Sunday, January 22, 2006

Happenings in Cork

I have just returned from a site visit to the Cork Constraint Computation Centre (4C: it's a pun, don't you know) in Cork Ireland, where I am on the advisory board. Ireland is a country that seems to have its government investments set up well. A few years ago, they a identified Gene Freuder as someone they would like to attract and made him a very nice offer. Gene is one of the (or perhaps the main) founders in the area of constraint programming, and he has put together an extremely impressive lab. Lots of activity, both in fundamental research and in industrial outreach. The lab isn't perfect (more OR!), but it is very, very good. If you are learning more about constraint programming, this lab's site is a good place to start.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Additional Online info at Business Week

There is an additional article online (only) associated with the "Math will Rock Your World" article in Business Week. Entitled Search Advertising by the Numbers, the article concentrates on the problem of bidding on keywords. Here is a quote:

Khan, an accountant by training, looks at the process like a linear programming problem. That may sound exotic to mathophobes, but the concept is simple. He sets a goal that he aims to maximize. In Khan's case, that's revenue. Then he factors in the constraints, such as cost per keyword.

This can get complicated. If he bids for the word "loan," for example, he competes with much of the lending industry. That drives up the price. What's more, it's a big, broad word, which means the results are much more complex than a far cheaper targeted keyword phrase such as "Tuscaloosa mortgage."

"If we can get one dollar out of an auto loan, we can get $20 if we do a mortgage loan," Khan says. "A keyword like 'loan' can deliver either of the two products. So should we buy the keyword based on potential of auto loan or mortgage loan?" He has his team do the math

As always, the article doesn't go into any real detail of models or algorithms, but it does make our field much more visible.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Business Week

Just as I was bemoaning the lack of press coverage, Business Week comes up with a cover story entitled "Math Will Rock Your World". The field of operations research is even mentioned by name, which is a tremendous step for the area!