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30 word descriptions for conference items

These are notes on a scheme that was piloted at HCI 2002: having 30 word descriptions of every item in the conference as an aid to selecting them. The aim, not achieved this time, would be to allow delegates to review the whole conference before they arrive and select what they would like to see, and even whether they wish to attend. It shoudl be particularly good at showing all the items related to a particular topic, regardelss of their type (poster, paper, doctoral consortium paper, tutorial, ...).


  1. To help the organisers select referees for each item.
  2. To help group items into sessions, and to generate titles for sessions.
  3. To help delegates see what items there are to suit their interests, even if these appear in diverse places.
  4. To produce an integrated view of the conference (instead of the proceedings which group by type e.g. all papers together, all workshops somewhere else; or the programme which groups by time and type). Thus a postgrad abstract from the doctoral consortium, a poster, and a keynote could all appear together if their content is related.


  1. In the call, require authors to produce a 30 word description for each item (including posters, workshops, keynotes, etc.). Warn them that, unlike the rest of their contribution, this description may be edited, and will eventually be used as the committee's description of the item to the delegates. A "call" wording is available.
  2. Have referees suggest edits to the 30 words. Have chairs modify them as they go.
  3. Have one or more people carefully go over them all, with the papers to hand, and edit them where required. Some features such as the label "controversial" or "contains empirical work" may have to be added manually.
  4. Have them (accepted items) in the central spreadsheet/database used, together with authors, titles, type, time, place. I.e. make sure such a single centralised record is created, not many separate ones for papers, posters etc., and yet another for the timetable.
  5. Go over the record, manually sorting it into an order that clusters things of similar content area. Assign an ID number to each item using this order. Of course there are many different orders you might use: judgement and arbitrary choice play a big part here. But the idea is, that if someone looks up an item in this list using say author, its neighbours might be interesting because of their content.
  6. Print the master index in this order (each item shows author, title, index number, type (paper, tutorial, etc.), time, place, 30 word description).
  7. Produce other indexes: by author, by type, by time, by place; AND by keyword. These indexes refer by ID number to the main one. Keyword index is produced using every word in both titles and 30-words; and deleting those keywords with no discriminatory power ("and", "the", "HCI", etc.). In my demo, these extra indexes would each fit on one page (several columns).
  8. Publish these in advance of the conference: on the web, in "Interfaces", possibly in circulated programmes. The keyword index also tends to show at once what themes are popular or not this year.

Example (for HCI 2002)

The idea was partly applied for the HCI 2002 conference. The 30 word descriptions were collected, and they were used in a conference guide, organised by the time and place of each item's presentation, in Interfaces no.52 which was also distributed in the conference packs. This version is imperfect because:

In these online indices, items are referred to by an apparently arbitrary ID number. Three indices are given here online:

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