19 November 2020

The AGU’s ePoster format

For a couple of years, the American Geophysical Union has had a digital poster format that it chose to call eLighning. Here’s a introductory video from 2017:

The provider for this service is iPosters. I’m sure I’ve seen their logo somewhere before, but I can’t find any earlier posts about them on the blog.

Previously, AGU used this to have people present their “posters” on HD screens instead of paper at face-to-face meetings. Obviously, in the time of COVID-19, a huge meeting like AGU is not going to happen. The society has decided that this ePoster format is the one and only way to go. No PDFs, no PowerPoint, no PNGs.

Julia Carr has been playing with this format. Her impressions (edited):

You can’t customize the layout, meaning that you’re stuck with one of the templates. You have to click on individual panels to view the content of the poster. A simpler format would be a webpage format where presenters place information in a way that is designed for online consumption, or if that's too complicated, just encouraging presenters to submit PDFs arranged to scroll down.

The template with the largest “sections” that I saw divides the poster into quarters. So bad luck if you wanted to show off a single “hero” graphic.

The “clicking panels to open” motif feels like early multi-media experiments with CD-ROMs in the 1990s, where everyone was playing with hyperlinks and embedded videos. I agree with Julia that simple navigation in one direction would be far easier than constant opening and closeing windows. Because these are landscape screens, I would seems to me that something more like a slideshow would be optimal: swipe from right to left to see the next section.

The software both encourages and discourages bad habits.

The biggest pro to this software is that the posters are easy to build, and will help avoid some of the pitfalls of other posters (for example, there's a minimum font size, and the templates are fine for setting up a conventional poster layout).

That minimum font size is 10 points, however. That may not be as bad as it sounds, because these are online. But I would definitely go larger, considering that the size is a standard Windows desktop screen: 1920 by 1080 pixels. (If you have a computer screen that size, what you see will be what you get.)

There’s unlimited space within the boxes, so I’m anticipating folks copying entire manuscripts into the space.

The software also allows for people to upload random background pictures, which I have seen it misused many times.

I’m still trying to understand why so many online presentations are trying to imitate the common form of a poster when it has been freed from the constraints of paper.

Thanks to Julia Carr for the tip and comments!

External links

Creating your virtual poster presentation

iPoster demo video (over an hour long)

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