GlobalSIP vs. NIPS: poster sessions

After attending GlobalSIP I flew to Reno and drove to South Lake Tahoe for NIPS 2013. NIPS is large conference that is unfortunately single-track. All papers are posters and a very small number are selected for longer oral presentation. A slightly larger number are selected for 5 minute “spotlight” advertisements. The poster session is 7-11PM for the first three days, and each poster session contains around 90 posters in a giant room. It’s very loud, and some poster presenters lose their voice for a day or two after presenting.

The contrast with GlobalSIP could not be starker. Obviously these are very different venues, but I found that all of the noise and commotion at NIPS made it nigh impossible for me to understand or retain any explanations at the poster session. Instead, I found myself circling titles in my program guide so that I could take a look at the papers later. Perhaps it was harder for me since I’m an “outsider” so I have more to learn about the basic models/assumptions in most of the papers, and I need more of an explanation than most.

In a sense a poster is “better” for the viewer because they can see what they want/need. You can get an explanation “at your level” from the poster presenter, and it’s more interactive than sitting for some 20 minute talk where the presenter feels the need to have a TOC slide (c.f. ISIT). But the lack of noise isolation and the sheer volume of posters is not ideal for actually digesting new ideas. I wonder if the NIPS model is really sustainable, and if they would ever consider going to parallel sessions. I think that even with posters, some isolation would help tremendously.