will run for the offices in pairs; a way to encourage diversity without necessarily having to put quota. The proposal has been sent to ACM for approval. 

We approved three proposals for special initiatives that will improve inclusion. In late 2021, the SIGMM Executive invited SIGMM Members to apply for funding for new initiatives building on SIGMM’s excellence and strengths, nurturing new talent in the SIGMM community, and addressing weaknesses in the SIGMM community and in SIGMM activities. The fund can support auditable expenses incurred and necessary for the completion of the initiative. The proposals received were evaluated based on impact and contribution to the SIGMM community, and cost-effectiveness of the proposed budget. The three special initiatives approved so far are:

  • Multi-City PhD-School (proposed by the Steering Committee Co-Chairs of MM Asia)
    This is a two-half day program which is planned to be implemented in ACM MM Asia and eventually applied to other conferences in the future. The program is hosted in 3-5 satellite sites located in different Asian cities. Each site will physically gather 30-50 PhD students plus 1-2 senior researchers in a local venue. Different sites are virtually connected by online meetings. Invited student speakers will deliver a 3-minute lightning talk in turn followed by QA talks with mentors. The program allows students to physically attend the event, talk to senior researchers, while increasing the impact of satellite events among young researchers. Students are encouraged to register for the satellite events and attend virtually. This could involve more students and minority attendees with satellite events bringing students from multiple cities for idea exchange and research training
  • MMSys inclusion initiative (proposed by the MMSys’22 General Chairs & Diversity Chairs)
    The goal of this initiative is to improve diversity and inclusion in the MMSys community. The proposal includes 1) Travel support for non-student participants who self-identify as marginalized and/or underrepresented, lacking other funding opportunities; 2) an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) panel aiming at increasing visibility and recognition of minorities and under-represented researchers in SIGMM fields, stimulating new collaborations; and promoting networking and mentoring between junior and senior researchers.
  • IMX Inclusion initiative (proposed by the IMX’22 Diversity Chairs)
    The goal of this initiative is to promote the participation of groups of students and researchers that have historically been underrepresented in the IMX’s community. The proposal includes funding for 1) a panel discussion on diversity in the metaverse; 2) travel support for individuals who self-identify as marginalized and/or underrepresented in terms of gender, race, and geographical location and who lack the financial resources to attend an international conference.

The SIGMM Executive also discussed two other initiatives, namely the opportunity of using Open Review in the SIGMM flagship conference ACM Multimedia (this year it is adopted on an experimental basis in ACMMM 2022), and the project of a reproducibility platform for open streaming evaluation and benchmarking (proposed by Ali Begen) eventually extendible beyond streaming media.  They both will be further discussed and evaluated in the next future.

The Chairs of the SIGMM Executive Committee

Encouraging Scientific Collaborations with ConfFlow 2021

Introduction

We often find other collaborators by chance at a conference or by looking for them specifically through their papers. However, sometimes hidden potential social connections might exist between different researchers that cannot be immediately observed because the keywords we use might not always represent the entire space of similar research interests. As a community, Multimedia (MM) is so diverse that it is easy for community members to miss out on very useful expertise and potentially fruitful collaborations. There is a lot of latent knowledge and potential synergies that could exist if we were to offer conference attendees an alternative perspective on their similarities to other attendees. ConfFlow is an online application that offers an alternative perspective on finding new research connections. It is designed to help researchers find others at conferences with complementary research interests for collaboration. With ConfFlow we take a data-driven approach by using something similar to the Toronto Paper Matching System (TPMS), used to identify suitable reviewers for papers, to construct a similarity embedding space for researchers to find other researchers. 

In this report, we discuss the follow up to the 2020 ConfFlow edition which was run at MMSys, MM, ICMR in 2021. We created separate editions of ConfFlow for each conference, processing 2642 (MM), 272 (MMSys), and 494 (ICMR) accepted authors from each conference.

Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of ConfFlow were funded by the SIGMM special initiatives fund.

New Functionality

In the 2020 edition of ConfFlow, we created an interface allowing authors at the MM 2020 conference to browse the research similarity space with others. Each user needs to claim their Google scholar account in the application before using it. We implemented a strict privacy-sensitive policy allowing data of individuals only to be shown if they consented to use the database; even public data was not shown as the processed public data might be considered a privacy invasion. Unfortunately, because of this strict policy, and very little uptake of the application, the full experience of the application was not possible for any user. In the 2021 edition, we updated the privacy policy to be more permissive, whilst still secure (see discussion in the Privacy and Ethical Considerations section below).

From our experiences from the 2020 edition, we identified some bottlenecks that could be improved upon. To that end, we made the following augmentations:

  • Improved frontend design: We did an overhaul of the interface to make it more modern, visually appealing, and user-friendly. The design was also slightly changed to accommodate new functionalities
  • New embedding options: We added two more options to choose how the similarity space is formed; word2vec (tf-idf weighted mean word2vec embeddings: w(eighted)-m(ean)o(f)w(ord)e(mbeddings)) and doc2vec (see Figure 1)
Figure 1. Screenshot showing the new embedding functionality (m-mowe and doc2vec)
  • Interactive tutorial for onboarding: We included an interactive tutorial that showcases the full range of functionalities to the users when they first log in (see Figure 2)
  • Direct messaging functionality: We added direct messaging to ConfFlow, allowing direct communication between attendees (see Figure 3)
  • Scaling ConfFlow and making it cheaper to run in the future: There is an economy of scale to only needing to update the ConfFlow database with conference newcomers. We made the following steps to make the process more efficient:
    • Generating a database of verified authors from the lists of SIGMM conference attendees listed on the ACM website in the last 6 years.
    • A helper tool for finding google scholar profiles of newcomers quicker as they needed to be manually verified for security reasons.

Deployment

Method

ConfFlow was rolled out to 3 conferences starting with MMSys 2021 (Istanbul, Turkey)  in September, Multimedia 2021 (Chengdu, China)  in October, and ICMR (Taipei, Taiwan) 2021 in November rather than just ACM MM in 2020. All MMSys and MM conferences were organized as hybrid events whilst ICMR was finally organized virtually after having to be rescheduled twice.

We asked all general and program chairs of each respective conference to provide the author lists of the accepted papers in the conference at least 1 month before the conference started. This was in the end a compromise between obtaining just the actual conference attendees (which would have made social connection easier if the conferences had been in-person only) and being able to get conference relevant participants sufficiently ahead of time in order to disambiguate identities and start the time-consuming computations of the embedding spaces. Given the added complication that MMSys and Multimedia were hybrid, the problem of waiting for the final conference registration list was that we would need to wait until very close to the conference itself to get the latest attendee list. In any case, even if we knew, the hybrid nature of the conference made virtual social connection still the more viable option. Use of the attendee list would also make it harder to pre-announce the application just before the conference started. Given also that the conference organizers were very occupied with handling the many uncertainties of conference organization during the pandemic, we decided that obtaining the author lists was the least risky approach.

Aside from getting the author lists, we also asked the conference organizers for support in disseminating the application to the conference attendees. A separate edition of ConfFlow needed to be generated for each conference. The following strategies were used for disseminating the application via the conference directly and from a personal account:

  • MMSys: slack channel, Twitter (conference, personal, and sigmm), weixin, weibo, facebook, presentation slides during conference general announcements
  • ACM MM: Twitter (conference and sigmm), whova, presentation slide during the conference banquet
  • ICMR:  Twitter (conference, personal, and sigmm).

We tried a different strategy compared to last year to catch people’s attention to the application by a more comprehensive dissemination strategy and also short catchy explanatory videos to communicate the functionalities of the application. These were embedded in our social media dissemination campaigns.

Following on from that, we issued an online survey to gauge how people in the community at large felt about social interaction and, if they had used ConfFlow, how was their experience of the app. This was sent shortly after the conference by email to all those that used the application and then also 1 week later as a reminder. Posts were also sent out on Twitter and Facebook to encourage people in the community to fill in the survey even if they had not used ConfFlow. The survey was divided into questions related to collaboration in general, their experience using ConfFlow, and questions about how the application experience could be changed. Further details about the questions are shown in the Appendix. 

Privacy and Ethical Considerations

The first edition of ConfFlow (2020) had a very restrictive opt-in only policy. This made the visualization hard to use for interested users, thus severely hindering the user experience. Users unanimously asked for visualization of the other researchers in the community. Therefore, any already publicly available information from a user’s google scholar account or ACM website and derived visualizations were displayed to everyone. Information that is not available publicly online such as their individual usage behavior, their visualization options, whether their ConfFlow account is activated or not etc is not shown publicly. 

Application Realization

For security reasons, each user cannot use ConfLab until they have claimed their account. This is needed because each account has preferences related to the ConfFlow interface – settings such as hiding particular researchers, having researchers marked as ‘favourites’ as well as the direct messaging functionality. We used very strict security procedures for the building of ConfFlow and this also meant that to retrieve a user’s preferences in the application, a user’s identity needed to be verified when a user claims their account. We do this by associating the author’s name and affiliation with a Google scholar profile and then a user needs to verify their identity with respect to their Google scholar account. In some cases, it is necessary to manually assign an author to a Google scholar profile because there are too many profiles with the same name; sometimes many author names can be associated with the same Google scholar account. To this end, one of the main new functionalities was the creation of a database of all SIGMM community members who had published at the MM conference recently. That way, their name and google scholar profile only needs to be associated once and can easily be re-used in future editions of ConfLab. This manual effort aspect of the process varied across the three different conferences in which ConfLab was created. We elaborate on this below. An additional helper function was created to allow faster manual verification in cases of ambiguity.

ConfFlow at ACM SIGMM

We describe some statistics for each edition of ConfFlow at the three conferences of SIGMM in 2021: MMSys, MM, and ICMR. We list them in chronological order of when the conference occurred in the calendar year.

ACM MMSys

The author list provided by General Chairs of MMSys had 272 unique authors. As shown in Figure 4.,  we were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 158 authors. 145 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 13 accounts identified by the automatic process were tagged as ambiguous and required manual validation.

Figure 4. Author statistics for ACM MMSys‘21

We created ConfFlow accounts for 145 identified authors. As shown in Figure 5, 18 users claimed their accounts and used ConfFlow during the conference. Further analysis showed that 7 out of 18 users were newcomers to MMSys i.e., it was their first publication at this conference. 

After sending out the survey request to the 18 users after the conference, we obtained 1 survey response from a PhD student. Due to the low response rate, we do not report the responses.

Figure 5. User statistics for ConfFlow-MMSys‘21

The similarity space visualized in ConfFlow is based on the publications of authors in the last two years. Figure 6 shows the distribution of the number of papers MMSys authors published in the last two years. We show this because for each identified author, we take all the papers they published in the last 2 years to generate the latent representation of their research interests. What was particularly interesting to see is how many researchers were publishing 30 or more papers in the last 2 years. They account for a significant proportion of the authors of the conference who may be too busy to find new research connections. However, there is also a significant proportion of researchers publishing less than 30 papers a year who could find Conf Lab useful.

Figure 6. Histogram of the number of publications in the last 2 years for MMSys’21 authors.

ACM Multimedia

We realized that users without a Google scholar profile could not use ConfLab at all so for the Multimedia edition, we added a view-only (guest account) option of ConfLab and advertised it on social media accordingly. This view-only account also allowed researchers who did not want to claim their account to browse the embedding space. The disadvantage of this approach is that the application does not immediately centre on the user in the embedding space. Given the large number of authors at Multimedia, this made it extremely hard for view-only users to find themselves, which may have made it harder for them to appreciate the utility of the application. 

As shown in  Figure 7,  the author list provided by General Chairs of Multimedia had 2642 unique authors. We were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 1608 authors. 1213 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 225 authors were already identified in the previous iterations of ConfFlow for ACM MMSys ‘21 and MM ‘20. We then manually analyzed the remaining 1204 authors that were either tagged as ambiguous matches by the automatic process or returned no matches at all. We were able to identify an additional 170 accounts with the manual search. This highlights how challenging it is to establish an online identity for all authors in order for them to use ConfFlow, despite manual intervention.

Figure 7. Author statistics for MM’21

We created ConfFlow accounts for the identified authors. As shown in Figure 8, 16 users claimed their accounts and used ConfFlow during the conference. Further analysis showed that 9 out of 16 users were newcomers to MMSys i.e., it was their first publication at this conference. 5 attendees requested access to the guest account.

Figure 8. User statistics for ConfFlow-MM’21.

Figure 9 shows the distribution of the number of papers.  Multimedia 2021 authors published in the last two years. It is interesting to see a more skewed distribution towards people with fewer publications compared to the MMSys edition. This would suggest that there are potentially more researchers who would find ConfFlow interesting as a social connection tool. However, both MMSys and Multimedia had very similar numbers of users despite Multimedia being almost 10 times bigger. This may be related to the fact that we were able to be in closer communication with the general chairs of MMSys who gave us access to more channels of communication (including a slide announcement during the conference opening). Meanwhile, at MM, the initial dissemination via Whova (which was the first line of attack) did not yield any new users at all and the Multimedia social media feed (Twitter)  had very few followers – this could be explained by the fact that Twitter is not used by many of our colleagues in Asia and Multimedia was being run in Chengdu. We do not have statistics on the proportion of hybrid vs. in-person attendees which may also have affected usage. 

Figure 9. Histogram of the number of publications in the last 2 years for all identified authors of MM’21.

ICMR

The author list provided by the General Chairs of Multimedia had 494 unique authors. As shown in Figure 10, we were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 286 authors. 162 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 67 authors were already identified in the previous iterations of ConfFlow. We then manually analyzed the remaining 265 authors that were either tagged as ambiguous matches by the automatic process or returned no matches at all. We were able to identify an additional 57 accounts with the manual search. 

Figure 10. Author statistics for ICMR ‘21

None of the users claimed their ConfFlow account during ICMR’21. Figure 11 shows the distribution of the number of papers MMSys authors published in the last two years. It is interesting that despite being almost double the size of MMSys and 5 times smaller than Multimedia, 

Figure 11. Histogram of number of publications in the last 2 years for all identified authors of ICMR ‘21.

Discussion and Recommendations

This section describes some key points of reflection on the running of ConfFlow this year. 

One of the main issues relates to the low number of users despite conference participants being aware of the application. The survey on collaboration and experience with ConfFlow did not yield sufficient responses. 

It is interesting to see in all conferences that a significant proportion of the users of ConfFlow were newcomers. Unfortunately, without the statistics from the survey we put out, it is not clear if this reflects the distribution of the conference attendees in general or whether more newcomers are interested in using ConfFlow due to its promise of helping people to connect socially. 

The reasons for this could be multiple: The hybrid format and virtual formats of the conferences made it difficult to provide time to think about collaborations whilst being in the middle of preparing to go to a conference or during the conference itself. For virtual participants, in particular, the benefit of not going physically means that one can continue with day to day duties in the person’s normal job. However, this does take away opportunities for social networking that one might have in the in-person setting. In addition, the challenges of running the conference in the hybrid format may also have led to fatigue for in-person as well as virtual participants. Another possible explanation is that in the general Multimedia community there is no obvious intrinsic value in changing the way collaboration is already carried out. The additional barrier of needing to claim their account due to privacy and ethical reasons may have been confusing (it could appear that an account needs to be created, which can be a barrier to usage). 

We reflect that the fact that more users were obtained for MMSys could have been related to the closer access we had to social media channels e.g. the conference slack channel, which helped to keep a centralized reminder for participants of what was going on in the conference. It could also be a reflection of the openness of the community to finding social connections. On the other hand, the Whova app used for MM is a more complex interface with multiple purposes beyond just communication, which may have made it harder for attendees to see the ConfLab announcement, embedded in other announcements.

Finally, we also considered that the ConfFlow interface takes time to browse and reflect on. Given that the intrinsic value of the application is not immediately obvious to many (this is our interpretation of the low interest in application use). It could make more sense to have a SIGMM  community-wide edition of ConfFlow that is available all year round, allowing for the dissemination of the application and its purpose to be made clear outside of the pre-conference rush. Then conference-specific editions could be generated. This, however, comes with its own logistic issues as every new identity added to the database would either require the entire embedding to be recomputed, or their latent research interest representation would need to be projected directly onto the existing embedding, which does not necessarily accurately represent their closeness to others in the existing database. The rate at which updates (new authors) are added would also require significant manual attention (and may not be easy to resolve as shown in the statistics in Table 1). Given also the popularity of the Influence Flowers (http://influencemap.ml/), a previously funded SIGMM initiative, we suspect that a more ego-based strategy may be more effective in encouraging researchers in the community to start engaging with the ConfFlow application.

ConfLab Factors\ Conference: MMSys MultimediaICMR
#authors2722642494
#previously identified authors0225286
#authors with automatically identifiable Google scholar158121367
#authors without Google Scholar Match131204265
#authors with manually identified Google Scholar.1317057
#users18160
#survey respondents100

Table 1.  Summary statistics for each of the three conferences.

Conclusions

The ConfFlow 2021 edition generated new functionalities to allow researchers to browse their research interests with respect to others in a fun and novel way. More effort was given this year to improve the advertising of the application and to try and understand the community’s struggles with collaboration. Steps were also taken to make the running of ConfFlow less labour-intensive. 

Our conclusions from the many efforts made in ConfFlow 2021, the surrounding social media presence, and the survey is that for the SIGMM population at large, encouraging more social connections outside of the normal routes is unfortunately not perceived to have significant value. It seems that for now, more immediate forms of social interaction encouragement e.g. initiatives during the conference to help newcomers to integrate may be a more effective route to enable social integration. Another option is to consider a hybrid approach where ConfFlow can be used to e.g. identify groups for going to dinner together during the conference or sitting at the same table during the conference banquet. However, this would still require a sufficient uptake of the application. Given the myriad of different motivations community members have to attend conferences, it remains an intriguing and open challenge to encourage more diverse research output from this highly interdisciplinary community. 

Acknowledgements:

ConfFlow 2021 was supported in part by the SIGMM Special Initiatives Fund and the Dutch NWO-funded MINGLE project number 639.022.606. We thank users who gave feedback on the application during prototyping and implementation and the General Chairs of ACM MMSys, Multimedia, and ICMR 2021 for their support.

References:

Ekin Gedik and Hayley Hung. 2020. ConfFlow: A Tool to Encourage New Diverse Collaborations. Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Multimedia. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 4562–4564. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3394171.3414459

Appendix:

List of Survey Questions used for our google form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdcj1B-fOFmEG8mFvcUbd91ysYkEapm_zVvNcJMaFS5ETgFkQ/viewform

  • Context Questions
    • I am attending these conferences in 2021
    • I am publishing in these conferences in 2021
    • Please indicate the job description that best describes you.
  • General Questions about Scientific Collaboration
    • I tend to initiate collaborations with people I already know well.
    • I tend to initiate collaborations with people at the same experience level as me.
    • I am very interested in finding collaborators from a different discipline.
    • I find it very hard to identify relevant collaborators from a different discipline.
    • I find it very hard to initiate interdisciplinary collaborations even when I know who I want to work with.
    • What are the common problems you face when trying to initiate a collaboration?
    • Do these problems influence how or whether you initiate collaborations?
  • Initial contact with ConfFlow:
    • I saw announcements encouraging me to try ConfFlow
    • Did you have problems in getting in to ConfFlow? e.g. the system could not find your Google Scholar account?
    • On how many separate occasions have you used ConfFlow?
  • Motivation for using ConfFlow
    • I did not use ConfFlow because I did not have time.
    • I did not use ConfFlow because I did not find it interesting.
    • I would be interested in trying ConfFlow in the weeks leading up to or following a conference.
    • Despite not using ConfFlow, I could see how it might help advance my research work.
    • We would be very grateful for any comments or feedback on your experience of ConfFlow so we can make it more useful. Please feel free to share any remarks you might have on this topic.
  • Experience using ConfFlow
    • The visualization matched who I would expect to be close to me.
    • The visualization matched who I would expect to be far away from me.
    • ConfFlow helped me to find interesting people that I did not know before.
    • ConfFlow helped me to connect with interesting people that I did not know before.
    • ConfFlow encouraged me to think more deliberately about making connections with researchers in a different discipline.
    • I think that ConfFlow could help to advance my research work.

Reports from ACM Multimedia System 2021

Introduction

The 12th ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (MMSys’21) happened from September 28th through October 1st, 2021.  The  MMSys conference is an important forum for researchers in multimedia systems. But, due to the ongoing pandemic, the event was held in a hybrid mode – onsite in Istanbul, Turkey, and online. Organizers and chairs (Özgü Alay, Cheng-Hsin Hsu, and  Ali C. Begen) worked very hard to make sure the conference was successful, both for the on-site participants (around 50) and the online participants (with a peak of 330 concurrent viewers).  For a small description of the event, take a look at the text written by Ali Begen, one of the general chairs.
To encourage student authors to participate on-site, SIGMM has sponsored a group of students with Student Travel Grant Awards. Students who wanted to apply for this travel grant needed to submit an online form before the submission deadline. Then, the selection committee chose 7 travel grant winners. The selected students received either 1,000 or 2,000 USD to cover their airline tickets as well accommodation costs for this event. We asked the travel grant winners to share their unique experiences attending MMSys’21. The following are their comments.

Minh Nguyen

It is my honour to receive the SIGMM Student travel award that gives me a golden opportunity to attend the MMSys’2021 conference on-site. This conference is the first one I have attended during the Covid pandemic. I attended the whole conference, and I really appreciate the organizing committee who tried their best to organize this conference in a hybrid mode. It was a very interesting and well-organized conference where many innovative papers were introduced. The venue of the conference is a great place with professional staff and comfortable accommodation and meeting rooms. The local Turkish food attracted me. They were delicious. At this conference, I was happy to meet, connect, and discuss with experts working in multimedia systems, which is close to my PhD thesis. I was interested in informative and passionate keynotes about cutting-edge technologies and their open discussion. Especially, many novel papers motivated me and gave me some ideas for my future work in my PhD thesis. Also, their enjoyable social events brought me a chance to visit Istanbul and experience new things. I look forward to attending future editions of the conference.

Lucas Torrealba A.

I found the conference very interesting. It was my first experience of an in-person conference and it was amazing. The research articles presented seem very relevant to me and the organization did a wonderful job as well. In addition, it seems to be quite a good idea for the future to always leave hybrid ways to participate in the conferences.

Paniz Parastar

The MMsys2021 was my first in-person conference, and since it was highly organized, it raised my expectation of future conferences. Overall, many interesting topics were covered, and I only mentioned a couple of instances here. 
AI/ML are the hot topics as of today. I believe it’s enjoyable to see them applied in the various aspects of multimedia streaming and other areas as well as in computer vision. Notably, I liked the papers in NOSSDAV sessions on the last day of the conference adapting learning methods to improve the QoE of users. Since I’m working on distinguishing IoT devices and their traffics on the network these days, video clustering papers and mainly the paper that classifies the 360 videos from regular ones based on the traffic features (.i.e., flow and packet level features) were educational to me. Also, comparing subjective and objective quality assessment metrics alongside the various network conditions as they do in the paper may not be a new topic, but it is always interesting to explore. 
Plus, one of the most exciting talks for me was ‘Games as a Game Changer’, which was part of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Workshop. It changed my perception of games as an entertaining tool that also can help us better understand situations that don’t usually happen in our daily lives.

Ekrem Cetinkaya

MMSys’21 was my first in-person conference experience, and I can gladly say that it was above my expectations. We were welcomed by a fantastic organization, given how difficult the situation was. Everything went so smoothly, from the keynotes to paper presentations to demo sessions, and of course, social events.
Personally, two things were the most impressive for me. First, the keynote by Caitlin Kalinowski (Facebook) was given in person, and she had to fly from the U.S. to Istanbul just for this keynote. Second, the hybrid organization was thought through. There was a team of five whose duty was to make sure the conference was insightful for those who could not make it to Istanbul as well.
Moreover, the social events and the venues were really lovely. I learned that the MMSys community has a long history, and you could feel that, especially in those social events where it was an amicable environment, meaning that it was also easy for me to do some networking. Overall, I can say the MMSys conference was amazing in all aspects without any doubt. I want to thank the SIGMM committee once again for their travel grant, which made this experience possible.

Ivan Bartolec

The ACM MMSys’21 conference held in Istanbul, Turkey, was an excellent opportunity to meet, interact, and discuss ideas with researchers who are working to develop new and engaging multimedia experiences. This was my first MMSys conference, and it was an excellent environment for both learning and networking, with a thoughtfully selected collection of presentations, engaging keynotes (especially the one from a representative of Facebook), and fun social events. I found the sessions based on video or video streaming to be the most interesting and informative for my field of study. The demo sessions concept was also pretty unique, and by being on-site and seeing the demos and asking questions, I learnt a few things about practical implementations that I find incredibly useful. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to present my PhD research as part of the Doctoral symposium and to receive feedback from conference attendees as well as offline comments and ideas via email, which I gladly responded to. It was an absolute pleasure to attend MMSys’21 on-site, courtesy of the Student Travel Grant, and I look forward to visiting future editions of the conference and continuing to interact with the MMSys community.

Jesus Aguilar Armijo

It has been a pleasure to attend MMSys’2021 in person. This would not have been possible without the SIGMM Student travel award.
At the conference, I had the opportunity to attend four keynotes, where I would like to highlight the keynote from Caitlin Kalinowski (Facebook). She presented in person and showed the Virtual Reality devices of her company and future projects with emerging technologies.
I found truly engaging the different sessions of MMSys as they were related to my work in network-assisted video streaming. For example, the NOSSDAV session named “Session #1: Yet Another Streaming Session” contained the paper “Common Media Client Data (CMCD): Initial Findings” which I found especially interesting as I use some features of this standard in my work. Moreover, the paper entitled: “Beyond throughput, the next generation: a 5G dataset with channel and context metrics” (from MMSys’20 but presented in MMSys’21) in the open dataset session was particularly interesting for me as I use their previous dataset with 4G as a radio traces for my last paper.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with different researchers, which I found valuable and insightful. I would also like to highlight the good organization of the conference and the social events.
Finally, I presented my work in the Doctoral Symposium session, and I received some interesting questions from the audience. It was a great opportunity, and I am grateful to SIGMM, which allowed me to participate in this extraordinary experience.

Report from ACM Multimedia Systems 2021 by Neha Sharma


Neha Sharma (@NehaSharma) is a PhD student working with Dr Mohamed Hefeeda in Network and Multimedia Systems Lab at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests are in computer vision and machine learning with a focus on next-generation multimedia systems and applications. Her current work focuses on designing an inexpensive hyperspectral camera using a hybrid approach by leveraging both hardware and software solutions. She has been awarded as Best Social Media Reporter of the conference to promote the sharing among researchers on social networks. To celebrate this award, here is a more complete report on the conference.

Being a junior researcher in multimedia systems, I must say I feel proud to be part of this amazing community. I became part of ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (MMSys) last year in 2020, where I published my first research work. I was excited to attend MMSys ’20 in Istanbul, which unfortunately shifted online due to COVID-19. I presented my first work online and got to learn about other researchers in the community. This year I was able to publish another work with my team and got selected to present my ideas and research plans in Doctoral Symposium (thanks to reviewers). MMSys’21 gave me hope to have a full conference experience, as we all were hoping to start our lives back to normal. But, as the conference date was approaching, things were still not clear and travel restrictions were still in place. But on the good note, MMSys ’21 became hybrid to provide an opportunity to the people who can travel. It was at the very end I decided to travel and attend MMSys’21 in person. And I am glad I made that decision. My experience was overwhelmingly rich in terms of learning interesting research findings and making inspiring connections in the community. As the recipient of the “Best Social Media Reporter” award, enjoy the highlights of MMSys’ 21 through my lens. 

In the light of the ongoing global pandemic, ACM MMSys ’21 was held in hybrid mode – onsite in Istanbul, Turkey and online jointly on September 28 – October 1, 2021. Ali C. Begen (Ozyegin University and Networked Media, Turkey) opened the conference onsite with a warm welcome. MMSys’21 became the first-ever hybrid conference where participants presented onsite as well as remotely in real-time. There were participants joining from 38 different countries. The organizing team did an amazing job in pulling off this complex event. This year the research track implemented a two-round submission system, and accepted papers included public reviews in the proceedings. This, however, was not the only first, MMSys ’21 had its first Doctoral Symposium targeting the PhD students and aiming to find their mentors. In addition, there were postponed celebrations for the 30th anniversary of NOSSDAV and the 25th anniversary of Packet Video.

The conference program was very well scheduled. Each day of the conference started with a keynote. There were four insightful and inspiring keynotes from researchers working in cutting edge multimedia technologies. The first day started with a talk titled “AI-Driven Solutions throughout Games’ Lifecycles Leveraging Big Data” by Qiaolin Chen from Tencent IEG Global. Chen discussed how AI and big data are evolving the gaming industry, from intelligent market decisions to data-driven game development. On the second day, Caitlin Kalinowski presented an interesting keynote “Making Impossible Products: How to Get 0-to-1 Products Right”. Caitlin heads the VR Hardware team at Facebook Reality Labs. She shared insights about Oculus and zero-to-one products. The next day, Chris Bregler (Google) talked about “Synthetic Media: New Opportunities and New Challenges”. He discussed recent trends in generative media creation techniques that have opened new possibilities for societally beneficial uses but have also raised concerns about misuse. Last day, Sriram Sethuraman and Deepthi Nandakumar (Amazon) provided insights about “Role of ML in the Prediction of Perceptual Video Quality”. Keynotes are available on youtube to watch on-demand.

This year the conference attracted paper submissions from a range of multimedia topics including immersive media, live video, content preparation, cloud-based and mobile media processing and computer vision systems. Apart from the main research track, MMSys ’21 hosted three workshops:

  • NOSSDAV – Network and Operating System Support for Digital Audio and Video
  • MMVE – Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems
  • GameSys – Game Systems

These workshops provided an opportunity to meet those who are working in focused areas of multimedia research. This year MMSys conducted the inaugural ACM workshop on Game Systems (GameSys ’21). This workshop attracted research on all aspects of computer/digital games, emphasizing networks, systems, interaction, and applications. Highlights include the work presented by Mark Claypool et. Al (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) which conducts a user study measuring attribute scaling for cloud-based games. 

In addition to area focussed workshops, MMSys’21 also conducted two grand challenges:

Another main highlight of the conference is the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) workshop. The workshop was tailored towards PhD students, assistant professors and starting researchers in various research organizations. The event openly discussed core topics about parenthood, work-family policies, career paths and EDI aspects at large. Laura Toni, Mea Wang and Ozgu Alay opened the workshop on the third day of the conference. Miriam Redi shared goals to achieve an equitable and inclusive multimedia community. Susanne Boll talked about the target strategy “25 in 25” to increase the participation of women in SIGMM to at least 25% by 2025. Other guest speakers also highlighted some strategies to achieve target diversity and inclusion in MMSys.

Last but not the least, amazing social events. Each day of the conference ended with a well-planned social event providing a great opportunity to the in-person attendees to meet, discuss, and develop professional and social links throughout the community in a more relaxed setting. We had visited some historical venues like Galata Tower and Adile Sultan Palace and enjoyed a Bosphorus boat tour with a live music band. This year MMSys planned the first inter-continental socials. We travelled from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul (by bus and by boat). As a token of appreciation, in-person participants received Turkish delights and coffee, a set of traditional towels (peştemal), Istanbul-themed puzzles and a hand-made Kütahya Porcelain vase/coffee set as souvenirs. For me, the best part was sitting together and dining with peers, discussing prospects of your own research or multimedia systems research, in general.

Closing the conference, Ali C. Begen opened with the announcement of the awards. The Best Paper Award was presented to Xiao Zhu et. Al for the paper “Livelyzer: Analyzing the First-Mile Ingest Performance of Live Video Streaming”. See the full list of awards here. The conference closed with the announcement of ACM Multimedia Systems 2022, which will be happening in Athlone, Ireland. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

Reports from ACM Multimedia 2021

Introduction

Due to the COVID-19, the annual ACM Multimedia Conference (https://2021.acmmm.org) was held in a hybrid mode – onsite in Chengdu, China, and online jointly this year. The organizers have made meticulous preparations for this conference and totally more than 1000 researchers from all over the world participated. 

Besides, there are also AI companies, e.g., Huawei and ByteDance on site trying to attract researchers. It is worth mentioning that in order to prevent the COVID-19, staff and volunteers make a lot of efforts, such as testing the body temperature and providing free masks for attendees.

To encourage student authors to fully engage with the event, SIGMM has sponsored 39 students with Student Travel Grant Awards this year. Students who wanted to apply for this travel grant needed to submit an online form (https://acmsigmm.wufoo.com/forms/sigmm-student-travel-application-form/) before the submission deadline and then the selection committee has chosen the travel grant winners according to selection criteria. The selected students received up to 1000 USD to cover their airline tickets as well accommodation costs for this event. We interviewed some travel grant winners to share their wonderful experience of attending the conference. The following are comments from them.

Students interviewed at ACM Multimedia 2021

Shaoxiang Chen (Fudan University)

It was such a great pleasure to receive the student travel grant and attend the ACM MM 2021 conference in Chengdu. The organizers have devoted a significant amount of effort to ensure the attendees have a nice experience, and in fact, we did. The prepared check-in gifts including masks, an umbrella, and small notebooks were considerate. The onsite covid-19 test was convenient for us to travel back. The keynote talks were closely related to the popular topics in the multimedia community, and I have learned a lot about deep learning and multimodal pre-training. As for the doctoral symposium, I have met excellent PhD students from all over the world and received helpful suggestions from the mentors during my own presentation. Finally, the wonderful performances at the dinner banquet made the entire conference experience even more perfect.

Yuqian Fu (Fudan University)

It is the second time that I attend ACM Multimedia onsite. The first time was in Nice, France in October 2019. That is also a very nice trip. Another thing that I want to share is that I have one long paper accepted by ACM Multimedia in 2020. The conference was supposed to be held in Seattle, USA. However, due to the COVID-19, we had to attend the conference online, which is a big pity. Therefore, it is really a happy thing to participate in this year’s conference in Chengdu. During the conference, I have the opportunity to talk with other researchers face-to-face, and I also presented my work actively to them. I learned a lot in the past few days and had a good experience. Finally, I would like to thank SIGMM for the travel grant, thank the organizers for all the efforts they made to ensure the progress of the conference, and the volunteers for their kind help.

Zheng Wang (Fudan University)

It has been a wonderful experience for me at the ACM Multimedia 2021 in Chengdu this October. Owing to the COVID-19 outbreaks in the past two years, we were so lucky to be together again. Many thanks to the local organizers for their tremendous efforts to hold the conference onsite. At the poster sessions, I was able to present my paper for video moment retrieval to attendances and discuss my idea with them. I could also stop by others’ work, and understanding their work gives me a direct observation about what is going on in the multimedia community. I enjoy the poster session since it helped me know the research trades better. One issue is that the hall for the poster session is relatively crowded, and some walls have two posters arranged one above the other, making the communication a bit inconvenient. In the keynote sessions, I was able to see diverse research areas gathered under the same topic, which let me see a problem from different aspects. As I am in my last PhD year, I could talk with several researchers from university institutions and companies, and I got valuable advice on what should I get prepared for pursuing a career in research or business. Thanks to the local organizers for arranging trips to see cute pandas, which makes visiting Chengdu a delight and unforgettable memory.

Yang Jiao (Fudan University)

It was a great honour to attend the ACM Multimedia in Chengdu this year. This year’s ACM Multimedia is a special conference, for it is the first top conference held onsite since COVID-19. It was the first time that I attended this conference and I enjoyed the academic atmosphere there. I have met a lot of friends with similar research interests as well as famous teachers to share research experiences. What excites me most is the best paper session, where a great number of outstanding works investigate interesting frontier tasks in multimedia society, such as generating music according to visual motion, estimating postures based on one’s speech tune, etc. Moreover, the dinner banquet surprises me a lot. Besides the regular host introduction and dining time, organizers also elaborately prepare wonderful shows as well as a lucky draw. I, fortunately, won the third prize. In summary, thanks for all the efforts of the organizers and excellent talks given by outstanding researchers in this year’s Multimedia. It was a really impressive experience for me!

Yechao Zhang (Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) )

It was such an honour for me to receive the student travel grant. Frankly, I am merely a grad student in my second year in HUST, and it was the first time for me to attend any academic conference ever. The acceptance from ACM Multimedia 2021 is a major inspiration for me, which had inspired me to apply for a PhD program just so I could keep contributing to the academic research in the area of Multimedia in the future. During the conference, I had very much enjoyed my time visiting Chengdu. Apart from the amazing food adventure, I had the most beneficial conversations with researchers from all over the world. All these wonderful experiences would not be possible if there wasn’t for the travel grant from SIGMM. Many thanks for the recognition and support from SIGMM. I sincerely hope ACM Multimedia will gain more international influence.

Jingru Gan (University of Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The ACM Multimedia held this year is an extraordinary conference in terms of the organization and attending experience. I am most impressed by the refined arrangement of hybrid oral sessions which accommodates onsite and online presenters from everywhere on earth. The great importance of this meeting is that it intensifies the bond of researchers from pages of papers to face-to-face meetings. To get a chance of knowing how others go through months of trial and error before achieving a satisfactory result is inspiring, which encourages me to completely dedicate myself to my future work.

Yanqiao Zhu (University of Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Although this was not my first time attending international conferences, my experience at ACM Multimedia 2021 was still very exciting and unforgettable, especially after a long-time travel block due to COVID-19. This year, the diverse program not only makes me feel more connected with the multimedia research community but really broadens my vision. During the conference, I presented my paper on multimedia recommendation, met with many prestigious scholars from both academia and industry, and exchanged many interesting ideas. I believe most of the discussions will spur sparks for future research directions. I also participated in social networking programs, during which I made a lot of friends in related research areas. Overall, it was a great honour for me to receive the SIGMM travel grant that supports me attending ACM Multimedia 2021 physically. I would like to sincerely thank all organizers for their effort in making this year’s ACM Multimedia a great success.

Yudong Wang (University of Electronic Science and Technology of China)

As an undergraduate who received the student travel grant, this is my first time attending an international conference. According to the 2019-nCoV, the attendees onsite are almost Chinese and the room for the poster is a little crowded, but fortunately, people are orderly. At the conference, I stand on my poster and share my work with some researchers in the same field. Apart from that, I talk with some people who work on recommendation algorithms. They help me get to know the other AI application and brand new methods to realize intelligence. I listen to some oral work from a different area of the world and learned a lot about the other field of multimedia. The most impressive thing is the banquet. Although from different schools, the atmosphere among strangers on the table is harmonious. We talk about our daily life in our school and enjoy the performances on the stage. By the way, the gifts prepared for the attendees are surprises. If there are any regrets, it must be that I was not a volunteer to help others and failed to draw a lottery. In summary, thanks to the committee, I had a great experience on ACM Multimedia 2021.

Peidong Liu (Tsinghua University)

I am pleased to attend ACM MM 2021 conference onsite in Chengdu, China. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference adopts a hybrid form, i.e. both onsite and online, to make most of the people participating in the academic exchange. It is noted that this is my first time to attend the onsite international conference in the last few years and I find it more convenient to exchange ideas onsite than online. There are several points worth talking about. First off, this conference utilizes an app called Whova in the procedure of the conference and we can complete personal research interests and affiliated institutions to communicate more conveniently with other researchers. Besides that, volunteers are patient to help us with the check-in process and give us a nice experience at the conference. Finally, thanks to the support from the conference community, I gain the opportunity to communicate with the researchers onsite all around the globe.

Haoyu Zhang (Shandong University)

This was my first time attending an international conference, and I was very happy to participate offline in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. The feeling of participating in the offline conference was something that cannot be experienced online. The volunteers at the conference were very enthusiastic and answered some questions about attending the conference for me. The ACM Multimedia was very caring, prepared many exquisite gifts for each participant, and provided dinner with very local characteristics. The delicious food made me linger. In the daily meeting, I watched and browsed the reports and posters that I was interested in, and had detailed exchanges with the authors, which not only broadened my horizons but also inspired my thinking. In short, I was very honoured to be able to attend this ACM Multimedia conference, and it was a very impressive experience. Finally, I wish the ACM Multimedia better and better.

Summary

Overall, almost everyone has a high evaluation of the experience of participating in this conference. Besides, we can tell that the travel grant does help a lot to the students. To summarize, this conference was held successfully and left a very good impression on the participants.

Report from ACM IMX 2021 by Lingyuan Li

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has forced international researchers and practitioners to share their research at virtual conferences, ACM Interactive Media Experiences (IMX) 2021 clearly invested significant time and effort to provide all attendees with an accessible, interactive, and vibrant online academic feast. Serving on the Organizing Committee of IMX 2021 as the Student Volunteer Chair as well as a Doctoral Consortium student, I was happy and honoured to take part in the conference, to help support it, and to see how attendees enjoyed and benefited from it. 

I was also delighted to receive the ACM SIGMM Best Social Media Reporter Award which offered me the opportunity to write this report as a summary of my experiences with IMX 2021 (and of course a free ACM SIGMM conference registration!!).

OhYay Platform

IMX 2020 was the first time for the conference to go entirely virtual. In its second year as an entirely virtual conference, IMX 2021 collaborated with OhYay to create a very realistic and immersive experience for the conference attendees. On OhYay, attendees felt like they were in a real conference venue in New York City. There was a reception, lobbies, main hall, showcase rooms, rooftop, pool, and so forth. In addition to the high-fidelity environment, IMX 2021 and the OhYay development team added many interaction features into the platform to help attendees have a more human-centred and engaging experience: for example, attendees were able to “whisper” to each other without others being able to hear; they could send reactions, like applause emoji with sound effects; they could join some social events together, such as lip-sync, jigsaw.

Informative Conference

IMX 2021 contained a high number of inspiring talks, insightful discussions, and quality communication. On Day 1, IMX hosted a series of workshops: XR in Games, Life Improvement in Quality by Ubiquitous Experiences (LIQUE), DataTV and SensoryX. I had a three-hour doctoral consortium (DC) in the morning on Day 1 as well. 8 PhD students presented ongoing dissertation research and had 2 one-on-one sessions with distinguished researchers as mentors! I was so excited to meet people in a ‘real’ virtual space and the OhYay platform also enabled DC attendees to take group pictures in the photo booth. I could not help but Tweet my first-day experience with lots of photos.

My Tweet of DC in IMX 

On Day 2 and Day 3, with artist Sougwen Chung’s amazing keynote “Where does ‘AI’ end and ‘we’ begin?” kicking off the main conference, a set of paper sessions and panel discussions regarding mixed-reality (AR/VR), AI, gaming and inclusive design brought inspiration, new ideas and state-of-the-art research topics to attendees. Admittedly, AR/VR as well as AI technology as the focus of the current development of science and technology, lead the progress of civilization of the times. IMX helped us to see this trend of balance and integration of AI, AR, VR and MR in the future: the downstream of the hyper-reality terminal products dips into various fields, including games, consumer applications, enterprise applications, health care, education and others. With the increase of downstream application scenarios, the market space is expected to further expand. This opens up a broader world for all researchers, designers and practitioners including IMXers to explore how we can put warmth into products delivered by the developing technologies which come with many unknowns and create a need for establishing best practices, standards, and design patterns for as many people as reasonably possible.

My Tweet of the IMX main conference: Enjoyed a great deal of quality discussion and amazing interactive social events.

Every time I tweeted, I picked up representative screenshots, made them into a pretty collage, and gave infectious enthusiasm to the text. That may be my secret of winning the Social Media Award to help disseminate IMX information.

Novelties

Social Events

In addition to the world-leading interactive media research sessions, panels, speakers and showcases presented, IMX 2021 also aimed for some interactive fun for networking and chilling for attendees. There was a virtual elevator that could be seen as an events hub for attendees to select which event they wanted to join. Various social events were provided to enrich breaks in between research sessions: Mukbang, Yoga, Lip Sync, Jigsaw, etc. For example, attendees sometimes needed to collaborate with Jigsaw, which spontaneously enhanced mutual understanding through the interactive collaborative engagement even if IMX was a virtual conference. 

In this sense, IMX 2021 succeeded in its aim to allow attendees to have an “in-person” and immersive experience as much as possible because there were many opportunities for attendees to communicate more deeply, network, and socialize.

Doctoral Consortium

IMX 2021 DC provided an opportunity for 8 PhD students to present, explore and develop our research interests, under the mentorship of a panel of 14 distinguished researchers, including 2 one-on-one sessions. The virtual conference enabled mentors from all over the world to make exchanges views with students without geographical limitations. We were also able to have in-depth communication to obtain valuable instruction on dissertation research in such an immersive environment. Moreover, each student not only gave a presentation at the DC before the main conference but also presented a poster at the conference, enabling wider visibility of our work. 

Doctoral Consortium Reception Room

Accessibility

It is noteworthy that IMX 2021 made accessibility design an integral part of the conference. Except for closed-caption for ready-made videos, IMX 2021 had a captioner to provide an accurate real-time caption for a live discussion. In addition, some attendees were excited to find out that an ASL option was also offered! 

Optional ASL and live caption

IMX also took efforts to make the platform more friendly to screen-reader users. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, IMX 2021 was an excellent example of an engaging, interactive, fun, informative and nice virtual conference. The organizing team clearly not only made significant efforts to represent the diversity in which interactive media is used in our lives but also already presented an amazing show of how interactive the media could be to even benefit our online communication. I look forward to IMX 2022!

Encouraging more Diverse Scientific Collaborations with the ConfFlow application

Introduction

ConfFlow is an application to encourage people with similar or complementary research interests to find each other at conferences. How scientific collaborations are initiated, how people meet and how an intention is developed to work together is an open question. The aim of this follow-up initiative to ConfLab: Meet the Chairs! held at ACM MM 2019 (conflab.ewi.tudelft.nl) is to help people in the multimedia community to connect with potential collaborators.

As a community, Multimedia is so diverse that it is easy for community members to miss out on very useful expertise and potentially fruitful collaborations. There is a lot of latent knowledge and potential synergies that could exist if we were to offer conference attendees an alternative perspective on their similarities to other attendees. As researchers, we typically find connections through talking to people at the conference either through scientific presentations, personal introductions, or by chance.

The aim of ConfFlow is to allow attendees to browse their similarity to other attendees by harvesting publicly available information about them related to their research interests. Depending on the richness of experience that users are looking for, ConfFlow aims to offer an alternative way for researchers to make new research connections with a similar space. At the basic level, we define the similarity of attendees with an approach similar to paper-reviewer assignment tools, such as the Toronto Paper Matching System (TPMS). Usually, TPMS is used to match reviewers to papers. In an analogous way, ConfFlow creates a visualised similarity space using the publications of the conference attendees. This will allow attendees to interactively explore and find new connections with researchers with complementary research interests (or similar ones).  More details about ConfFlow can be found in the associated demo paper [1]. An example snapshot of the application is shown in Figure 1 below.

ConfFlow was funded by the SIGMM special initiatives fund which supports initiatives related to boosting excellence and strength of SIGMM, addressing opportunities for growth in the community and SIGMM related activities, as well as nurturing new talent. The aim of ConfFlow is to target building on excellence, strengths, and community. 

Figure 1: Visualisation of ConfFlow

This report records our experience and practical issues related to running ConfFlow at ACM Multimedia last year.

Method

Privacy and Ethical Practices

The aim of ConfFlow was to adhere to the highest levels of ethical practice. One of the debates online relates to what is considered private data. One could consider that deriving novel information from publicly available data can still be considered an invasion of privacy [2]. So ConfFlow was proposed and designed to be opt-in only. This means that unlike the visualisation seen in Figure 1, all the identities for anyone visiting the ConfFlow application appeared as just an icon unless the person had activated their account and gave permission for others to see it. While this might seem quite strict, there can be unforeseen privacy related questions when social information is extracted from publicly available information as those who do not choose to opt-in can still become exposed. 

Due to this opt-in strict procedure, we needed to find an active way to engage conference attendees by advertising the application through the conference and also getting access to the conference attendee list so we could target and encourage those people to activate their accounts. This required close coordination with the General Chairs of ACM Multimedia 2020.

Application Realization

ConfFlow was rolled out at ACM Multimedia 2020 for conference attendees. Shortly after the building of this application was approved, the Corona Virus pandemic hit and ACM Multimedia became a virtual conference. Since the embedding space of ConfFlow needs to be built apriori, we needed to have access to the conference attendee list. The workload for the conference organisers increased significantly as a result of the pandemic so we did not manage to get the logistical support to optimise the impact of the application. Since we could not get this, we defaulted to visualising the much larger accepted author list. Each identity in ConfFlow needs to be manually verified which also takes considerable effort.

However, there remained the issue that the application was opt-in. For those who tested the application, they were disappointed because many people were not visible. Many of the authors in any case did not attend the conference, which exacerbated the sparsity issue. Advertising ConfFlow and encouraging participants to activate their account was extremely hard due to the virtual format of the conference and because it was hard to reach the actual conference attendees. 

The demo paper for the application was presented at ACM Multimedia 2020 and received positively.

Discussion and Recommendations

The instantiation of the app was well-received by community members and the SIGMM board. There were some teething problems that we aim to resolve in a follow up to the 2021 edition where we will revise the opt-in policy to something that can allow for a better user experience whilst being careful with individual privacy. We also want to make the possibility for users to connect with people they see in the embedding space directly in the app so that the use of ConfFlow as a social connector tool becomes more explicit. We also plan to focus on different ways to advertise and communicate the application for a wider userbase. Finally, due to the considerable effort required to verify the identities of all individuals in the visualisations, we would like to build a more efficient procedure to make visualisations in future years less manually intensive. To this end, the SIGMM board has funded a second edition of ConfFlow in order for these improvements to be made so we can realise the full potential of the idea while also minimising too much additional logistical support from conference general chairs. We look forward to seeing its impact on future research collaborations.

Acknowledgements

ConfFlow was supported in part by the SIGMM New Initiatives Fund and the Dutch NWO funded MINGLE project number 639.022.606. We thank users who gave feedback on the application during prototyping and implementation and the General Chairs of ACM Multimedia 2020 for their support.

References

[1] Ekin Gedik and Hayley Hung. 2020. ConfFlow: A Tool to Encourage New Diverse Collaborations. In Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Multimedia (MM ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 4562–4564. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3394171.3414459.
[2] Townsend, L., & Wallace, C, 2016. Social Media Research: A Guide to Ethics.

SISAP 2020: 13th International Conference on Similarity Search and Applications


The 2020 edition of SISAP was planned to be held at IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, but was converted into an online event due to the on-going pandemic.

A strong technical program was assembled by three program committee co-chairs, 63 program committee members, and 18 additional reviewers. Each of 50 valid submissions, with authors from 22 countries, was reviewed by at least three referees. 31 papers were accepted, 12 of them as short papers. The doctoral symposium accepted 2 papers. 

Gallery view from the special session on Artificial Intelligence and Similarity

The program included four regular sessions, the doctoral symposium, and a special session on Artificial Intelligence and Similarity, chaired by Anshumali Shrivastava, with four talks followed by a panel discussion. The technical program was completed with three distinguished keynote speakers:

  • Marcel Worring from the University of Amsterdam spoke about Interactive Exploration using Hypergraphs. In his engaging presentation, Marcel focused on an interactive exploration of large multimedia collections. He first reviewed recent successes in supporting scalable categorisation, and then highlighted the opportunities provided by the new field of hypergraph learning.
  • Divesh Srivastava from AT&T Labs-Research spoke about Exploiting Similarity Relationships to Repair Graphs. In an entertaining talk, Divesh showed how similarity concepts are important in data management tasks such as entity resolution and taxonomies for noisy data.
  • Ilya Razenshteyn from Microsoft Research spoke about Scalable Nearest Neighbor Search for Optimal Transport. The Wasserstein (aka Optimal Transport) distance is a popular similarity measure for structured data domains, modelled as collections of point sets. The talk focused on efficient algorithms for approximating the distance between a pair of point sets, showing both theoretically well-founded and practical results.

The program committee identified five papers as candidates for the best paper award. It was decided to give the award to Vladimir Mic and Pavel Zezula for their paper “Accelerating Metric Filtering by Improving Bounds on Estimated Distances”. The best student paper award was given Erik Thordsen and Erich Schubert for the paper “ABID: Angle Based Intrinsic Dimensionality”. The best doctoral symposium paper award was given to Shima Moghtasedi for the paper “Temporal Similarity of Trajectories in Graphs”. Top papers from the conference were invited for a special issue of the journal Information Systems.

116 participants signed up for the conference, about half of them from Europe and the other half from institutions around the world. Due to generous sponsorships from Springer, Google, and the IT University of Copenhagen, we were able to make registration completely free. To allow participation from many time zones, a condensed schedule was used with a 5-6 hour main time slot each day. Speakers provided pre-recorded long versions of their talks and gave a short, interactive version on Zoom during the conference. Most participants were active, with 30-40 participants on average in poster sessions, and 30-60 in the technical sessions.

To facilitate interaction, there were three poster sessions placed such that it was possible to attend two at reasonable hours in any time zone. There was also a social event, featuring a popular quiz about Copenhagen. For the poster and social events, we used the gather.town platform, in which a small virtual conference venue had been built.

The conference venue in gather.town: poster room
The conference venue in gather.town: room for gatherings
A scene from the Copenhagen quiz during the social event.

Acknowledgements: Many people worked hard to make SISAP 2020 a success, despite the challenging circumstances. We are particularly indebted to the PC chairs Shin’ichi Satoh, Lucia Vadicamo, and Arthur Zimek, the doctoral symposium chair Ilaria Bartolini, the publication chair Fabio Carrara, and our local arrangements chair Julie Tollund.

Towards SISAP 2021:

As is traditional, the venue for SISAP 2021 was unveiled during the social event. SISAP 2021 is planned to be held in Dortmund, Germany, with Erich Schubert as general chair. We hope that by fall of 2021, the pandemic has subsided sufficiently to allow us to travel to Dortmund, but the experience from SISAP 2020 should provide a template for an online event. On behalf of the organisers, we thank all authors and participants for their contributions, and look forward to seeing you all at SISAP 2021!

About SISAP:

The International Conference on Similarity Search and Applications (SISAP) is an annual forum for researchers and application developers in the area of similarity data management. It aims at the technological problems shared by numerous application domains, such as data mining, information retrieval, multimedia, computer vision, pattern recognition, computational biology, geography, biometrics, machine learning, and many others that make use of similarity search as a necessary supporting service.

From its roots as a regional workshop in metric indexing, SISAP has expanded to become the only international conference entirely devoted to the issues surrounding the theory, design, analysis, practice, and application of content-based and feature-based similarity search. The SISAP initiative has also created a repository serving the similarity search community, for the exchange of examples of real-world applications, the source code for similarity indexes, and experimental testbeds and benchmark data sets (http://www.sisap.org). The proceedings of SISAP are published by Springer as a volume in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) series.

SISAP 2019: 12th International Conference on Similarity Search and Applications

The International Conference on Similarity Search and Applications (SISAP) is an annual forum for researchers and application developers in the area of similarity data management. It aims at the technological problems shared by numerous application domains, such as data mining, information retrieval, multimedia, computer vision, pattern recognition, computational biology, geography, biometrics, machine learning, and many others that make use of similarity search as a necessary supporting service.

From its roots as a regional workshop in metric indexing, SISAP has expanded to become the only international conference entirely devoted to the issues surrounding the theory, design, analysis, practice, and application of content-based and feature-based similarity search. The SISAP initiative has also created a repository serving the similarity search community, for the exchange of examples of real-world applications, the source code for similarity indexes, and experimental testbeds and benchmark data sets (http://www.sisap.org). The proceedings of SISAP are published by Springer as a volume in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) series.

The 2019 edition of SISAP was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Newark is an attractive location in the New York City metropolitan area with easy and convenient travel to and from the conference. The organization was smooth and with a strong technical program assembled by two co-chairs and sixty program committee members. Each paper was reviewed by at least three referees. SISAP 2019 received 42 papers and accepted 12 as full papers (28% acceptance rate). The program was completed with three keynote speakers of high calibre and one panel.

The first keynote speaker was Fabrizio Silvestri, a Software Engineer at Facebook London working in the Search Systems team. The Facebook AI team in London deals with applying artificial intelligence techniques to address societal problems such as the spread of online misinformation, or the integrity of election processes around the world. To do so, the team has developed a set of tools that exploit similarity search technologies to efficiently and effectively run a very high number of classification tasks on a massive set of data. Fabrizio Silvestri’s talk reviewed some of the problems studied and the solutions adopted.

The second keynote speaker was Alexander Tuzhilin, the Leonard N. Stern Professor of Business in the Department of Technology, Operations and Statistics at the Stern School of Business, NYU. Alex Tuzhilin discussed the role of similarity measures in recommender systems. Measures of similarity between users and between items to be recommended to the users lie at the core of many recommendation algorithms, and numerous metrics have been proposed in the recommender systems field since its inception. The talk explored the evolution of various similarity-based measures from the initial class of rating-based measures to the more recently proposed latent metrics and the metric learning methods. It also explored possible future research directions and novel applications of similarity measures in recommender systems.

The third keynote speaker was Dr. Cong Yu, a research scientist and manager at Google Research in New York City.  Cong Yu leads the Structured Data Research Group. The group’s mission is to understand and leverage structured data on the Web to enhance user experience for Google products and has been responsible for several impactful products such as WebTables, Structured Snippets, and Fact-Checking at Google. Currently, his group focuses on technical research for news and has been partnering with journalists and policy advisors to combat online misinformation and improve news consumption. The ClaimReview structured data (http://schema.org/ClaimReview) is a successful example of such collaborations and powers various fact check features for Google. This talk described the genesis of ClaimReview and its role in combating online misinformation.

The SISAP 2019 panel was on Deep Learning meets Similarity Search. The panel was moderated by K. Selçuk Candan (Arizona State University, USA). The panellists were James Bailey (University of Melbourne, Australia), Ilaria Bartolini (University of Bologna, Italy), Michael Houle (National Institute of Informatics, Japan) and Stéphane Marchand-Maillet (University of Geneva, Switzerland).

As it is usually the case, SISAP 2019 included a program with papers exploring various similarity-aware data analysis and processing problems from multiple perspectives. The papers presented at the conference in 2019 studied the role of similarity processing in the context of metric search, visual search, nearest neighbour queries, clustering, outlier detection, and graph analysis. Some of the papers had a theoretical emphasis, while others had a systems perspective, presenting experimental evaluations comparing against state-of-the-art methods. An interesting event at the 2019 conference, as well as the two previous editions, was an electronic poster session that included all accepted papers. This component of the conference generated many lively interactions between presenters and attendees, to not only learn more about the presented techniques but also to identify potential topics for future collaboration.

In a tradition that began with the 2009 conference in Prague, extended versions of the top-ranked papers were invited for a Special Issue of the Information Systems journal. A shortlist for the best papers was created from those conference papers nominated by at least one of their 3 reviewers. An award committee of 3 researchers ranked the shortlisted papers, from which a final ranking was decided. The Best Paper Award was presented to Martin Aumüller and Matteo Ceccarello (IT University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark) for the paper titled “The Role of Local Intrinsic Dimensionality in Benchmarking Nearest Neighbor Search” during the Conference Dinner. The best paper reconsiders common benchmarking approaches to nearest neighbour search and studies the effect of different local intrinsic dimensionality (LID) distributions on the running time performance of different implementations.

 In addition to the excellent conference facilities at NJIT, we had several student volunteers who were ready to help ensure that the logistical aspects of the conference ran smoothly. Our conference banquet was held at the Newark Museum (https://www.newarkmuseum.org), the largest museum of the state of New Jersey. It holds major collections of American art, decorative arts, contemporary art, and arts of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the ancient world. The participants were given a highlight tour of the museum prior to the banquet held in the Ballantine House. The Ballantine House is part of The Newark Museum since 1937, the house was designed a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Built in 1885 for Jeannette and John Holme Ballantine, of the celebrated Newark beer-brewing family, this brick and limestone mansion originally had 27 rooms, including eight bedrooms and three bathrooms. 

SISAP 2019 demonstrated that the SISAP community has a strong stable kernel of researchers, active in the field of similarity search and to fostering the growth of the community. Organizing SISAP is a smooth experience thanks to the support of the Steering Committee and dedicated participants.

The SISAP 2019 Doctoral Symposium provided a forum for PhD students to present their research ideas and receive feedback from senior members of the research community. The Symposium fostered a collaborative environment with constructive discussions that benefited the students.

SISAP 2020 was supposed to be organized in Copenhagen by Martin Aumüller, Björn Þór Jónsson and Rasmus Pagh from the IT University of Copenhagen. But it will become a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the major challenges of the SISAP conference series is to continue to raise its profile in the landscape of scientific events related to information indexing, database and search systems.

Report from ACM MMSys 2020 by Conor Keighrey

Conor Keighrey (@ConorKeighrey) recently completed his PhD in the Athlone Institute of Technology which aimed to capture and understand the quality of experience (QoE) within a novel immersive multimedia speech and language assessment. He is currently interested in exploring the application of immersive multimedia technologies within health, education and training.


With a warm welcome from Istanbul, Ali C. Begen (Ozyegin University and Networked Media, Turkey) opened MMSys 2020 this year. In light of the global pandemic, the conference has taken a new format being delivered online for the first time. This, however, was not the only first for MMSys, Laura Toni (University College London, UK) is introduced as the first-ever female co-chair for the conference. This year, the organising committee presented gender and culturally diverse line-up of researchers from all around the globe. In parallel, two new grand challenges were introduced on the topics of “Improving Open-Source HEVC Encoding” and “Low-latency live streaming” for the first time ever at MMSys. 

The conference attracted paper submissions from a range of multimedia topics including but not limited to streaming technologies, networking, machine learning, volumetric media, and fake media detection tools. Core areas were complemented with in-depth keynotes delivered by academic and industry experts. 

Examples of such include Ryan Overbeck’s (Google, USA) keynote on “Light Fields – Building the Core Immersive Photo and Video Format for VR and AR” presented on the first day. Light fields provide the opportunity to capture full 6DOF and photo-realism in virtual reality. In his talk, Ryan provided key insight into the camera rigs and results from Google’s recent approach to perfect the capture of virtual representations of real-world spaces.

Later during the conference, Roderick Hodgson from Amber Video presented an interesting keynote on “Preserving Video Truth: an Anti-Deepfakes Narrative”. Roderick delivered a fantastic overview of the emerging area of deep fakes, and the application platforms which are being developed to detect, what will without a doubt be used as highly influential media streams in the future. Discussion closed with Stefano Petrangeli asking how the concept of deep fakes could be applied within the context of AR filters. Although AR is within its infancy from a visual quality perspective, the future may rapidly change how we perceive faces through immersive multimedia experiences utilizing AR filters. The concept is interesting, and it leads to the question of what future challenges will be seen with these emerging technologies.

Although not the main focus of the MMSys conference, the co-located workshops have always stood out for me. I have attended MMSys for the last three years and the warm welcome expressed by all members of the research community has been fantastic. However, the workshops have always shined through as they provide the opportunity to meet those who are working in focused areas of multimedia research. This year’s MMSys was no different as it hosted three workshops:

  • NOSSDAV – The International workshop on Network and Operating System Support for Digital Audio and Video
  • PV – The International Packet Video Workshop
  • MMVE – The International Workshop on Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems

With a focus on novel immersive media experiences, the MMVE workshop was highly successful with five key presentations exploring the topics of game mechanics, cloud computing, head-mounted display field of view prediction, navigation, and delay. Highlights include the work presented by Na Wang et. Al (George Mason University) which explored field of view prediction within augmented reality experiences on mobile platforms. With the emergence of new and proposed areas of research in augmented reality cloud, field of view predication will alleviate some of the challenges associated with the optimization of network communication for novel immersive multimedia experiences in the future. 

Unlike previous years, conference organisers faced the challenge of creating social events which were completely online. A trivia night hosted on Zoom brought over 40 members of the MMSys community together virtually to test their knowledge against a wide array of general knowledge. Utilizing online the platform “Kahoot”, attendees were challenged with a series of 47 questions. With great interaction from the audience, the event provided a great opportunity to socialise in a relaxing manner much like the real world counterpart! 

Leader boards towards the end were close, with Wei Tsang Ooi gaining the first place with a last-minute bonus question! Jean Botev and Roderick Hodgson took second and third place respectively. Events like this have always been a highlight of the MMSys community, we hope to see it take place this coming year in person over some quite beers and snacks!

Mea Wang opened the N2Women Meeting on the 10th of June. The event openly discussed core influential topics such as the separation of work and life needs within the research community. With a primary objective of assisting new researchers to maintain a healthy work and life balance. Overall, the event was a success, the topic of work and life balance is important for those at all stages of their research careers. Reflecting on my own personal experiences during my PhD, it can be a struggle to determine when to “clock out” and when to spend a few extra hours engaged with research. Key members of the community shared their own personal experiences, discussing other topics such the importance of mentoring, as academic supervisors can often become a mentor for life. Ozgu Alay discussed the importance of developing connections at research-orientated events. Those new to the community should not be afraid to spark a conversation with experts in the field, often the ideal approach is to take interest in their work and begin discussion from there. 

Lastly, Mea Wang mentioned that the initiative had initially acquired funding for the purpose of travel supports and childcare for those attending the conference. Due to the online nature this year, the supports have now been placed aside for next year’s event. Such funding provides a fantastic opportunity to support the cost of attending an international conference and engage with the multimedia community!

Closing the conference, Ali C. Begen opened with the announcement of the awards. The Best Paper Award was presented by Özgü Alay and Christian Timmerer who announced Nan Jiang et al as the winner for their paper on “QuRate: Power-Efficient Mobile Immersive Video Streaming”. The paper is available for download on the ACM Digital Library at the following link. The conference closed with the announcement of key celebrations for next year as the NOSSDAV workshop celebrates it’s 30thanniversary, and the Packet Video workshop celebrates the 25th anniversary! 

Overall, the expertise in multimedia shined through in this year’s ACM MMSys, with fantastic keynotes, presentations, and demonstrations from researchers around the globe. Although there are many benefits to attending a virtual conference, after numerous experiences this year I can’t help but feel there is something missing. Over the past 3 years, I’ve attended ACM MMSys in person as a PhD candidate, one of the major benefits of in person events are social encounters. Although this year’s iteration of ACM MMSys did a phenomenal job at the presentation of these events in the new and unexpected virtual format. I believe that it is these social events which shine through as they provide the opportunity to meet, discuss, and develop professional and social links throughout the multimedia research community in a more relaxed setting. 

As a result, I look forward to what Özgü Alay, Cheng-Hsin Hsu, and Ali C. Begen have in store for us at ACM Multimedia Systems 2021, located in the beautiful city of Istanbul, Turkey.