My Ten Favorite "Practical Theory" Papers

By: 
Jennifer Rexford
Appears in: 
CCR April 2008

As the saying goes, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” Networking research has a wealth of good papers on both sides of the theory-practice divide. However, many practical papers stop short of having a sharp problem formulation or a rigorously considered solution, and many theory papers overlook or assume away some key aspect of the system they intend to model. Still, every so often, a paper comes along that nails a practical question with just the right bit of theory. When that happens, it’s a thing of beauty. These are my ten favorite examples. In some cases, I mention survey papers that cover an entire body of work, or a journal paper that presents a more mature overview of one or more conference papers, rather than single out an individual research result. (As an aside, I think good survey papers are a wonderful contribution to the community, and wish more people invested the considerable time and energy required to write them.)