Sunday, March 06, 2022

Final Thoughts on SIGCSE 2022

I had a great time at SIGCSE 2022. As an introvert I probably suffered less from not being with people than many but after two years I really needed to be with people. I was able to connect in-person with friends I had not seen in years. Some a decade or more. That was truly awesome. The community building of an in-person conference should not be understated.

I had some great “hallway track” conversations. This is not nearly as easy in a remote conference and it contributed to what I was learning. Besides being with people I really did want to learn. So my hallway conversations were not all catching up with friends. I was able to ask a lot of questions about the work various people were doing. Things often outside the scope of a specific talk or panel that I attended.

I visited with Ruthe Farmer of the Last Mile Fund. The Last Mile fund is “investing in a broader group of students already committed to technology and engineering fields, providing support for challenges they face beyond their control, and incubating them to be the next generation of innovators.” It’s an amazing program that helps students who are missed by a lot of programs giving them the help they need to complete their educations. They are particularly focused on women but have some money for men in community  colleges. Check them out if you know someone who needs a little help making it through.

It seemed like there were multiple interesting sessions in every time slot. Where I had to choose I picked panel or supporter sessions over paper sessions. Mainly that was because with paper sessions I could at least read the paper. Not the same thing but it was that or miss out on a panel completely.

The elephant in the room may have been COVID and masks. COVID times was a topic of conversation but masks? Not that I heard. The conference organized stated that even though CDC guidelines had changed the attendees had signed up expecting everyone would be masked so they were going to stick with that. I think it was the right decision. While masks are not always comfortable and they make it a little harder to recognize people it added to comfort levels for many attendees. Including me.

Sessions were split between the Rhode Island Convention center and the Omni hotel. The two are connected and traveling between them was pretty easy. I have a bias to all being in the same building but honestly I have walked further between sessions in some convention centers so there is that. The rooms themselves were large, accommodating people sitting apart if that made them more comfortable. I suspect that is what required using both facilities when one might have divided large rooms under normal circumstances.

Hybrid sessions where some or all of the presenters were remote were interesting. It worked pretty well overall. I hear there were some that were played recordings with no interaction but I didn’t “attend” any of them. The real bonus of a paper session is being able to ask the author questions so that is important. Mike Zamansky has more on this on his post at SIGCSE 2022 - Conference format.

I left Providence with a lot to think about and some great memories of visiting with people face to face – even with masks. Now to renew my passport so I can attend next year in Toronto!

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