Weekly Tasks

Each week, there will be roughly 5 papers corresponding to a topic at the confluence of distributed systems and programming languages. Each student will be expected to:

  • read 1 paper,
  • write analysis/summary of their assigned paper,
  • give a 10-15 minute white board presentation of their assigned paper to the class,
  • and participate in the group discussion session comparing all papers.

Summaries/Analyses of Papers

Your writeup is due as a pull request to our class repo on Thursdays between 5pm-6pm. This is to ensure that everyone writes their own writeup without borrowing from someone else. Please keep your summaries private before you make your PR (either do not push to your local fork before the deadline, or make your fork private).

Summaries should be written by each student, individually, alone. That is, the initial reading of the paper, as well as the critical analysis/summary (the writeup) that is due to be turned in at the start of class is not to be done in groups.

Though don’t worry, you will be able to work with other students on the final project, summaries will be made public so everyone can see each others’ summaries, and we will spend plenty of time discussing each paper as a group, so you can plan on plenty of group time, and time being devoted to questions, ambiguities, etc, that may arise while reading.

Your summaries should include the following:

  • a one or two sentence summary of the paper.
  • a deeper, more extensive outline of the main points of the paper, including for example assumptions made, arguments presented, data analyzed, and conclusions drawn.
  • any limitations or extensions you see for the ideas in the paper.
  • your opinion of the paper; primarily, the quality of the ideas and its potential impact.

John Ousterhout also has some good suggestions on questions to ask yourself, and ways to organize your analysis.

Weekly Presentations

Each student will be expected to give a short 15-20 minute white board presentation corresponding roughly to the writeup (analysis/summary) of their paper. This means no slides – you will need to go off of the structure you formed in your writeup for your presentation, so make sure your writeup is well-organized!

It’s generally a good idea to jot down an outline of your explanation, equations, or important points you’d like to make on a blank sheet of paper and to carry this with you to your presentation so you have a reference sheet of thoughts you may want to write on the board while explaining.


I will make audio recordings of the discussion portion of the class, as it will be very useful to everyone for the final project. Ideas that we generate together will help each person authoring their chapters down the road!

To make sure we can all make maximum use of the ideas generated in these discussion sessions, each week, one person will be responsible for minuting only the discussion session (~1hr) section of the course.

Note, if you’re minuting for the current session, you are not required to submit a writeup at the next session (though you still ought to read your assigned paper and present it to the class). Your minutes are due as a PR to the class repo by the start of the next class.

Here’s a good example of some thorough minutes (taken of a much longer meeting).