I enjoyed the meeting and got a lot out of it. Thanks very much to the organizers for working so hard to make it happen. Some random thoughts and impressions:
I screwed up my Ignite talk, but it was fine. I stupidly planned for 15 slides at 20 seconds per slide, rather than the specified 20 slides at 15 seconds per slide. Oops. So I had to change it to 15 seconds per slide (them’s the rules!) I turned it into a joke about how 5 minute talks are for wimps and I was going to do my talk in 3:45, because I’m a blogger and I can be brief. It got a laugh, and the talk itself was fine. Between having been pretty well prepared, and the “modular” way in which my talk was structured, it wasn’t that hard to cut it down on the fly. There’s a lesson here for students. At some point, something’s going to wrong during one of your presentations (or one of your classes, if you’re a teacher). It could be an equipment failure, an audience member or student who keeps interrupting with questions…anything. It’s really useful to be able to think on your feet and deal with it.
A couple of thoughts on Ignite talks. They’re more work to prepare than conventional talks. And the 15 seconds per slide rule is a bug, not a feature. I assume the idea is to try to force people to minimize the use of text and figures, and so give a talk where all the visuals are pretty pictures. But even if you do that, the rule imposes a very awkward and distracting pace and rhythm to your talk. People are always either rushing to catch up with their slides, or (more rarely) waiting for their slides to advance, or (most rarely still) reading their talks so as to stay in perfect sync with their slides. That is, unless you do what I did and cheat, by having 2-3 duplicate slides in a row. But if you’re allowed to do that (and how could anyone stop you?), then there’s no point to the 15 seconds per slide rule. Ignite talks remind me a bit of how authors and poets sometimes set themselves the challenge of writing under some very severe constraint, like not using any word with an “e” in it. It’s really difficult, and even when you pull it off the achievement is more in having produced something that’s decent despite the constraint, rather than excellent because of the constraint.
More thoughts on the topic of my Ignite session (theory vs. empiricism) in a separate post, hopefully.
It seemed like a small meeting this year. Maybe even under 3000? There were plenty of empty seats in most of the rooms. (Though not in the session I was in, which was standing room only. I wonder if part of the reason was that a lot of the Ignite sessions seemed to be aimed at fairly narrow audiences this year? So if you wanted to go to an Ignite session, ours was probably going to be your first choice? I dunno, I’m just speculating.)
Because of the small size of the meeting, and because there wasn’t one street where all the bars and restaurants were concentrated, it was pretty easy to go out to eat and drink. I tried several of the recommendations from our recommondations post, they were all excellent. And I thought the food prices were great.
The meeting was split between the convention center and two hotels across the street, which wasn’t ideal. I know there’s a lot that goes into choosing a meeting location, and I don’t necessarily think ESA should just rule out anyplace that can’t fit the whole meeting into its convention center. But personally I do much prefer meetings that aren’t so spread out.
Not many people came to our meetup, but that’s fine, we enjoyed meeting the folks who came by (thanks!) Meg, Brian, and I had dinner after the meetup. First time all three of us all got together face to face. I hope it becomes an annual tradition.
One interesting thing that came out of the meetup is that apparently readers often don’t realize who wrote which post? Meg and I apparently have both have had the funny experience of being complimented on posts the other wrote. Maybe Brian has too? Do we need to do more to make clear who wrote which post? Besides, you know, having the author’s name right below the title (in admittedly-tiny type)? 🙂
I also saw Meg speak for the first time. Her talk was really good. Brian was scheduled almost opposite me so I couldn’t go, sadly.
Other really standout talks for me: Kathy Cottingham’s opening plenary, Greg Dwyer’s Ignite talk in my session (good points made very entertainingly), George Sugihara (wonderful animated videos from his son, explaining the key ideas), Monica Granados (very creative and thought provoking), Peter Adler (just excellent all around), and Rae Winfree (a collaborator who explained some ideas of mine more clearly and succinctly than I ever have).
I stayed for the whole meeting. Friday morning attendance was low as usual, although it seemed pretty good in the poster session and in the oral session I saw. I still think the ESA should swap the Monday morning and Friday morning activities (possibly with the awards ceremony moving to a late afternoon or early evening slot on Sunday or Monday). That way people are more likely to stay to the end of the meeting (because otherwise you’d be skipping an entire day), and the only people who need to stay for Friday morning are those attending workshops and other activities for which you have to sign up. Lots of other people like this idea too. Worst case scenario, you try it once and if it doesn’t work, you go back to the current schedule.
Finally, anyone know why the meeting was a week later this year, and is a week later again next year? I’m sure some people like having an extra week in the field, but other people have to start teaching in mid-August. And I have personal reasons for much preferring that the meeting start earlier in August.
What were your impressions of the meeting?