Baby’s First Conference*

Nearly a month ago now, I attended my very first conference – WebSci16 – in Hanover, Germany.  I submitted a short paper, which was accepted as an extended abstract.  I was also invited to submit a poster for the poster session.

Now, I admit I was a little puzzled about posters when I first started my MSc, but I know now they’re just one of the things academics use to communicate their work.  As such, they’re not necessarily works of art with lots of illustrations (although some of the best ones I’ve seen have been) but they need to be concise, clear, and not overly wordy.  If you want to see mine, it’s here Extended Abstract Hanover 16 Poster .  And here’s my paper, if you’re really bored… Extended Abstract Final.


Me and my poster.

So anyway, a few thoughts.  Web Science is, basically, an inter-disciplinary thing.  It usually combines an ‘ology’ with computer science, but then there are other approaches like my colleague Nikko who is researching online identities from the perspective of Law; or another colleague who is researching event detection on social media.  Basically, if some aspect involves people and the internet, Web Science can fit in there somehow.  A lot of computer science people have also moved across to Web Science, which is great.  They work hard to develop and refine all manner of things including data analysis, machine learning (AI) and language processing.  The problem is that they can sometimes be so focused on the technical side that they forget the human aspect, and I think it’s that which really defines Web Science.

Many times during the course of listening to someone present their research, I wanted to ask why they thought their work was important, and the impact they thought it would make.  Many of the questions focused on technical aspects of the paper, which told me there were a lot of computer scientists in the audience.  These things are important, of course they are, but a little more thought about where humans fit in would have been better.  In short, there were times when I was disengaged and a bit bored, but I was with some fab colleagues, the venue was great, and the food lovely.  And I met my data science hero, Pete Burnap.  Oh, and the organisers very kindly averted disaster when I realised that the posters I’d been carrying in my poster tube fell out the bottom when we had to make a mad dash across Schipol airport to catch the connecting flight to Hanover.  I wouldn’t have been too upset about mine, but I was also carrying one for a colleague who was had also been accepted for a paper and poster, but couldn’t attend.  Both posters were reprinted without any fuss , so a massive thank you! to them.

Here’s a link to my photo album if you want to browse.  The post looking building in the park in the town hall where we went for a formal dinner on the last evening.

Oh, and then Nikko and I went to Berlin for a couple of days…..

*phrase courtesy of Nick Bennett.





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