It was good that the restaurant wasn’t quiet, so the postdoc’s interrobang didn’t distract the other tables nearby.
“That’s right. When we first went to Neuroscience, you had to print your poster on this big sheet of paper.”
“Oh yeah,” the other researcher added. “The first year we went, there wasn’t even a smartphone app for the conference or anything.”
“A paper poster sound really inefficient, Dr. S,” another grad student said.
“It kind of was. We had this big plastic tube that our boss used to carry our posters on the plane.”
“We kept offering to carry it, but I don’t think he trusted us.”
“Well, you did miss the flight back home.”
The researcher didn’t take her colleague’s bait. “I think the first time they switched away from posterboards to the first eboards was about 2020.”
“A lot of people didn’t do that for the first few years, though. The first eboards were only black and white, like the early ebook readers, and couldn’t handle any animation. But it was soooo much better than hauling the poster tube around. Download the file, arrive at the meeting, and the poster got displayed in the right place during your session.”
A waiter arrived. “Who had the gluten-free pizza?”
“That’s hers,” the researcher said, pointing across the table. “A lot of people stuck with paper for a few years, for the colours. Remember that first year we actually saw someone who had tacked a bunch of eight and half by eleven pages up on a board?”
“Right! I’d forgotten about that one! But I think the first few years when they went to the colour eboards were worse than that, though, because you could add in the video and animation. The first time, if we wanted to show video, we had people scanning codes on our poster and they’d look at it on their smart phone. Or we’d show it on our netbook.”
“Netbook?” asked the postdoc.
“They were the small portable computers that were out just before the first tablets. But yeah, people went nuts with the animation and special effects. I kept expecting a someone to have an epileptic fit walking through the poster session. But most people eventually stopped that.”
“Most. Ugh, there are still some ugly posters out there.”
“Well, if people didn’t keep finishing their posters on the plane...” she said, looking pointedly at the postdoc, who looked sheepish.
“But,” said the student, trying to change the subject, “are the poster sessions better than they used to be?”
The two PIs looked at each other for a second. “Easier...” said the first, with the second finished the sentence, “...but not necessarily better.”
This post was inspired by Leon at B.A.N.T.E.R. After that, similar ideas were put forward by Jon Bardin and DrugMonkey (here and here).
Edward Tufte on Data, Analysis, & Truth
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