J. David Smith

PhD Student at the University of Florida
Advisor: My T. Thai

emallson [at] ufl [dot] edu

About Me

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science studying Network Measurement & Analysis at the University of Florida under Dr. My T. Thai, with a special focus on Social Networks. Before this, I graduated summa cum laude with a BSc in Computer Science & Mathematics from the University of Kentucky—and quite enjoy poking the sports rivalry between the two schools.

Prior to entering the Ph.D. program at UF, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Nathan Jacobs on geometry-focused Computer Vision tasks. Later, I interned at IBM where I helped design a secure system for users to apply policies to shared network appliances in cloud data centers and later worked on a data visualization prototype for the static code analysis team.

Outside of work, I am an avid gamer, electronic music afficionado, and casual student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I am currently the team lead and main tank for Occasional Excellence's weekend team in World of Warcraft, and have a seemingly ever-increasing list of RPG and turn-based strategy games to play through.

My interests in data analysis & visualization have popped up here as well. I have done extensive work on the WoWAnalyzer project, which both provides advanced analysis of combat logs from World of Warcraft and helps guide players in the process of self-improvement. More recently, I have built a visualization dashboard to streamline the post-raid analysis I do for my raid team.

Research Interests

My research centers on problems encountered in the study of social networks. While I am most interested in answering questions about social structures on these networks, our ability to adequately address these is limited by both the scale and availability of data. Thus, my research interests can be broken into two main sections:

Social Network Analysis

Large-scale online social networks are a relatively recent phenomenon. Although we know much more about the processes that drive these networks now than when MySpace was the hot new thing, much remains to be learned. My focus is currently on the processes that drive firestorms on social media like GamerGate or the banning of blitzchung. My work places a heavy emphasis on network analysis over natural language processing and machine learning, but uses these methods where they are relevant.

Network Analysis Methods

Social media introduces a number of challenges for traditional network analysis methods. Gone are the days where we could reasonable assume a complete, low-noise representation of our network data. We now work with networks that too large & noisy for traditional optimization approaches to network measurement and analysis. My work focuses on statistical approaches to measure local network structures as a means to both cope with the limitations on data availability and scale of the data.

Recent Publications

J David Smith, My T. Thai Measuring Edge Sparsity on Large Social Networks
To Appear in the Proceedings of ICWSM 2020 Author Version
J David Smith, My T. Thai Supporting a Storm: The Impact of Community on GamerGate's Lifespan
In the IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering (2019) Canonical Version · Author Version
Lan N. Nguyen, J David Smith, My T. Thai Vulnerability Assessment of Social Smart Grid: An Algorithmic Approach
In the Proceedings of IEEE GLOBECOM 2019 Canonical Version
Lan N. Nguyen, J. David Smith, Jinsung Bae, Jungmin Kang, Jungtaek Seo, My T. Thai Auditing on Smart-Grid with Dynamic Traffic Flows: An Algorithmic Approach
In the IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid (2019) Canonical Version
Xiang Li, J David Smith, Thang N. Dinh, My T. Thai TipTop: Almost Exact Solutions for Influence Maximization in Billion-Scale Networks
In the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking (2019) Canonical Version · arXiv
Alan Kuhnle, J David Smith, Victoria Crawford, My T. Thai Fast Maximization of Non-Submodular, Monotonic Functions on the Integer Lattice
In the Proceedings of ICML 2018 arXiv
Xiang Li & J David Smith, Tianyi Pan, Thang N. Dinh, My Thai Quantifying Privacy Vulnerability to Socialbot Attacks: An Adaptive Non-submodular Model
In the IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing (2018) Canonical Version
J David Smith, Alan Kuhnle, My T. Thai An Approximately Optimal Bot for Non-Submodular Social Reconnaissance
In the Proceedings of HyperText 2018 Canonical Version
Lan Nguyen, J David Smith, Jungmin Kang, My T. Thai Optimal Auditing on Smart-Grid Networks
In the Proceedings of ICC 2018 Canonical Version
Xiang Li, J David Smith, My T. Thai Adaptive Crawling with Multiple Bots: A Matroid Intersection Approach
In the Proceedings of INFOCOM 2018 Canonical Version
Alan Kuhnle, Xiang Li, J David Smith, My T. Thai Online Set Multicover Algorithms for Dynamic D2D Communications
In the Journal of Combinatorial Optimization (2017) Canonical Version
Xiang Li, J David Smith, My T. Thai Adaptive Reconnaissance Attacks with Near-Optimal Parallel Batching
In the Proceedings of ICDCS 2017 Canonical Version
Xiang Li, J David Smith, Thang Dinh, My T. Thai Why approximate when you can get the exact? Optimal Targeted Viral Marketing at Scale.
In the Proceedings of INFOCOM 2017 Canonical Version · arXiv
Xiang Li, J David Smith, Thang Dinh, My T. Thai Privacy Issues in Light of Reconnaissance Attacks with Incomplete Information.
In the Proceedings of Web Intelligence 2016 Canonical Version


March 2017
Honorable Mention, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship


Ph.D. in Computer Science, University of Florida
In Progress. Expected Graduation: May 2020.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Math, University of Kentucky
Graduated Summa cum laude in May 2015.

Personal Projects

WarcraftLogs Dashboard

  • Visualization dashboard to quickly evaluate logs both during and after raid nights.

  • Built on the Grammar of Graphics as implemented in Vega-Lite

WoWAnalyzer — Brewmaster Monk Analysis Module
SourceExample Output

  • Current maintainer of the WoWAnalyzer module covering Brewmaster Monks.

  • This module analyzes user-submitted logs from World of Warcraft and provides suggestions and analytics to help players improve.


  • Developing a Wayland-based tiling window manager scriptable in Guile Scheme.

  • Objective: 1) To have a testbed for window interaction ideas and, 2) to have a stable tiling window manager I enjoy using once Wayland becomes the default compositor.

  • Presently marginally usable, but unstable.

League of Legends Social Graph Constructor

  • Built a Clojure program to scrape the League of Legends API and construct a graph of social connections.

  • The graph represents likelihood of two players being friends, showing how information could potentially be leaked by the API. (There is no call to get a user's friend list)

Work Experience

PhD Student, University of Florida
August 2015 - Present

  • Working on Social Network Security/Optimization under Dr. My Thai.

Software Engineering Intern (AppScan Source), IBM
May 2015 - August 2015

  • Developed a dataflow visualization from concept to complete prototype.

  • Specialized the visualization for use by developers in fixing security vulnerabilities.

  • Prototype built in JavaScript using Node.js with the React.js and D3.js libraries.

Undergraduate Research Assistant, University of Kentucky
May 2013 - May 2014, August 2014 - May 2015

  • Assisted with Computer Vision research under Dr. Nathan Jacobs

  • Developed a web-based interface for image calibration and the measuring of objects in images. Built in JavaScript using the HTML5 inline SVG with Django (a Python MVC framework) on the backend.

  • Helped with data collection, model construction, and model training for research papers. Primarily worked in Python and used Caffe for deep-learning.

ExtremeBlue Technical Intern, IBM
May 2014 - August 2014

  • Designed and built a service for IBM’s Bluemix PaaS offering that enables users to manage & analyze traffic flowing to their application.

  • Researched competing search engine offerings, prepared comparative analysis and recommendation based on intended use case.

  • Used IBM’s DataPower appliance as a control point to enforce traffic policies and ElasticSearch with Kibana to provide rapid feedback on policies.

  • Written in JavaScript. Used Node.js for the service implementation and AngularJS for the user interface.

  • Managed tooling and built continuous deployment pipeline using Jenkins.

Tutor, University of Kentucky
January 2014 - April 2014, August 2014 - November 2014

  • Provided free, public tutoring in Computer Science and Math to undergraduate students.