Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why We Need to Talk About the Collaboration Problem

Today I spoke with a Computer Science professor who is finishing a semester of teaching a notoriously challenging advanced undergraduate course.

"I figured out the problem with my female students," he told me. "It's their partners."

All semester, this colleague--let's call him Albus Dumbledore--had been telling me about the strange phenomenon of drama with his female students and their project partners. The course has a significant project component, and successful completion of the project usually depended on both partners pulling their weight. Mediating partner disputes became the responsibility of the instructor. And what the instructor noticed was that an alarming fraction of the disputes seemed to happen when one of the partners was female.

After wondering all semester how bias might contribute to the drama of the female students' partners, Albus had a relevation. The female students complaining about their partners all seemed to have better overall grades than their partners. Not only did the partners have lower GPAs, but many of them were from outside of Computer Science. Albus surmised that these partners were, in fact, probably not pulling their weight, and that the students had every right to complain.

"But why would these strong students choose such bad partners?" he asked.

That female students had bad partners was, to me, not surprising. After all, nobody had asked me to work on any problem set until the second semester of my sophomore year, and a fellow student only asked me after obtaining an unprotected copy of course grades on our department servers and discovering I had the second-highest midterm score in one of our courses. I told Albus about how a friend once confessed to me that before she had gotten to know me, she had forbade her boyfriend from working with me. I told him about how problem set partners often preferred to solve problems for me rather than with me. My best collaboration in college had been with another woman, and she had been so initially skeptical of my abilities that it took me at least half of a semester to win her over with how fast and how correct my code was.

"So it's not by choice," Albus concluded. "What can we do about this?"

Important question. For my first few years of college, the collaboration problem had left me feeling so isolated and so much in doubt of my abilities that I often thought about switching away from Computer Science. If not for a chance encounter with a friend, one year behind me and facing similar problems, I might have left. What began as a quick hello as our paths intersected on the way back from class turned into a long discussion about the difficulties we both had in finding people who would collaborate with us. I had graded this woman's homework in multiple classes, so I knew the problem was not that she was not capable. This was when I began to realize that the problem may not be with me, but with the way people perceived me--and other women.

Years later, when I was starting Graduate Women at MIT, this conversation led me to put together a panel on collaboration--specifically, on collaborating as women in male-dominated fields. I felt so validated when the panelists--three women at various stages in their careers, each at the top of her field--said what I had observed for years, but had never dared to say out loud. It can be hard to collaborate with men, one panelist said: they often talk at you rather than to you because they are socialized to impress women. It can be harder to collaborate with two men, another panelist said: they will often talk only to each other while trying to impress you. (I don't like to make blanket statements about all people of a gender, just like I don't like to make blanket statements of all people from a culture, but these kinds of conversations can be helpful for recognizing patterns.) While much of this advice was unsurprising, and also depressing, it felt incredibly powerful to hear someone else say these statements out loud. Talking about this explicitly seemed like the first step towards solving the problem.

In the intervening years, I've collected much more evidence of the problem than I have solutions. It is undeniable that collaborations account for much of people's success in technical settings. Albus talked about how, in his class, the students with subpar partners struggled to complete their projects. A recent study I read* cited female academics' ability to travel for international collaboration as one of the biggest determinants of their success. Yet collaboration seems to remain a problem. At a recent lunch of Women@SCS in my department, I spoke about my experiences with Graduate Women at MIT, including about the collaboration panel, and the student kept returning to the issue of collaborating in a male-dominated field. Students asked about how to find collaborators who would take them seriously. Students asked about what to do in groups when people may not be listening to them. A student asked what to do if she has had so many negative collaboration experiences she is reluctant to collaborate anymore. A student said that she, too, felt like male collaborators were often trying to impress her rather than work with her, but she had thought it was in her head.

After the recent lunch, a student asked me about the benefit of talking explicitly about these issues. Wouldn't it be better, she asked, to not draw attention to gender and wait for the problems to go away? I, too, would love to live in a post-gender world where people can just be people. Unfortunately, it seems that collaboration is a topic we need to address explicitly. Not only do these cross-gender/culture problems not seem to be going away on their own, but they also seem to be increasing certain inequalities. Especially in Computer Science, smart people have done an excellent job of solving many other problems of gender equality. I have full confidence that once we recognize this as a problem, we can find good solutions. I would love to hear your ideas.

* In the process of looking for this citation... Let me know if you have it!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Post-Election Email Exchange on Academia and Politics

Since Tuesday, I've been thinking about what we could be doing better--in terms of encouraging civil participation, in terms of satisfying the needs of the people who did participate in the last election. I don't yet have fully-formed thoughts, but in the meantime here's a recent email exchange.

--

from:Jean Yang
to:Robert M Ochshorn,
Chinmay Kulkarni
date:Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 8:27 AM
subject:Academia and politics

In an email thread the other day, a colleague wondered whether we should be more like the "universities of the 60s" and take a more active role in politics. I had thought then that this wasn't the case, that the issue was these rural voters we couldn't reach, but then I learned that only 1/3 of millenials voted. I came upon this thread on Twitter today:
https://twitter.com/FuckTheory
It's not *quite* my experience, but I think it's useful to talk more about the politics associated with science, and not just the politics of how we talk about science.

An underlying theme of my seminar has been "politics is everything," but previously the scope had been limited to discussing why papers were written the way they were, why certain papers were considered important, the actual impact of papers with respect to some notion of "real world." Yesterday we spent the first thirty minutes talking about the election, and I made a point to talk about the mechanics of the electoral system the way we've been talking about the mechanics of the publication system--something I've gotten pretty worked up about is voter protections. Later we talked about the relationship between science and funding, and how projects could be for both good (e.g. curing disease) and sinister (e.g. surveillance) purposes. The students seemed to appreciate this discussion, and my one student had that nice quote: "We may be solving biological cancer and creating a social cancer."
I previously didn't know how far to push things when it came to talking about the social aspects of science, especially since this is a class in the Computer Science Department, but the students have seemed to appreciate it when I've talked about systems, hierarchies, and the underlying reasons things happen the way they do. I've been thinking about how to connect my relatively narrow academic activism to more generalizable messages and lessons for students who are going to graduate and be the technical/scientific elite.

--
Jean Yang
website | twitter

--

from:Chinmay Kulkarni
to:Jean Yang,
cc:Robert M Ochshorn
date:Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 10:13 AM
subject:Re: Academia and politics

Activist campuses are great, if they know what they are activating. The 60s coalesced around peace and civil rights, but what do we want now?

I've been reading a lot into social disenfranchisement, and I worry that things are only going to get worse. Automation is an exponential process, so we're kinda screwed if we don't figure out what people who don't have jobs should do. 

To me, this translates to two actionable things:
1. We've got to start teaching students to take initiative. You can't be the elite if you are a cog. We've got to start thinking about how to make students more entrepreneurial so they don't have to face a time when they have no "job"
2. we are currently letting mathematicians and engineers run the world without a clue about how to reason about ethics or about the social fabric that ties us together. That has to stop. We've got to go beyond "You just tell me the utility and I'll maximise it" to one that is a lot more examined. Otherwise the masses who get left behind are going to be (rightly) electing Trumpian candidates.  
3. Finally I agree with your actions. Academics got divorced from morality as a result of governmental crackdowns on activist campuses: http://www.irwinator.com/124/123.htm And look where it's got us. We cannot train an intellectual elite without moral values.

Chinmay

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dropbox Selective Sync Bug, or How It Took a Whole Evening to Update My Profile Photo

I encountered a pretty bad Dropbox bug today. I'm wondering if anybody else has encountered anything similar, and also wanted to share how I got around it in case it happens to anybody else.

This evening I was changing my Twitter profile photo back to the usual photo, as one is wont to due on a Sunday evening while procrastinating work. I was horrified to discover that the photo was nowhere to be found. In fact, my entire "photos" folder containing all of my key photos of the last few years was gone. It was not in my machine's Dropbox folder, not in any of my machines' Dropbox folders, and not on the Dropbox website.

I was not entirely surprised. Over the last few months I've been having some problems maintaining a shared Dropbox folder between my Linux and Windows partitions. I think the main problem is that Dropbox for Linux is simply not very good, but the fact that my use case is so fringe probably doesn't help. My trajectory of use has gone something like this: set things up according to some blog post; enjoy file sharing across partitions for some time; start getting strange error messages about starting Dropbox on Linux; sit helplessly and watch as something strange happens. Previously, the "something strange" involved Dropbox failing to work anymore. This time, involved my files failing to exist anymore.

Bug: selective sync doesn't uphold its end of the bargain. This latest episode of something strange happening had to do with my using the "selective sync" feature. This feature supposedly allows users to select which folders each machine syncs with Dropbox, allowing users to store terabytes of data on Dropbox (because that's what we're paying for) without needing to eat up terabytes of data on each machine. When you choose to selectively sync, an icon appears assuring you that the files are disappearing only from your machine, and not from all of Dropbox. Except, in my case, the files disappeared from all of Dropbox. I assume what happened was that the selective sync had registered as a deletion, but not a proper deletion, or otherwise it would have made it easier for me to retrieve the files.

Fix: do sketchy things to get at files. After sending Tech Support a strongly worded note about how-could-they-lose-all-my-files, I started poking around the Dropbox website. I discovered a "Deleted Files" section that allows you to restore files you deleted up to a month ago. Restoring here recovered many of the missing files, but not all of them. (After all, I had lost the files through a bug, and not in some normal way of deleting files.) I then went to the "Events" page and confirmed that there had been an event October 2, after syncing my Linux partition, that involved the deletion of over 1000 files. (Thanks, Dropbox, for not sending me a message asking if I was sure this was something I wanted to do.) Still no sign of the "photos" folder and the desired new/old profile photo. All I needed was a link to the folder. Once I had that, I could request to restore the files.

After this, I was almost out of ideas when I realized that some of my Dropbox "shared" folders had been subfolders under the "photos" folder, and that the Dropbox website has a separate section for managing "shared" folders. (When other people share folders with you, you can choose whether to actively add the folders to your Dropbox. I had un-added most of my folders before I upgraded to more space.) So I went there and and restored these folders. Then I looked in the "Recents" tab and there it was, a link to the "photos" folder, corresponding to a notification that subfolders had been re-added to my Dropbox. Now that I had a link to the "photos" folder, I was able to click on the "show deleted files" icon. Once I was able to see the deleted files, I was able to restore them. (And I've been doing them one subfolder at a time, while writing this post, because there are bugs when I try to do multiples at a time...)

And this, ladies, gentlemen, and people who identify as neither ladies nor gentlemen, is the story of how I changed back my Twitter profile photo.

Conclusions. All software has bugs, so I can't be particularly angry with Dropbox, but there are many ways in which Dropbox can improve user experience with respect to this particular situation. Here are my main takeaways:
  • Until Dropbox pays more attention to their Linux product, one should be wary of selective sync. (Dropbox! We're paying so much money for this! The least you could do is to not put us through these emotional roller coasters by deleting our files after promising not to.)
  • If you're not getting what you want out of a user interface, it may be possible to do sketchy things until you can get where you want to go. But Dropbox could also improve its interface for accessing files that may have been disappeared against the will of the users.
  • There are tradeoffs to using something like Dropbox instead of managing your file backup yourself. On the one hand, you give up control and are subject to their bugs wiping out your entire digital photo archive. On the other hand, respectable companies do keep a lot of backups and with some work you should be able to recover things. So, thanks Dropbox for not deleting these files altogether, even though you really didn't make it easy for me to find them.
And, of course, this brings us to my main points in life. We need to understand our software better! Better languages and tools would allow programmers to better understand what is going on, making these kinds of strange bugs less likely! Allowing programmers to express high-level policies about consistency and desired system behavior would also decrease the prevalence of these kinds of situations! Instead of funding Dropbox, maybe people should fund programming languages research kthxbai!

Friday, September 30, 2016

On Avoiding Stress Culture

I've been at Carnegie Mellon University as an Assistant Professor for a little over a month now, and the students tell me we're approaching "Deep Semester." The glow of summer vacation has worn off. People are skipping classes and skipping meals in pursuit of Excellence. A pall of Seriousness has descended upon the Gates Hillman Complex. (Many days this week, the Seriousness has physically manifested as heavy rain.)

Now is a good time to remind myself that I can stay out of it*. Jim Morris, the former Dean of CMU's School of Computer Science, once told me, "Stress culture is worst among junior faculty. Avoid it." Jim seems to live by this advice. He teaches a course called Campus Stress as a Wicked Problem**. My friend Chinmay, who is in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute with him, tells me Jim is one of the few professors on campus who isn't "so busy" all the time.

At first glance, it may seem difficult to avoid stress culture as a junior faculty member. After all, everyone knows that being junior faculty means working all the time, never sleeping, and having so little of a life outside of work that you can only keep plants alive if they are in the office. But people also seem to think being a PhD student means working all the time, and there are many examples of successful people who did not work all the time as PhD students. Thus I'd like to posit the hypothesis that the idea that one must work "all the time" as junior faculty comes more from a culture of stress than necessity for success.

But why, you might wonder, would this stress culture exist among junior faculty members if it were unnecessary? I speculate below:
  • Your responsibilities are much more divided than they were before and it's difficult to juggle. It's possible to spend all time doing any of the following: teaching, advising, writing grant proposals, and attending committee meetings. Also note that this list does not include the reason you presumably became faculty in the first place: doing research. The solution is not to implode, but to compromise.
  • The closer you get to the top of a hierarchy, the more intense people get. When I go out into the real world people find me to be a total megalomaniac. My academic peers don't seem to think the same thing about me.
  • A lot of people who made it all the way to becoming faculty did get there by working all the time. Though not the only way, this is a legitimate way of working.
  • As humans we're not engineered to say "no" too often, and there are infinite things to say no to as a faculty member. If I said yes to every meeting and answered every email I'd die of not eating and not sleeping very quickly. (This might be a harder thing for women because we're socialized to be agreeable.)

In support of my hypothesis that stress culture is something to be eschewed rather than embraced, I present a list of my role models when it comes to finding space and balance:
  • My undergraduate professor Radhika Nagpal. This recent excellent profile of her talks about how, as junior faculty, she avoided politics and made it a rule not to check email on weekends. She wrote the most-read post on Scientific American's website about her approach to the tenure track called "The Awesomest 7-year Postdoc."
  • Turing Award winning MIT professor Barbara Liskov, who famously worked only 9 to 5 on weekdays, working an evening here and there only if there was a deadline.
  • The aforementioned Jim Morris, and also my friend Chinmay, who seem to make time to do the things they want to do.
  • My postdoc advisor Walter Fontana, who lives by the Goethe quote "Do not hurry; do not rest." He seems to have always found the space to do the science he wants to do. He once told me it is important to have a "strong internal compass" and know when you believe your work to be good so you can avoid pressures to hire more and publish more.
Stress culture might not be bad for everyone***, but it certainly is not productive for me. (My friend Seth once observed that I seem to work best in the complete absence of pressure.) So though I could be doing more work, right now I'm going to go read a book. Good night.

* In Influence, Robert Cialdini says if you want to do something, tell the entire world. Then you'll feel more accountable and be more likely to do it.
** The course focuses on problems at CMU, but in terms of pressure CMU is not so different from the other elite higher-education institutions I've experienced.
*** A student once told me I needed to put more pressure on him so he would get more work done!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Some of My Niceness Role Models

Yesterday my friend Grzegorz asked me if I knew how to prevent promising students from becoming "brilliant jerks," and I opened up this question to the Internet because I didn't know. One theme in the responses is to set a good example, demonstrate that you value niceness, and make visible examples of people who are both brilliant and nice. This made me realize that niceness is high on my list of qualities I appreciate in people, and that I keep in mind a growing list of "niceness role models" who remind me to be not-a-jerk in different ways. Here is a subset of those people.
  • Margo Seltzer, my undergraduate academic advisor at Harvard. Despite being so busy, famous, important, etc., Margo always made time for us. She took meetings with me whenever I asked, responded to my long angsty emails with similarly long emails of advice, and took me to lunch every now and then to make sure I was doing all right. When our robotics team was in the RoboCup World Cup in Germany, she came to Germany to cheer us on (though it probably didn't hurt that the real World Cup was there at the same time) and even brought me German gummy bears, because she knew of my love for candy and bears. And this was not because I was particularly special--other students I've talked to are in awe of how much time and space she makes for us. My friend Diana once said that if Margo is not too busy and important for us, then who are we to ever think we are too busy or important for anybody else.
  • Armando Solar-Lezama, my PhD advisor at MIT. As a PhD student I was something like a research cat, always bringing in random ideas and visitors I had "hunted" into Armando's office to see how he might engage with them. Throughout my PhD Armando was incredibly generous with his time and attention, always engaging with whatever--or whomever--I brought, and never telling me that I had wasted his time, or to stop. Whenever I'm inclined not to listen to an idea or person, I think of how patiently Armando listened to us--and with genuine curiosity.
  • Martin Rinard, my other thesis committee member at MIT. Martin has a reputation in our field for being loud, controversial, and not necessarily the warmest person on the planet, but he also has a reputation among the PhD students for being an incredibly supportive advisor and mentor. Martin goes above and beyond to train students in creative ways. He once made one of his international students practice his speaking skills by "re-lecturing" every one of his morning lectures in the evening for the class he was teaching one semester. Throughout my PhD, Martin felt I needed to learn to fight better, so he put me in situations of needing to defend myself whenever possible (most publicly throughout my entire thesis defense). Whenever I'm inclined not to care about other people's growth, I think about how generous Martin was with his time and advice.
  • Max Krohn, who co-founded Spark Notes, OKCupid, and Keybase. Max did his undergrad at Harvard and his PhD at MIT and is now worth so much money that when I hosted him to speak at MIT I had to meet several times with the handler MIT assigned him because they had identified as a potentially high-impact donor. While many people of Max's profile are too important to be nice to anybody, Max is incredibly nice, and also generous with his time and attention. I had first met Max when my friend (and co-founder of a company that never ended up existing) reached out to Max for advice, and Max has continued to impress me with how unassuming he is, how much he listens, and how much he genuinely tries to be helpful. My interactions with Max reinforce the lesson that I should not ever view myself as too successful to be nice, and to pay it forward when it comes to supporting younger people.
  • My friend Alison Hill. Alison is a brilliant and very successful HIV researcher who, at a fairly early point in her career, received a prestigious Gates Foundation grant to run her own lab. How I've always known her, though, is as the friend I could always count on to say "yes" to fun things, and to be there to talk if I needed it. Most recently, Alison spent over 30 hours designing, choreographing, and organizing the rehearsals for a dance-skit for our friend Adeeti's wedding. Whenever I think I am too busy for my friends (which happens all the time), I think about what Alison would do.
  • Dominic Mazzoni, someone I worked with when I interned at Google in 2007. He was not my mentor, but I interacted with him quite a bit because I used the (very useful and well-engineered) machine learning tools he was developing. I was so impressed with how nice he was in all of his emails and code reviews: he would thank the sender for the correspondence, be complimentary about legitimately good things, and convey what seemed like genuine joy about the interaction. I especially appreciated that he took my questions seriously, even though I was some random intern--and not even his intern. Interacting with Dominic reminded me of how nice it can be when someone tries to make interactions pleasant, and whenever I remember to do so (which is not often enough), I try to be more like him.
  • Einstein. Every time I feel like I am too busy to engage in correspondence to a stranger, I think about Einstein's letter to a young girl interested in science, and how if Einstein wasn't too busy and important changing the world to respond to people, then I shouldn't be either.
I feel grateful that I know so many people who are simultaneously so brilliant and so nice! (And there are so many more nice, brilliant people in my life!) Obviously I would die if I tried to be as nice all of these people combined (and most of the time I forget to try to be nice at all), but it's very useful to have people like these in mind to remind myself to be nicer. And I think that for all communities I'm in, it would improve overall morale to give more credit for niceness and not just brilliance.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Question: "Correcting brilliant students"

A question for all of you.

--

from:Grzegorz Kossakowski
to:Jean
date:Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:51 AM
subject:Correcting brilliant students

Hi Jean,

I know from your tweets you're busy so I'll get right to the point. I'm looking for examples of academic teachers who try to edify brilliant freshmen students in hope to steer them away from the unfortunate path of a brilliant jerk. Based on your blog posts, I thought you might be the right person to ask and you would find the subject interesting.

I'm asking about this in context of a recent conversation with the head of algorithms and datastructure research at University of Warsaw. He's called here in Poland as father of our ongoing successes in ACM competitions. He have heard that University of Warsaw has a reputation of graduating people who are really good but not pleasant to work with and he's looking for ideas to correct that. I promised to try to help hence my email.

--
gkk

--

from:Jean Yang
to:Grzegorz Kossakowski
date:Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:54 AM
subject:Re: Correcting brilliant students

Haha, you mean you can tell from my Tweets that I've been procrastinating work? ;)

This is a very good question. Hm! Could I turn this email into a blog post and solicit suggestions from people? This is indeed an interesting question to me and I don't know the answer.

Jean

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Five Things More Important About a Research Project Than Being in Love

I recently talked to an early PhD student trying to decide between two projects: one they were in love with, and one with a much longer list of "pros" including "more likely to go somewhere" and "the faculty involved have experience working in the area." I was surprised to learn that I was the only person (out of faculty and students alike!) who told her I would pick the second, more reliable project.

It's not that I'm not a romantic*, but I do believe advice to make decisions based on feelings rather than facts can be dangerous. Apparently my point of view is so much in the minority that I need to write a blog post to elucidate my position.

Like most of you, I am a sucker for stories about people finding meaning, love, etc. When I watched movies as a kid, I would always be so confused when the female lead turned down a proposal from a perfectly eligible paramour**. But they look so good together! But they are in love! As time passed, however, I learned that there is this thing called happiness, that happiness is important, and that happiness depends on many more factors than looking good and being in love.

And as I came to learn that all things in life are the same, I learned that these lessons also apply to research. For me, the following things are as important, if not more important, than the specific dream I am chasing in any given research project:
  1. The day-to-day. I'd love to be a lab scientist for the glamorous photographs of me in my lab (and of course the direct contributions to science, etc.), but I am pretty sure I would die if I had to spend my days doing wet lab experiments. (In high school my "will become" in my senior yearbook was "a better lab partner." This unfortunately never happened. In college I loved studying organic chemistry but I would do things like accidentally shatter our sep funnel and throw it away, leaving my lab partner confused about why we were missing half our experiment.) What I love doing is coding, formalizing things every now and then, and apparently, spending days and days writing grant proposals and Powerpoint presentations. Hence my present set of projects.
  2. Collaborators. For some reason people love this idea of the lone scholar. (Maybe because it's hard enough to imagine one person who wants to work on such obscure stuff??) In reality, most science (and probably all other things in life) moves forward not only through single people sitting alone in their attics, but through conversations between people sitting in attics. It's good to know whether you like working by yourself, with a small handful of collaborators, or on massive collaborations where you can't ever tell how many other people are on the same Skype call. There are tradeoffs to each of these situations: the fewer people you collaborate with, the more "out there" your work can be. The more people you collaborate with, the bigger the project can be (for different senses of "big"). Especially when you are working hard, your collaborator interactions are most of your entire world, so it is important to like both the collaboration format and the collaborators.
  3. Community. People tell you that the PhD is about the relationship between a student and their advisor, but it's really about the student entering into a set of conversations within a community. My happiness certainly depends on my position within a community: how much the community accepts me/my work; how much my community values my work and similar work. I like being part of a research community that shares my values; I like it when my community accepts me as one of them and engages with me about my work. As a young researcher, your community is especially important because these are the people who will shape your values and your ideas about what it means to do research.
  4. Evaluation. I used to think that once work was good enough, it would be universally recognized as good, and then we could all celebrate and move on. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and each community has its own customs about how it evaluates work. The evaluation mechanisms determine what work gets recognized as good and ultimately how people work. I much prefer my work to be evaluated on things that feel more objective than subjective, and I want to believe the evaluation is demonstrating something about a universal truth, rather than being a measurement of a particular artifact. (For these reasons, I prefer to be evaluated on correctness--in the form of theorems--than user studies or performance numbers.) This determines what I choose to work on and what I emphasize when communicating about my results, decisions that play a large role in my work-happiness.
  5. Resources. Behind all things in life there is the question of money. While most people would certainly not like their work to be completed dictated by what funding is available, how much funding there is and where it comes from determines many things about your work: whether you have funding to travel to conferences; whether you have additional funding meetings where you are to present concrete deliverables. There are also other resources besides the financial. How many people at your university could give you feedback on this project? How many other people could contribute to actual work on the project? For young researchers, there is also the question of how much attention the advisor would provide on a project, and also the attention other researchers in the field might provide.
Of course, everyone has their own happiness function. I'm sure many other people value the idea of being in love with their research more, and value some of these less. No matter what your value function, it is important to think about the dimensions of your happiness, and how project decisions fit.

Supplementary reading:

* Hm, people have called me the "least romantic person they have ever met."
** Hey, it's not my fault the movies I watched conformed to heteronormative tropes.