EasyChair Smart Program Technology
Have you ever run a conference? If yes, then have you ever tried to generate good quality conference pages including the conference program? Creating pages and a program for a tiny conference (say, 20 talks), already creates quite some work and a challenge. Creating them for a small to medium size conference (say, 25 to 100 talks), is very hard and time-consuming. Creating them for a large conference, with parallel sessions and collocated conferences and workshops can easily take several man-months or even man-years of work, normally resulting in a content having low quality and inconsistent, out-of-date, difficult to modify information.
Developing pages with a program is not only a matter of your time and quality. Have you tried to find older editions of conferences, even the best conferences in your domain? One can argue they have a great historical value. Programs, contents of talks, slides, photos - would you like to access them 5 years after? Would you like to see pages of even older ones? Pioneering conferences in your areas? Sadly, most of them are gone within one or two years.
Well, from now on EasyChair smart program technology is there to help you. If you are in charge of running a conference, whether you have experience or not, read this page!
Standard Technology or What It Takes to Create Nice Pages
Normally, you should perform some or all of the following steps.
- Finding where to host the Web page.
It can be hosted on a commercial server (on the cloud), your university pages, pages of the organization that runs the conference series, or a Web service running a Web content management system. In some cases it involves buying a special domain for the conference, which is normally the wrong thing to do, since these domains tends to disappear, unless you want to pay for them every year to maintain them.
None of the solutions is ideal. Unless you are in full control of the Web page access and updates, there is a non-trivial amount of communication between the organizers and the maintainers. In many cases any update decided by an organizer will be communicated between the organizer and persons in charge of maintaining the content. Imagine doing this for a conference with, say, 1000 talks!
Probably the best solution is to use a Web content management system, but then the organizers should learn how to use it and perfectly understand organization of the their conference Web pages, or otherwise spend a lot of time communicating with your Web designers or page maintainers.
- Page or page template design.
Even if you have a free Web designer at your disposal, this is a non-trivial matter. Apart from designing and developing a general page template, you will have to design several kinds of pages for displaying the program in various formats. After they are designed, you are likely to discover that they the design does not fit the purpose and have to re-design them.
- Creating initial conference information pages.
These pages will contain important dates, organizers, submission information, various committees, etc. This is normally relatively straightforward.
- Creating pages with keynote or other special talks.
This may seem relatively straightforward too, but it is not, since it involves obtaining information about speakers, theirs talks, bios etc. Some people are notoriously busy and so difficult in communication. Changing information is also not easy, since it may involve (email) communication between speakers, organizers and page maintainers.
- You have decided which papers will be accepted. You should collect information about all authors, talks and speakers. Your nightmare starts here. This information is difficult to collect, maintain and update. It may involve exchanging hundreds or even thousands of emails. Note that you cannot put this information online, since you have no schedule yet. For this reason, creating the schedule (the next step) and this step are often done in parallel.
- Schedule creation.
You should break your program into sessions and fit talks into these sessions. If the number of talks is large, this may turn out to be very hard. In addition, to create a high quality program you need to understand which talks should belong to the same session. To this end, you should know each talk exceptionally well, which is normally only the case for tiny conferences. You will also discover that some authors may have constraints on when they can attend the conference or, for example, refuse to give a talk on a Saturday on religious grounds. You should avoid clashes, so that talks of the same speakers or authors are not scheduled in parallel.
- Room mapping.
If your conference has parallel sessions, you will have to map sessions into available rooms. For a large conference and rooms not available at all times this can be non-trivial.
- Online program generation.
When all information is there, you can fill your Web pages with the information. If you are an IT person, maybe you will even write scripts for generating pages, though it may take a very long time. If you are not, editing pages manually may take very considerable time. You can discover that your page design does not quite fit the purpose and will have to make reasonable compromizes between the quality of pages and time spent on making them. Some pages, for example a session overview, may take days to design. Creating cross-links between various kinds of pages would only be possible if you generate pages using a special purpose computer program.
Although your pages went live, this is not the end of the story. Talks can be cancelled and some information turn out to be inconsistent. For example, talk authors, title, or speaker may change. Maintaining consistent and high-quality information can be time-consuming. Moreover, the better your pages are, the harder they are to maintain. For example, you can create several different views of your program (by day, by session etc.) and any change in the program data may require updating many pages.
- Program in other forms.
Conferences often create a program in forms other than online. For example, many conferences create a printed booklet containing the conference information and the program. Some conference put such information, plus accepted papers, on a flash drive. Finally, some conference use mobile apps with the program. All these requires processing program data, for very large conferences involving several man-months or man-years of work. Often, this work is outsourced to a company specializing in Web design or conference management, which may be very expensive.
EasyChair Smart Program Technology
EasyChair Smart Program Technology automates nearly all tasks required to create and maintain conference and program Web pages and does much more than that. The result is a collection of pages of amazing quality and functionality produced at a very little cost to the conference organizers. To use it and create high-quality pages you do not have to study Web design, scripting, HTML and CSS, and exchange thousands of emails. You do not have to buy a domain or a Web server. Your pages and data can be updated by you, other organisers or authors at any time, and the updated program can be published on your smart program Web page in a single click.
To view an example, you can consider the Smart Program pages of VSL 2014, which is a mega-conference consisting of more than 10 conferences and nearly 100 workshops. You start browsing it from a single day, then click on various links. On June 5, 2014, this program comprised 2196 Web pages, most of them were created automatically by EasyChair using data provided by the authors, program committees and program managers. In many cases this data was taken from submissions already available in EasyChair, so very little work or no work at all was required to use this data in the online program.
This is an incomplete list of what the EasyChair Smart Program technology helps you to do.
- A Web design carefully created by a professional Web designer and an artist. The design can be customized, see, for example, the Smart Program Pages of LPAR 19
- A highly functional design convenient for the users. Generated pages are cross-linked so that various views of the program are easily available.
- Several ready solutions. For example, the program committee and accepted papers pages can be added to the program in a couple of minutes.
- Thousand of pages of very high quality can be published in a single click.
- Data can be edited by the authors and the program managers at any time.
- Program on a flash drive integrated with conference proceedings.
- Possibility to define and check various constraints on the program based on author-defined scheduling remarks.
- Schedule analysis finding constraint violations, including automatically found constraints, and other problems, such as empty sessions, talks without speakers etc.
- Automatic discovery of similar talks, which makes mapping talks to sessions easier.
- Automatic schedule generation based on talk similarity.
- Creating a joint program of more than one collocated conference.
- Production of a printable booklet including the program.
Our Smart Program module is rapidly developing and many more features will be added to it soon.