I’ve been mighty quiet on this blog for the last year, the reason for which is a new arrival and maternity leave :)

As the perceptive reader will have noticed, all has not been completely silent on the research front: I took a short paper to WebSci16 this week, which also marked my first work-related travel since baby arrived. It was a flying visit, just overnight, and went well both in terms of the work aspects and also as my first solo trip post-baby. I arrived at the conference on Tuesday afternoon (it started on Sunday morning), so I’m not in a position to provide much of an overview of WebSci16, but I will say that what I saw of it seemed very well organised, and the quality of the talks and keynotes that I saw was up to the usual high standards.

Notably, the organisers trialled a new approach to paper talks. I shall quote an email sent by the organisers ahead of time:

WebSci is a very interdisciplinary conference. We believe that the conference should not only be restricted to presentation of technical paper content, but to relating the papers and the disciplines, recognizing red threads and shaping the field.

To accomplish such mission, we have decided to pick up on presentation models increasingly used by other ACM conferences (cf. http://cacm.acm.org/magazine s/2016/3/198865-paper-presentation-at-conferences/fulltext).

The approach was that for each session: its chair and presenters would read all papers from that session ahead of time; the chair would prepare a 5 minute presentation introducing all the papers in the session; the presenters would prepare questions for one another as well as their presentations. I had the good fortune to have Hans Akkermans as my session chair, and he did an excellent job of drawing together the four papers of our session – entitled Conceptualisation – which as he himself observed each came from very different disciplines and methodologies. Our session consisted of 4 presentations followed by a panel style session with Q&A all at the end (not after each individual talk). I gather that session chairs were given discretion as to how they implemented the ideas, with a plan for feedback to the conference organisers and – I very much hope! – some write-up to be produced of lessons learned.

In any case, despite the short duration of my visit, I very much enjoyed reconnecting with the old guard of WebSci as well as making new connections, and of course presenting our paper. As you can imagine, as a new mother it was also invaluable to get that first experience of an overnight trip away from home, which for the record went smoothly for all concerned :)

If you’d like an overview of the whole conference, you might like to check out this Storify story by the Web Science Trust, or for a blow-by-blow account then check out the many blog posts on Snurb.info, including one about my own talk (some impressive liveblogging there).