Authors’ Corner: A place for online authors’ Q/A

How We Did It

Regarding logistics, the online attendees were the priority for the Authors’ Corner, but we advertised to everyone. We had five sessions over the 2.5 days of the symposium. 2 sessions for each full day and one session on the half-day. The sessions were at lunchtime (around noon) and 9 PM to maximize the time zones we covered because we are an international conference. I even had a spreadsheet to help calculate what time zone’s “waking hours” a given time covered. Authors signed up for a specific time. We required papers not presented in person to have an author sign up for a time, and all other authors were welcome. Some papers were presented both in-person and in the Authors’ Corner by having different authors do each option.

Reflections

Not many attendees came. Reflecting on what I’ve seen of poster sessions, I’m honestly not surprised. However, I still think this was an experiment worth trying, and the evaluations tell me that we should keep iterating on this idea rather than throw it out the window. In terms of the numbers, the first session had the most authors and the best author-to-attendee ratio. 31 authors and 41 attendees went to the Zoom session. Some caveats to the attendee number include: that count includes me, the student volunteer, and tech support. Moreover, some authors had co-authors in attendance that appeared to be attendees. However, I see that ratio as evidence of why it was a good thing I clustered the authors into breakout rooms, so no one was alone during their session.

What I Want

I want to create a space where everyone happily discusses the authors’ work.

  1. It’s easy to join a video chat with one or more people.
  2. It feels okay to wander from group to group without feeling rude for leaving a group.
  3. It feels okay to join a group without an explicit invitation, or the default is you may join with some obvious indicator when to not join a group.
  4. There is a non-verbal way to indicate an interest in someone’s work/paper/poster.
  5. There is a low barrier to entry to understanding how to use the platform and the social rules.
  1. The map has designated spots for each paper/poster.
  2. Someone can indicate interest in a particular work by standing near that spot. Alternatively, they can directly message the author(s) or use the platform to find the author and “walk up to them.”
  3. Authors should try to be near their spot, but they do not need to silo themselves waiting for someone. It should be clear they are welcome to talk to anyone they like while waiting for someone to be interested in their work.
  1. An online poster session could have designated spots for each poster. And if it was legible, we could even write it on the “floor” so that people could easily see where to go. That way, someone’s presence at a poster’s spot indicates interest in talking about that poster.
  2. Gather.town has these areas made up of chairs and couches where anyone in that “lounge area” can hear each other, but anyone outside hears it only vaguely (the best way I can think to describe it is that it’s like the video and audio are at opacity 50%). These could be like private conversation areas, but unfortunately, I can’t think of the online equivalent of saying in body language, “may I join you.”

Conclusion

So I hope that was interesting or helpful. I think we will continue doing something like an Authors’ Corner both for the authors’ sake and to create an online social event with a clear reason why people are there. The how is the bigger question I hope to innovate on with my team.

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Kristin Stephens-Martinez

Kristin Stephens-Martinez

Assistant Professor of the Practice in Computer Science at Duke University