Semi-regular readers may have noticed that I saved up a lot of conference-related issues to discuss in the last couple of weeks. During the conference, I wasn’t so much in the mood for it, but once I had time to reflect, I realized there were a number of things I wanted to talk about. I suppose this means that I would not be good at live-blogging an event, as I seem to need some distance and musing-time for certain topics (but not for others).
Today I am thinking about how some conferences now provide very little printed material in terms of schedules and abstracts. Most conference-related materials are online and also on a CD or memory stick, and only a barebones schedule is printed (if that).
That is all fine with me. I never liked carrying around a big heavy book during a conference. Several times I took notes in the margins of a program, only to throw the program in the recycle bin before extracting my notes.
When conferences provide e-materials rather than voluminous printed materials, there are many benefits, both to individuals and to the environment, and the disadvantages are few.
Even so, I recently encountered a disadvantage that I had not previously considered. Or, I should say that I encountered a colleague who had encountered a disadvantage, but once he told me his tale of woe, I realized that I had to be similarly alert to this serious hazard.
Before the conference, this colleague had looked up the program online, used the personal scheduler option to create his own list of presentations to attend, printed it out, arrived at the conference, went to the first talk on his schedule.. and the person scheduled to speak was not speaking in that room at that time. In fact, the session he found himself in was completely different from what was on his schedule.
He went to the next talk on his schedule – same problem. And then he realized:
He had printed out a schedule from 2007.
It’s great that conferences leave their programs up long after the conference is over, but perhaps they should disable the personal scheduler option, or make sure the date is listed prominently in each session name. This would be a kindness to absent-minded professors.
Or perhaps there could be special warnings that flash on the screen, much like the text on some coffee cups, warning you that your coffee might be really hot. Maybe something like this:
Warning: The conference you are about to schedule took place in 2007.
Even that might not be enough for some, but it would save a few mishaps.
10 months ago