Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Guest Post: Giorgos Zervas from WSDM, Part 3

I am back from WSDM and I have to say all in all it was a great experience. I think my talk went fairly well although I can see some ways in which it could have been better - especially if I was more experienced in public speaking.

Preparing to depart from New York, amidst rumors of a big snowstorm that never seemed to materialize, I was thinking of the other participants who didn't have the luxury of being just a four-hour drive away from home. Especially, those that had a long return flight ahead of them. After three days packed with talks, lunches, networking and even going out and enjoying what Brooklyn has to offer (a lot!), I am sure most people wouldn't have minded being teleported back. This makes me wonder: what are our main incentives for conference participation?

I am guessing one of them must be attending the actual talks. Which brings me to my next point... Sergej Sizov couldn't attend the conference and instead sent his presentation over: the usual slides accompanied by a video of him presenting the work. To be perfectly honest, I was rather negatively predisposed to the idea of a prerecorded presentation. And judging from the number of people in the auditorium I think more people may have thought the same. Yet, I was completely wrong. After 30 seconds or so, I was completely immersed and forgot that the presenter was a projection. The presentation itself was clear, finished on time and even got an applause at end - which was absolutely deserved (yet in the absence of the speaker reminded me of the awkward feeling I get when people clap in movie theaters.) I would say the only downside was that we had to skip the Q&A session. Technically, though I don't see why this couldn't have been arranged save for timezone considerations. So, if a taped delivery doesn't really compromise quality why don't we use this format more often and minimize travel? Could conference participation eventually evolve to a mixed model of in person attendance and participation over the web? I do realize the benefits of networking and meeting each other in person but do we really have to attend every single conference irrespective of cost and time issues?

Looking forward to WSDM'11 in Hong Kong!

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