Machine Learning (Theory)


John Langford –> Yahoo Research, NY

Tags: General jl@ 10:02 pm

I will join Yahoo Research (in New York) after my contract ends at TTI-Chicago.

The deciding reasons are:

  1. Yahoo is running into many hard learning problems. This is precisely the situation where basic research might hope to have the greatest impact.
  2. Yahoo Research understands research including publishing, conferences, etc…
  3. Yahoo Research is growing, so there is a chance I can help it grow well.
  4. Yahoo understands the internet, including (but not at all limited to) experimenting with research blogs.

In the end, Yahoo Research seems like the place where I might have a chance to make the greatest difference.

Yahoo (as a company) has made a strong bet on Yahoo Research. We-the-researchers all hope that bet will pay off, and this seems plausible. I’ll certainly have fun trying.

13 Comments to “John Langford –> Yahoo Research, NY”
  1. hammer_shi says:


  2. mindmaker says:

    While you are at Yahoo Research, think of the desparate state of mind of the Chinese patriots who asked for democracy but were betrayed by Yahoo to rot away in prison cells for eight or ten years at a time. In sum, shame on you! Going to work for Yahoo is like going to work with Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz to do live experiments on human concentration camp prisoners. I am Arthur T. Murray and I mean what I say here. You either reject the evil of Yahoo, or you join with them and become evil yourself. Enjoy your nightmares of being in a Chinese concentration camp.

  3. jl says:

    I don’t intend this to be a political blog, but I believe an answer should be made here, once. I don’t expect to reply to further comments on this thread.

    I wish I lived in a world this simple, one where there is one cause (Yahoo) for the China human rights record. Instead, I live in a complex world.

    The truth is, every major business operating in China cooperates with the Chinese government and they often act as proxy control mechanisms for the government. For example, every major search engine enforces internet censorship at the behest of China’s government.

    But, the responsibility doesn’t end at China’s border. The reason why these businesses have entered China is that China has the 2nd or 4th largest economy depending on how you measure it. One of the reasons why China’s economy has grown so steadily is a massive export boom aided by governments around the world (such as the US government) which has extended Most Favored Nation trading status to China since 1980.

    But the responsibility doesn’t just stop at foreign governments. The United States has a representative government so the people of the United States are implicitly responsible for the policies of the government. Even in those nations where this is not true people as consumers have some choice about whether they buy China’s goods or not.

    But, the responsibility doesn’t stop there either. Even if you intentionally buy all nonchinese goods, the purchase price almost surely benefits from competition with China’s goods. When was that last time you thought to yourself “Am I paying enough for this DVD player? Perhaps I should pay more to cover the cost of producing it with human rights intact.”

    And the most responsible group of all, of course, is the people of China. It is their desire to avoid rocking the boat which leads to a propagation of the current government with all the human rights abuses that implies. This desire can be partially traced, of course, to China’s economic expansion since it is typically discontented hungry people who prefer to change the status quo.

    The above is just a simplification, of course. In the real world, we are all responsible for fighting both against and for human rights. On the negative side, Yahoo has (at least) censored results for China’s government and cooperated with the local police in building a case against a few dissidents. On the positive side, Yahoo has (at least) provided access to large quantities of information (especially for those in China who manage to find an external proxy), and (perhaps more importantly) mechanisms for organization such as free email accounts, chat systems, etc… The positives here are quite significant and a reasonable person could conclude the positives outweigh the negatives.

    As for myself, I have worked on Steganography, which is about hiding secret messages inside innocent-appearing messages. Steganography is precisely the tool a chinese dissident would need to organize a protest in a manner invisible to China’s police even under the most pervasive surveillance.

    I would like to invite you to abandon your black and white world, specifically because it may be harmful to the things you care about. Assigning all blame to Yahoo distracts from the responsibility all the rest of the world (and you in particular) have. What have you done to help? Condemning Yahoo for this negative without weighting negatives against positives may result in actually harming the ability of China’s dissidents to organize and effectively change the Chinese government. What if the ability to use freely available disposable Yahoo email accounts via carefully chosen foreign proxies is the key to success?

    Even if you are weighting positives against negatives, inviting others to ignore the weighting by failing to mention the grey nature of reality may be actively harmful. In my experience, the single cause fallacy is very easy for people to fall into. The simple wrong explanation where we jump to a state of excessive (and false) certainty needs to be actively fought against if we are to understand and work with reality.

  4. mindmaker says:

    After making my outburst against Yahoo and wishing that I had ended it with Fiat Justitia Ruat Coelum” (Let justice be done though the heavens should fall), I went to sleep here in Seattle and then upon wakening felt queasy, guilty, and full of dread that maybe I had overstepped the bounds of propriety. Here in Seattle, I resent seeing Bill Gates hosting Hu Jintao in the Gates mansion, as if Gates were himself a head of state. Towards the bottom of my mind-module webpages in a #protest section, I attack Microsoft, Google and Yahoo for their lending aid to Peking (not Beizhing — I’m speaking English, not Chinese) in the abuse of human rights. Just a few days ago on the ‘Net I was reading about a Chinese fellow who hurled paint on a large portrait of Mao in spring of 1994 in Peking, and the government spent the next dozen years destroying that protestor’s mind in a prison, by two years of solitary, and by tethering him out in the hot sun. Somebody has got to take a stand! Twenty years ago, when then Washington governor Booth Gardiner was playing host to the Korean dictator Chun Doo Hwan, I was assaulted and hospitalized by the Seattle police for protesting outside the dictator’s hotel. With an attitude of “Never Again,” I will never stop protesting. But I still feel guilty about seeing things in so black-and-white a fashion. I too will stop commenting here, and if I have any more ideas to express, I will elaborate them at my Mentifex Yahoo-China homepage. On the one hand I apologize to John Lnagford for the personal, verbal attack, but on the other hand I still feel strongly for each and every dissident rotting in a cell or tethered to a stake out in the hot sun. -Arthur T. Murray

  5. Balaji Krishnapuram says:

    Congratulations John, and good luck at Yahoo Research! While I rarely find time to post comments here, I have been a regular reader of the blog, and I appreciate your commitment to making it useful to the learning-theory/ML community.

    Although it is still quite you8ng, the lab is attracting a strong ML group, and can potentially impact a large number of users, so I’m sure it will be a good place for you.

  6. Y.-J. Yang says:

    Congratulations! John, I am a loyal reader of your blog and really really enjoy your theoretical views on machine learning. Actually, I obtain many knowledge and information in machine learning domain from this blog. So, I would like to say that this website is not only a place of academic exchange, but also assume the education function (Beyond your imagination :oD)! For me, it is an important learning resource and sometimes plays the partial supervisor role. Thank you so much! John, you do a great job. Wishes you to make more outstanding works in Yahoo and keep posting here.

    P.S. To *mindmaker*: Don’t comment in politics color! I don’t wanna argue with you about The Chinese Government. but, I just want to say : * The Chinese government \neq terrist *!!, althouth it also has some questions as other government.

    Anyway, Enjoy the brainstorm from John’s blog! and Let’s be joyful together!

  7. rif says:

    Congratulations, John! I hope that you find great continued success at Yahoo.

  8. DrewBagnell says:

    Congrats John!

  9. DrewBagnell says:

    Here in Seattle, I resent seeing Bill Gates hosting Hu Jintao in the Gates mansion, as if Gates were himself a head of state.

    You make this sound like a bad thing! Bill Gates sounds better to me than a head of state…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations! Yahoo Research has been building a strong ML group.

    misha b

  11. Congrats on your decision. We very much look forward to you joining us at Yahoo! Research – NYC!

  12. Gordon Rios says:

    Congratulations John, Yahoo Research – NYC is doing some great work and evidently is comprised of a very discerning group of researchers :)

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