Vis 2008 capstone, wrap-up

Having accepted that I was too tired to write about any of the papers on Friday, I decided that it was best to sit down and just listen to the presentations. So now that I’m back in Salt Lake City, (and all the trees have gone red this week, amazing) let me write about the last day of the conference. Writing live has been a really great experience, and hopefully I’ll have the energy to do it next year. For all three of you who have read this far – thank you, and I hope to not have disappointed 🙂

The one session I wished to attend and could not was the Infovis Grand Challenges – I had to read the slides, and now I’m looking forward to the videos from that panel. Tamara Munzner’s idea that total political transparency is the grand challenge for InfoVis first struck me as odd, but the more I think about it, the better it sounds.

The capstone talk was much more introspective and reflective than I expected. It was an interesting change of pace from previous years, but I suspect that by that point, we were all too tired to fully appreciate it. Still, I agree Kosara’s impression: it has stuck in my head, so it might have had the right effect after all.

Two points were especially intriguing, and I had been thinking about it for a while: the move to publish conference proceedings as journal editions might have bigger effects on the type of progress we are making in general. Since the positive effects of the move are obvious, let me focus on the negative ones, and here’s three of them off the top of my head. First, this creates an incentive for “polishing” the paper, but in a bad way. The right type of polish takes a long amount of time, and doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the deadline-driven rhythm of conferences. This means the papers tend to get superficially fixed, while more fundamental changes during reviewing would have made them much better. Second, it seems that the mix of having to allocate conference talk slots and a stringent requirement for “journal-level” papers reduces the amount of papers with simple ideas that are directly and broadly applicable (“great, but it’s too simple” is not a reason to reject a paper). Finally, I worry that journal proceedings hurt the really crazy papers, which is unfortunate – conferences are the ideal places to discuss crazy approaches. We authors can write in the details on long journal papers that might not be worth talk slots, but we cannot toss around crazy ideas in journals – let’s make the conferences about discussion.

Finally, David Laidlaw mentioned he’s afraid people are not going back sufficiently far in the citation chain to get to the original work. Having started writing papers reasonably recently, I do not have any informed opinion about the subject. The statement, however, is easy to test, and I will try to spend some time in the future verifying if this is the case. Also, this might mean that we need better tools to navigate our own papers. I’m sure these exist – anyone knows about them?

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One response to “Vis 2008 capstone, wrap-up

  1. Pingback: Hi from AT&T Research « visualization, etc.

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