29 November 2012

Link roundup for November 2012

Bluegrass Blue Crab has a nice post on essential features of a good map.

There is a lot of good advice in this collection of posters by annoyed designers. If you can use a little reverse psychology. Hat tip to Duarte.

22 November 2012

Lessons from Tumblr

If you look around social media, particularly Tumblr and Facebook, you’ll see a lot of things like this:

This example is from We are the 99 percent Tumblr, which was created as part of the Occupy movement. And it was powerful.

Spotted at I Fucking Love Science group on Facebook. Which reminds me of this memorable rant about the popular group:

What you actually “love” is photography, not science.

I could make the case that there is no reason for these to be pictures. The point is all in the text. If all that mattered was pure efficiency, maximizing signal to noise ratio, people would paste plain ASCII text into their websites instead of these pictures.

But the success of these shows how much we love pictures of actual things.

Following a lot of fake pictures purporting to be Hurricane Sandy, Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic wrote:

The algorithms at Facebook privilege photographs because they are what people are most likely to interact with. And users love a picture that’s worth a thousand words, four thousand Facebook likes, 900 retweets, a bunch of hearts, and some reblogs: everyone likes being an important node. The whole system tilts towards the consumption of visual content, of pictures and infographics and image macros.

This is a reminder of the power of images. They have more drawing power than text. If you want people to look at your poster, use pictures. Even a picture of text (like the 99 percent Tumblr) is more interesting than text alove.

External links

Image macro

08 November 2012

Hang time

This is a guest post from reader Mark Gurwell, used with his permission.

Are there some general guidelines that one should consider depending on the length of time a poster will be hung?

I ask this question from my experiences of the differences between the conference I most recently attended, the Division for Planetary Science (DPS) annual meeting, and something like an American Geophysical Union (AGU), or American Astronomical Society (AAS) meetings. At smaller meetings (DPS was around 800 attendees this year) you might have longer poster hang times, compared to larger meetings of a few to 10,000 or more, where the sheer volume of presentations necessitates frequent turnover.

For example, at the DPS meeting, posters were given ample time. They could be hung for the entire week, and each poster was in a topical group. Each topical group had a specific afternoon where they were “showcased,” which included a walk-through by all interested attendees where you could present your poster to a semi-captive audience (though the official limit on this presentation was 2 minutes).

At AGU and AAS, posters can be limited to as short as half a day before they must be removed for the next round of posters.

I think most conference attendees prefer the former model, since it means they can see all the posters of interest, even if they can't attend every day of a meeting. But both versions exist (and probably every shade in between), and each presents different challenges and advantages.

For the “all the time” extreme, you might expect more walk-ups and general interest, but it can be spread out over the week. You can’t possibly be by your poster all week, so your poster should to be standalone. It needs to be fully self-contained and must anticipate questions that might be asked if you were there. Some (I’ll probably count myself in this category) tend to compensate by making wordier posters. This may or may not be a winning strategy, and clearly still needs to be coupled with thought into title, colours, graphics, illustrations, and overall getting to the point in the clearest cleanest way.

For the other extreme, say a three hour block when your poster is put up, seen, and then taken back down, you probably need to be by your poster the full time. This allows your poster to become less self-contained and maybe more enticing. The goal here may be more to grab attention and (maybe not even necessarily!) drive home the conclusion, and then you the presenter can fill in the details conversationally. Thus, possibly less words, more graphics.

The downside here is that, with so short a time, it may well be that the only people you get to your poster are those you’ve already primed to physically seek your poster out, by your title and abstract published in the abstract book or online prior to the meeting. The chance of running across a really interested person is lowered, because everyone is frantically trying to get to the ten to twenty posters that they really want to see (or think they want to see).

I’d be interested in hearing about other considerations/techniques for posters that have either long or short hang times.

Related posts


Photo by MRHSfan on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

01 November 2012

Care to sit down?

At big conferences, you can be on your feet all day. There’s a lot of walking from room to room, and poster sessions are generally several hours long. Even the healthiest and heartiest can start to flag a little under those conditions.

Not everyone is in the best of health when a conference happens. (Some time, I’ll tell you about the experience of the student who started to suffer from food poisoning while we were on the plane to a conference.)

Organizers, you might consider having a few light, easily moved chairs for people at your poster sessions. NeuroPolarBear twigged to this at Neuroscience, with one of his recommendations:

More chairs throughout the convention center, including the poster floor, but also the hallways. When you see people sitting on the ground all over the place, it's a sign that there's something missing. That thing is chairs.

But at least don’t do this:

ESA wouldn't give her a chair for her poster session this year (really, wtf)

Yes, having chairs in the poster hall does require enough space and a little planning. But some of your attendees will thank you for it.