I’m still wading through the papers, all available for free, being presented in sessions at the conference. I’ve never been to MW, and have heard mixed things about its value anecdotally. But this simple act—requiring session presenters to write papers and then posting those papers freely online—is getting me interested.
It’s better for the attendees…
- Presenters are forced to think about their presentations in advance and develop substantive content to discuss. No strolling in blind and winging it.
- Attendees can more fully preview the content that will be presented to help them make better choices about what sessions to attend. No more showing up at “Interactive Theater” expecting improv and getting a sales pitch on IMAX domes instead.
- Attendees can find people of interest and set up meetings in advance based on content in common, not just on social contacts.
- Presenters can develop more complex arguments that don’t play well as powerpoint bullets. They can expect more from their audience in terms of insightful questions and familiarity with the content.
- Presenters can get a fuller idea of what other presenters in the same session/content stream are discussing and can tailor their questions and connections to that knowledge.
- Presenters can send in their papers 10 weeks before the conference. That means things can stay relatively current to the conference, while still depending on solid research.
- I can download papers ranging back to 1997. I can view information about their authors (although, strangely, contact information is not forthcoming).
- Buzz is generated around the papers before the conference even happens. People are blogging the papers; it extends the “event” of the conference in time.
- The papers serve as advertisement for the conference. People like me get a chance to “see what we’re missing” by not attending.
- People like me feel positively about an organization that makes content available digitally.
But every crush has its downside. Here are my idle concerns:
- Why are the papers and sessions only browsable by speaker name, not by title, country of origin, year of submittal, or whether there is a corresponding paper?
- Does the paper-paper-paper session format diminish the potential for interactivity among panelists? Do speakers expand beyond their papers, or mostly explain them? How much more value would I get at the actual conference, content-wise?