Advanced Computer Networks
Course requirements and grading


Most classes will have one or two assigned readings, which we will all read prior to class and discuss during the class. Reading the papers is essential to getting the most out of this course!

You must submit a paper review for each of the assigned readings. A one-paragraph review is sufficient (longer is usually not better!). Your reviews should not summarize the paper or repeat the abstract — we all read the paper already. Instead your review should include at least two criticisms of paper. Here is an example of a review that is not good:

The paper introduces Inter-Galactic Networking, or IGN, which solves the problem of sending messages between galaxies. The authors introduce a novel protocol that can send packets long distances via a distributed array of wormhole actuators. The paper evaluated the design with a simulation and showed a 57% improvement over IP. Also, on page 7 the authors misspelled "ambidextrous". The first author's mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries.

Here is an example of a review that is good:

The IGN design assumes that the wormhole actuators have already been calibrated to their destinations' coordinates within a certain tolerance. It's not clear how robust this fixed calibration will be given the motion of galaxies and spacecraft while packets are in flight. I thought the simulation was relatively realistic, but missed an important metric of the total round-trip latency including wormhole setup time for a new destination. That would be necessary to determine the range of distances at which IGN offers better performance than traditional Inter-Planetary Networking stechniques. Since most communication is local, I suspect IGN would help for only a minority of traffic.

Submit your review by 11:59 pm the night before the lecture for which the paper was assigned, by posting it on the class wiki. You are encouraged to read, think about, and comment on the other students' reviews, so that our time will be productive when we are all together discussing the papers. Please write your review before you read the other students' comments! Your reviews should contain at least some material that doesn't appear in the other students' reviews. Of course, if you independently produce the same comment, that's fine. (Copying other students' reviews, however, is obviously plagiarism. Thus it's safest if you write your review before looking at what others wrote.)

You may skip any 2 paper reviews over the course of the semester without affecting your grade. You may find this useful if you attend a conference, have a qualifying exam, etc. Except in extreme cases, the instructor will not grant additional free passes on the reviews.

Class participation

Comment, question, and interact! I ask that you do not use laptops during class. This way, we'll all be maximally engaged.

Paper presentations

For some sessions, the instructor will lecture or lead the discussion on papers. For other sessions, students will present a paper. Each student will present on one topic during the semester. The presentation will discuss one primary paper (that the rest of the class probably hasn't read), plus some related work. In more detail:

  1. Pick one paper as your "primary paper". Choose this paper from among the optional readings for your date on the course web site. (You can present a paper that's not on the reading list if you want, with the instructor's approval.)
  2. One week before your presentation date, tell the instructor what primary paper you have picked, and arrange a meeting time with me to go over your draft presentation.
  3. Prepare a presentation on your topic. The presentation should do two things. First, it should describe the primary paper and how it relates to the required reading for that day (this should take roughly 10 minutes of your presentation). Second, it should summarize related work in the area, about 2-3 papers (this should take roughly 5 minutes of your presentation). The related work can include optional readings on the course web site, but you should find at least one related paper on your own. You don't need to present these related papers in depth, but you should be able to compare them to the primary paper, required reading, and other research in this area.
  4. Prepare 2 (or more) discussion questions.
  5. Meet with the instructor to discuss your draft presentation, 1-2 days before your presentation.

Midterm exam

There will be one midterm exam, covering roughly the first two-thirds of the material. There will be no final exam, but we do have a poster session during the final exam period (see below).

Research project

The research project is the highlight of the course. The goal is to conduct novel research related to networking that, by the end of the semester, would be publishable as a short paper in a top quality workshop like HotNets, and when expanded to a full paper would be publishable in a top-quality conference.

You may work alone or in groups of two. Larger groups should discuss with the instructor first.

The main steps in the research project are as follows:

  1. During the first two weeks of the course, you should think about projects you might like to do. The instructor will suggest some topics, but it's even better if you have ideas of your own.
  2. Project proposal: Submit a project proposal to the instructor via plaintext email in early September (the exact date will be posted on the course schedule). The proposal should be at most a half page of text, informally describing
    • the problem you plan to address,
    • what will be your first steps to attack the problem,
    • what is the most closely related work, and why it has not addressed your problem, and
    • if there are multiple people on your project team, who they are and how you plan to partition the work among the team.
    Remember ... the proposal can be short and informal as long as it demonstrates that you have a plausible project and know how to attack it. The instructor will either approve the project or ask for a revision.
  3. Midterm presentation: Give a 5-minute presentation in class describing what problem you are solving, why existing approaches will not solve your problem, your solution approach, and your progress in your solution. You must demonstrate progress in your solution and the midterm presentation is worth 10% of your final course grade, so it would be good to start work on the project early.
  4. Final paper: This is a short paper suitable for submission to a workshop. It should clearly state the problem being solved, importance of problem, Related work, Your approach, evaluation, and results, Summary of conclusions, discussion of limitations, and future work. The paper should be at most 8 pages for one-person projects, and at most 12 pages for two-person projects. But you will be judged on results, not pagecount!
  5. Poster presentation: At the end of the course, during the final exam period, we will have a poster session. This will be an opportunity for the instructor to ask questions about your project, and also for other students and faculty in the department to see the cool work that you've done.

Dates for the above steps will be announced on the class schedule. In general, you are encouraged to meet with the instructor and seek advice on the project as often as you like.