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Often, when we take part in TCS conferences, we notice some little details that we wish the conference organisers would have taken care of. And when we are organising conferences, we have already forgotten it.

Hence the question: Which small steps we could easily take to improve TCS conferences?

Hopefully, this question could become a resource that we could double-check whenever we are organising conferences, to make sure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again and again...


I am here interested in relatively small and inexpensive details – something that conference organisers could have easily done if only they had thought about it in time. For example, it might be a useful piece of information that could be put on the conference web page well in advance; a five-dollar gadget that may save the day; something to consider when choosing the restaurant for the banquet; the best timing of the coffee breaks; or your ideal design of the conference badges.

We can cover here all aspects of conference arrangements (including paper submissions, program committees, reviews, local arrangements, etc.).


This is a community wiki question. Please post one idea per answer, and please vote other answers up or down depending on how important they are in your opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ One aspect that hasn't been covered much in the answers so far: Can the conference organisers do something to help grad students who are visiting a conference for the first time ever and who don't know anyone yet? $\endgroup$ – Jukka Suomela May 8 '11 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ This is more of a job for the grad students' advisors and mentors. But maybe organize some kind of event for the grad students so they can all get to meet each other, especially if they're not being invited to the banquet? $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor May 9 '11 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, or even maybe just a room or some simple refreshments for a grad student meetup. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat May 9 '11 at 18:21

33 Answers 33

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Produce epub proceedings

Nowadays lots of people own an electronic reader/tablet and use it to read proceedings. However the output when reading a pdf file is not optimum.

The translation from pdf to epub is not good either, so readers should not do it by themselves. However for someone who owns the tex file it is really easy: tex4ht does an excellent job at converting LaTeX to (X)HTML (even with math formulas). Then one can use Calibre to convert the html file to epub.

Right now I have not been able to find tex2epub converters, however if there started to be epub proceedings, then I guess it would not be too long before someone decides to code one up!

Some references:

https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/16569/latex-document-to-epub-or-mobi-ebook-formats-with-mathematical-formulas

http://tex.blogoverflow.com/2011/07/getting-latex-on-to-the-web/

http://www.charlietanksley.net/philtex/converting-from-latex/

http://www.renjusblog.com/2010/04/pdfhtml-to-epub-converter-freewares.html

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  • $\begingroup$ Obviously I talk about epub because it is the one I usually use, however it can be any format adapted to a reader (mobi, amazon format...). $\endgroup$ – Gopi Mar 16 '12 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't agree with the claim that conversion is easy. It might be easy to run the code, but the output is not close to being reasonable for math-heavy documents (such as conference papers). I support the overall sentiment, but I don't think we are there technologically. LaTeX math handling is too sophisticated right now. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Mar 16 '12 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @SureshVenkat, Indeed the conversion is not as good as a pdf document, but if you read it on a tablet, it is generally better (in my experience, but maybe there are some cases when it is not)! Furthermore, I guess that if conference started to give out (even if they announce it to be a beta-version) epub version of papers, then that is when the technology will follow! $\endgroup$ – Gopi Mar 16 '12 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ So you're offering a choice between reading the paper as designed by the author on an unsuitable device, and munging the paper into another format, out of author control, to make the other device suck slightly less? No thanks. (Or are you proposing hiring a typesetter to produce professional-quality epubs from author-provided tex source?) $\endgroup$ – Jeffε Mar 17 '12 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @JɛffE, yes exactly :). I am saying we should have a choice. The pdf version will always be available for those who prefer printed version (or as you state it, to read it on an unsuitable device). However another format may be available for those who prefer to read it on a tablet. I don't want to go into any troll about the quality of formats, because yes, pdfs are definitely more suited. However if you need to do some bibliographical work, and you have a long trip, then yes I would love to have the device suck slightly less =). $\endgroup$ – Gopi Mar 18 '12 at 13:43
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Discourage audience laptop usage during presentations.

Of course I cannot say for sure which laptop users are listening to the talk and which ones are reading email, but I always find it discouraging (if not rude) as a speaker to be speaking to a wall of heads buried in laptops.

Naturally some people are looking up definitions or related work and so forth, to enhance their listening experience. But having I seen plenty of people reading email or facebooking, I really wonder why they are even in the room.

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    $\begingroup$ If it's me, I might be reading your paper to catch a defn that whizzed by ;) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat May 8 '11 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Once everybody has iPads, this won't be a (visible) issue. $\endgroup$ – RJK May 8 '11 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ some people take notes on their laptops. $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev May 10 '11 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ It is the job of speaker to keep the attention of his audience, if the talk is not interesting they will not listen with or without laptops, and if they don't have laptops they will just sleep or start reading some other paper, as they used to do before the laptop area. I think you should overcome your laptopophobia ;). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh May 10 '11 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ I don't mind laptop users, but I do mind the Typists of Doom who hammer away at their keyboards as if they were personally meting out combat orders in an armed conflict. This is distracting not only for the speaker, but also for everyone else trying to listen to the talk. $\endgroup$ – András Salamon May 13 '11 at 16:33
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If a submission is (essentially) a resubmission of a previosuly-rejected paper, the authors should copy and paste previous reviews (in a text box on the submission server), together with a very brief statement on the main changes (if any).

This would make the whole process more transparent, and spare the pc the need to fish out the old reviews by themselves. Of course the pc should be wise enough to give the paper a second chance without being biased by a previous strong negative review.

(Personally, this is something I almost did a few times, but in the end didn't out of fear it would bias the PC negatively since nobody else seems to do it.)

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    $\begingroup$ I feel that there are pros and cons here: the pros are as you indicate, but the cons are that low-quality reviews can end up being sticky, which is also bad. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat May 28 '11 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ Rejection comments from previous submissions are irrelevant to the currently submitted paper, because the relevant issues are presumably fixed. And as a reviewer, I only care about the current paper and its relationship to existing published literature, not what others thought about earlier drafts of it. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jun 4 '11 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to stress that, in my experience, old reviews are collected anyway by many (most?) PC members. (Either explicitly, or "accidentally.") So the main difference between my suggestion and the current practice is only that the process is done openly and not "under the hood." The other piece of suggestion was that the author adds a very brief statement regarding changes -- one can think of implementing the former piece of suggestion without the latter. $\endgroup$ – Manu Jun 6 '11 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ I like the suggestion though it is up to the authors whether they feel comfortable with it. $\endgroup$ – Chandra Chekuri Nov 27 '11 at 0:43

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