AAAS

Bora Zivkovic writes about his frustrations at the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

"#AAAS10: 8000 people (incl.1000 journalists). No wifi anywhere. No power outlets. Bloggers not counted as press."

As you can see, I was just stating the facts with no adjectives or emoticons, though anyone knowing me could guess how I felt about it. But then others retweeted and/or replied - and some of them did voice anger and disappointment. And for the rest of the day and the next day many asked me about it, or commented, or approached me and commiserated, and agreed that all three of the statements were right and that they were a bad sign about the state of mind of the AAAS leaders, demonstrating how behind the times they were. I agreed with them in these personal conversations.

I've gotten used to the fact that most large conferences have no wireless. Which is totally nuts, because it prevents any of us from integrating online material into our presentations. Elements like animations and interactive models are hard to manage, when the conference staff insist that you use their computers instead of yours. If you want to demonstrate an online database or tool, you're stuck with a local version and an audience that can't bookmark.

(Like airports, this is a big reason why people buy iPhones and other devices that escape the local WiFi trap. Which goes back to money -- those who can afford a data plan have superior access at the conference).

Is there value in conferences like AAAS anymore? I talk to more and more people who only go to big conferences to see old friends. They aren't making new ones, and there are minimal opportunities to talk to speakers in the too-regimented format.