Comment on question about effectiveness of conferences – human and online

As Director, The Internet Foundation, I might recommend to never meet in person. Not only for covid, but also travel time, hotel and meeting costs, travel costs, inefficient use of time. Lots of reasons, mostly financial and efficiency related.
You are lumping too many things together with “conferences”. If it is to see new products and technologies the 3D tools and even 3D haptic allow for most products and processes to be seen and tested virtually.
I review thousands of collaborations online and have for the last 24 years. “Colloborative” sites are exploding online, most of them really terrible, just using words like “open” and “collaboration” to sell services, or try to gain attention.
The best measure of any human gathering is time efficiency and total project cost. If a conferences is on “neutron star models” then that gathering or its alternatives has to be treated in a global model of all the people and groups, resources, tools, investments, processes, models – the whole of that topic in the world. I use random sampling of the Internet as a proxy for some of these things. I have looked in detail at over 10,000 such global topics. And most of the larger efforts at collaboration and group work. Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube, Zooniverse, ResearchGate, and many hundreds where more than a million might meet. I don’t have time to list all the criteria and methods I use. I mostly give private feedback to groups who are using really bad methods – wasting millions or billions of hours of human time.
I strongly recommend you take a dozen conferences more or less at random. They will have websites and will be talked about many places on the Internet. Index all that you find and classify what you find. Make notes. You won’t do a good job the first time you try. Note the issues – Is the conference just to generate sales leads or to enrich one group? How large is the topic and how likely is that conference to have any impact on the whole? Have the people organizing the conference (book, seminar, course, department, nonprofit, government initiative, etc) looked at a sufficient sampling of the whole topic, and mapped the whole, so they found their own place in the whole?
Another 18 hour day, near the end of it. So I won’t say more. This question and answer tool from ResearchGate. Look at every online conference and just examine the tools for communication between peers. Look for sites and conferences that are only to serve and benefit the organizers. It took me the first 20 years of the Internet Foundation to just get a rough map of all the issues and futures of global communities. These are the future of work, groups, education and the human species survival. Then for the last 4 years testing policies and methods every day with different groups at all scales. Topics of a few ten thousand groups and individuals are the most common where small improvements have substantial global effect. But there are topics that touch hundreds of millions, or billions, or all humans.
Best wishes with whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Examine your goals first, then it is possible to see anything more clearly. I determined that the purpose of the Internet (all human knowledge in the ideal) is the survival of the human species. So a conference is just part of that whole human effort at exploring and remembering all of what happens in the universe – for the human species.
Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation
Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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