Tracking Paper Downloads for MISTA

The fifth MISTA conference  ( has just taken place in Arizona. The web site, I think looks pretty good but there is a lot more that I would like to do with it. For example, I should have all the papers available for download and, over the next few months, I am going to put in the effort required to make them all available. I guess that there will be at least 500 of them (including abstracts) which, I believe, is a useful resource for the scheduling community.

But, when I do make them available I would like to do a few things:

  1. I would like to know how many times a paper is being downloaded. This is useful information for the authors as well as for the MISTA organisers.
  2. I would like to collect email addresses as potential conference delegates. I know that people may not like this sort of thing but as long as we are up front about it and, in any case, they are getting the paper for free.

So, for a few days now, I have been sketching out a few ideas as to how I could get this to work. I think I would have the same look/feel as my own publications (see where I list my publications but, for each one, you can go to another page and see all the details about that paper; including being able to download it.

The difference with the MISTA web site would be the fact that when you wanted to download a paper a couple of things would happen. Firstly you would be asked for your email address (and perhaps name and company/institution – but that might be a bit much). It would also say that they would be email’ed about future MISTA conferences and obtaining the paper says that they agree with this.  Once you had entered all the required information, you would be sent an email, with a link in it which would enable you (for one time only) to download the paper.

That’s the idea. Now all I need to do is design the database and write the associated PHP scripts. Oh, and get all the papers in a form that they can be downloaded, which is actually the most time consuming part.

Views welcome.


PATAT 2010: Multi-objective Sports (Football) Scheduling

At the recent PATAT (8th International Conference on the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling) conference I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a plenary presentation.

My talk focussed on sports scheduling. Indeed, the title was “Scheduling Football (Soccer) Fixtures: Progress Made to Date and Future Challenges“. I focussed on the conflicting objectives when trying to minimise travel distances, whilst also trying to reduce pair clashes (which can be considered as local derbies for the sake of this discussion).

This is a classic case of a multi-objective problem where minimising one objective causes the other to increase and vice versa. It is not (usually) possible to minimise both objectives, instead you are looking for a trade off. These are plotted on a pareto front where a user would then decide which trade off solution is the best.

In the plenary talk, I showed that it was possible to reduce both the distance and the pair clashes such that (sometimes) the distance did not significantly increase. This is a potentially useful result as it means that supporters do not have to travel any further (statistically) and the policing costs are reduced as they do not have to police so many local derbies.

I should say that this result is only work in progress at the moment in that it has not been verified by the football authorities or the police, but I would hope that it would be of interest to them.

In the same talk, I also discussed how I collected the data for this work (which essentially is the various distances between football clubs). This involved using Google maps and Multimap APIs. I’ll talk about this in the next blog. I’ll also provide a link to the paper (as I don’t have it to hand at the moment). But, if you are interested the reference is:

Kendall G., McCollum B., Cruz F. and McMullan P. (2010) Scheduling English Football Fixtures: Consideration of Two Conflicting Objectives. In proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling (PATAT 2010), 11-13 August 2010, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK, pp 1-15

and you can access the paper here.

Other PATAT posts can be seen here.

Football Fixture Scheduling: Another Project

Over the past nine months or so I have been working with a local company who provides an online service to schedule various types of sporting events. They contacted me after seeing my contact details on wikipedia (which was a nice way to be contacted).
The company need to produce double round robin tournaments but they have some factors which are not present in the major English leagues. For example

  1. Teams might share pitches so those two teams cannot play at home on the same day.
  2. There are a number of different leagues and the teams in different leagues might share pitches (see above) but the leagues play in different timeslots. That is, pitches are available in certain timeslots and teams can play in certain timeslots and these are not consistent across divisions.
  3. We want to provide a good spread of games such that repeat fixtures (team i vs team j and team j vs team i) are as far apart as possible.

There followed a series of meetings (at 7:30am for reasons best known to ourselves), which discussed the problem so that we both fully understand the task at hand.

At the moment, I am trying to develop a constructive heuristic and then carry out some additional optimisation with simulated annealing.

It has proven to be a very interesting problem and there is still a lot that I want to do, but I have just about got a constructive heuristic that works (in that it produces a feasible solution).

My focus over the coming week or so (as I have some time to work on the problem) is the following.

  1. Investigate if I can produce a more efficient constructive heuristic. At the moment, it takes many iterations to get a feasible solution and I’d like to do it much more quickly.
  2. Run the local search optimisation (in this case simulated annealing) which will take the feasible solution from the constructive heusristic and try to improve on it. In addition, it will also attempt to spread out the repeat fixtures.
  3. Once I have something that seems worthwhile I want to document the algorithm. This is for the purposes of a potential paper (the holy grail in our world!) and also to discuss the approach with the company.

So, the next couple of weeks should be very interesting (well, at least for me!).

MISTA Conference: Venue for 2011 announced

MISTA 2009 finished in the time honoured fashion of a social day. On this occasion it was a cruise down the River Liffey, followed by a two hour guided tour around Dublin, ending up at Trinity College Dublin (which, strangley enough is where MISTA 2009 started as it was the first place we visited when looking for a venue for the conference (in the end, we decided against TCD for various reasons)).

But, as the 2009 conference ends, planning for the 2011 conference begins.

So far, the conference has taken place in Nottingham (2003), New York (2005), Paris (2007) and Dublin (2009). At the conference banquet we announced that the 2011 conference will take place in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference will be chaired by John Fowler, Barry McCollm and myself.

Starting to plan two years in advance might seem excessive but we have found the further out you plan, the easier it is.

MISTA Conference: Plenary Talk (Edmund Burke)

The MISTA conference had two plenary talks today (Raymond Kwan – see earlier blog) and Edmund Burke. Edmund’s talk was entitled A Comparison of Two Methods for Reducing Take-Off Delay at London Heathrow Airport and focussed on his work (and Jason Atkin and John Greenwood) that investigates scheduling aircraft at Heathrow in preparation for take off.
The picture shows Edmund Burke (foreground) and Jacek Blazewicz (session chair).

MISTA Conference: Plenary Talk (Moshe Dror)

The MISTA conference is now well underway, after a busy morning. Our first plenary talk was by Prof. Moshe Dror (University of Arizona) and co-authored with George Steiner. His talk was entitled ‘Strong’-‘Weak’ Precedence in Scheduling: Extended Order Implications.
The picture shows Prof. Dror’s talk.

MISTA Conference: Almost There

The MISTA conference is almost upon us.

It was an early start this morning (3am) in order to get to Dublin on the 06:35 flight out of East Midlands Airport. We were actually in the hotel by 09:00 and, thankfully, they had rooms ready so it was not too bad.

We spent the day getting things ready, as far as we could. The real work will start tomorrow and it looks like being a long day. I think we’ll open the registration desk at 07:30 and we’ll return from the Guinness Storehouse at around midnight.

In between that, we have a Plenary Talk by Moshe Dror (“‘Strong’-‘Weak’ Precedence in Scheduling: Extended Order Implications“), followed by 36 papers, split into nine sessions (the full program can be downloaded from here).

For me (and this is a personal viewpoint; not talking as the conference chair) the highlight is the Sports Scheduling session as this is a particular interest of mine, as you’ll see from my previous blog postings. The papers in this session are:

  • Mathematical Modeling for Maximising Gate Receipt Problem, Abdul-Hamid N.H., Kendall G. and Sagir M.
  • A Heuristic for Minimizing Weighted Carry-Over Effects in Round Robin Tournaments, Guedes A.C.B. and Ribeiro C.C.
  • Soccer Schedules in Europe: An Overview, Goossens D.R. and Spieksma F.C.R.
  • Round-Robin Sports Scheduling from a Graph Colouring Perspective: A Case Study in Rugby Union Scheduling, Lewis R. and Thompson J.

… but there are many other excellent papers also being presented throughout the day and your preferences will depend largely on your research interests.

MISTA Conference: Program

With the MISTA conference just a week away (this time next week we’ll be in the Guinness Storehouse for the reception) we have just released the scientific program.

The list of papers is available at

A PDF (more detailed) version can be downloaded from the same page (see the link at the top of the web page)

MISTA Conference: Proceeedings

I wonder if there is a good (and I mean simple) way to produce conference proceedings?

In a previous post, I was talking about the MISTA conference that I chair and that we were in the process of collecting all the papers and registrations. This is now done and, with the conference just a week away, we are trying to finalise the proceedings.

It could be worse. In 2003 we had hardcopy proceedings so we had to get things sorted out a lot sooner as we had to deliver the proceedings to the printers. At least, with the proceedings on CD, the timescales are not so tight and we are in charge of our own fate. On the downside you effectively have to develop another web site to enable the delegates to access the papers in a variety of ways.

But that is not the main problem (time consuming as it is). The main problem (at least for me) is three-fold

  1. Ensuring that all the papers actually make it to the proceedings and that all the authors and titles are spelt correctly in the contents pages.
  2. Making sure that the contents pages have the correct page numbers on (for reasons I won’t go into now, it’s important that we have page numbers).
  3. Putting together an accurate author index so that authors can easily find their papers.

I have put together a number of conference proceedings in my time but I have never found a quick, simple and reliable of doing it, other than just taking your time and constantly checking that you have not missed anything.

Any suggestions welcome, for the next time.

MISTA Conference

Since 2003 I have chaired the Multidiscplinary Conference on Scheduling: Theory and Applications (MISTA). The first conference (2003) was held in Nottingham, the second (2005) was held in New York and the third conference (2007) took place in Paris.

The 2009 conference (the 4th in the series) is due to take place in Dublin (10th – 12th August 2009).

The conference is now only about eight weeks away and, as anybody knows who has organised a conference, it is a busy time for all concerned (both organisers and authors).

Our main efforts at the moment are being directed at ensuring that revised papers (taking into account the comments of the reviewers) have been uploaded and checking that each paper has an registered author.

Once we have registration/paper uploads resolved (in the next few days we hope), we will close the web site (we are using easychair) so that nobody tries to “sneak” in a late paper.

Then the task of producing the proceedings begins. This has to be done with great care as just a single mistake will haunt us forever.