Webmaster duties

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These are recommendations for future *ACL conference website chairs based on the experience of building the website for ACL 2017.

(a) Since most of the content on our conference websites is generally static, GitHub Pages is one of the best options for powering conference websites. It offers many advantages including easy markdown authoring, a pre-defined website structure for easy use, collaborative editing, peer review via GitHub, automatic rendering, and DNS handling among many others. In addition, the code for the website should be made available in a public repository under an open-source license such that it can be easily reused by future conferences.

(b) Another important advantage of GitHub Pages is that it can also host a blog. This makes it very easy to have, for example, a blog by the Program Chairs if so desired. All of the advantages of (a) carry over here too.

(c) There are some aspects of the website that can be very easily automated and help the local arrangements committee with some of their work. For example, the generation of the Visa Letters can be easily automated using Google Forms and a paid plugin ("Form Publisher") that automatically generates a Google Doc based from a template by filling information each completed form submission. Similar automation can be set up for Student accommodation requests.

(d) The following list shows all of the pieces of information contained on the website and which conference chair it came from:

Organizing Committee: General Chair Call for Papers: Program Chairs Call for Demos: Demo Chairs List of Workshops: Workshop Chairs and Workshop Organizers List of Tutorials and Descriptions: Tutorial Chairs Sponsors: Priscilla Social Event/Conference Venue Information: Priscilla and Local Arrangements Chair Conference Program and Presentation Info: Program Chairs Hotel Venues and Reservations Forms: Priscilla Visa Letter Information: Priscilla

(e) Another useful item for conference attendees can be a conference app. In 2017, we also experimented with building a smartphone guide for the conference using the GuideBook platform. The guide is designed to be an attendee’s companion during the conference. Although the guide presents some of the same information on the website, its primary advantage is that, once downloaded, it can be used without an internet connection. It also has the following additional features:

  • A “Schedule” section which shows all of the sessions.
  • “Papers” and “Posters” section which lists all of the papers/posters along with their abstracts.
  • An “Authors” section which lists all of presenting authors.
  • All of the above sections are searchable and, most importantly, they are all linked appropriately. That is, if you click on a paper session, it shows you all of the papers that will be presented in that session. If you click on a paper, it shows you the session it will be presented in and its authors. And if you click on an author, it shows you all of their papers.
  • A “Floorplan” section showing the conference floor plan.
  • A “Sponsors” section showing all of the Sponsor logs and sponsorship tier.
  • A “My Schedule” section to which you can add sessions you want to attend. Note: Unfortunately, GuideBook doesn’t allow individual papers to be selected. This is a clear disadvantage of the guide compared to the ACL website which — for the first time – allows users to generate and print their own custom schedules down to individual papers and posters!
  • A “My Notes” section where users can jot down notes on any paper/session etc.
  • A “My To-Do” section where users can add to-do action items on any paper/session etc.

Social sections showing all tweets with the hashtag #acl2017nlp and from the official twitter account @acl2017, and a communal photo album.

(e) There is definite overlap between the app and the website. However, they do have different pros and cons. The program page on the website is much more powerful than the app when it comes to custom program generation. The app can only select sessions whereas the website allows much more fine-grained selection and printable PDF generation. The app, however, is fully searchable and indexed by paper titles, sessions, as well as author names. It also allows folks to take notes on papers, sessions etc. in one place. Most importantly, it will work even without any internet connection which, given how spotty the WiFi connections generally are at our conferences, may be a big plus. The app costs $3500. If we absolutely had to choose between the website and the app, I would pick the website but my recommendation would be to have both.

(f) An overarching recommendation would be to basically reuse the same website code base from ACL 2017 with changes only to the content and main image. This would allow for rapid development of conference websites and also present a familiar interface to the users.

Useful links:

(Nitin Madnani, 2017)