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Survey Result: How would you improve?

24. What changes could be made to improve the computer conference?

It was a little too long and too intense. It might have been good to
have a break in the middle, or to just have it be shorter.

Some discussion participants did not include their names and/or
affiliations making it difficult to understand who they were and what
the context was for their comments.

I noted that an informal "general discussion" developed over the
weekend at the end of Session 2. This was a nice development. Perhaps
this could become a regular part.

Dynamic discussion rather than e-mail. Too much recopying of the "jw
said: Blah" style

Request that participants not include so much text from other's
comments in their replies; require that figures, etc. be encoded
according to uniform standards; make the conference shorter


I can't think of any. I thought the organization was excellent.

I suggest that some respondents need to exercise self restraint in the
use of introductory messages and sign-off signatures.

Initially one could send out longer abstracts, sufficient enough
to allow people to decide which papers they are interested in. Some of
the ones used here were too short. Did you send the abstracts to
everyone automatically? I have forgotten, but I would. One might
suggest that the participants make a calendar of when they will want
their mail on and when off, depending on which papers are of interest.
This will avoid flooding their email with uninteresting mail.

Participants who want to comment on a previous participant's
comments should not reproduce the whole of the previous participant's
(perhaps quite lengthy) message, but only the salient bits. This will
reduce the size of the mail burden each participant receives.

Perhaps a group of papers could be discussed at once, particularly
interesting would be a group of papers with opposing views. this may
help focus the discussion a little more. It maybe however, that an
unfocussed discussion is better. This appears to be uncharted waters.

15 papers seemed a bit too many, although I would not object to another
conference of the same length. I'm not sure short questions and
answers need to be separated from short discussion sessions, but maybe
that is easier on the authors. Considering weekends, vacations, and
internet delays, it would be better to allow 3 days for discussion
rather than 2, and to "allow" some overlap for successive papers(it
occurred anyway). By the time for general discussion at the end of the
conference, I have to review papers to reignite my interest; it is
better to have discussion when things are fresh on one's mind.


As the technical aspects of electronic mail improve, this kind of con-
ference will become much more effective. You deserve a great deal of
credit for organizing this one and making it run as well as it did We
hope this will be the first of many conferences.

This was my first experience using e-mail, so I was using it as a
learning experience. I found it very rewarding, and expect to continue
using e-mail when it makes sense. Many of the discussion comments and
ideas in the papers will be passed on to our Dean for consideration, as
well as shared with other faculty. The fact that it is in writing,
rather than just notes from a conference, makes it easier to organize.

At some point, the number of contributors (or length of the
contributions to The discussions) will have to be limited. There were
probably less than 40 people who actually contributed to the
discussion. This appears to be about 10%. This percentage will grow ,
as will the number of participants in the future. Imagine the info
overload if there were 100 people contributing to the OLD Tools vs New
methods debate. I can't think of a good way to do this, however.

Since this is my first conference, it took me a while to decide where
to store things for easy retrieval. Some guidelines from experienced
conferees to newcomers would be helpful along these line.

Make the info more accessible with Gopher, which is much more
convenient to use than FTP. I found that some binary files would
appear as ASCII files and be unretrievable with Gopher. And some ASCII
files would terminate and therefore not be retrievable.

It would help me access and store messages properly if the subject of
each message included the paper number.

It would help in retrieving files if the first 8 characters of all file
names were unique since I retrieve into a PC from the server. (this is
obviously a PC limitation, not a MAC).

Emphasize several times to newcomers and new users of email that the
automatic reply option may send messages to unintended people. Explain
what they have to do to reply to only the original sender.

Maybe require that a simple one or two word message be placed at the
top of each message sent to CHEMCONF, and have the listserver reject
all messages without this particular introduction. That would
eliminate the messages that get sent unintentionally to everyone by the
automatic reply on email menus.

Perhaps encourage shorter posts during discussions...they are more
likely to be read.

I think that the short question period should have included all papers
in a particular session and gone for fewer days. It took too long to
get to the actual discussion. I found that I had forgotten what the
particulars were about a paper before the discussion got going.

Give directions for using Gopher, it is a lot easier than directly
dealing with ftp, and it makes our University Computing Services people
a lot happier!

Might it be possible to open another parallel list for discussion to
continue when the official discussion period is over.? I missed some
time due to vacation and summer school constraints that I might have
been more involved, after the official two day period.

Instead of having a single paper each two days, I think five papers
over a two week period would allow for more flexibility. On days when I
was out of town or busy off-campus, I missed the opportu- nity to get
in my "ShortQuestions"

I'm not sure how to handle this, but a brief intro to downloading from
the host system would have been very helpful (for example, I didn't
realize for a long time that the directory designations for the umd ftp
site were case-sensitive

Perhaps Strings could be suggested by the authors instead of the
questions at the end of the papers.

I would have liked to seen more papers relating to secondary science
education. (Oddly Paper #6 did not hold my attention.) (How many high
school teachers were participating?)

Include a suggestion in the initial message that the most effective
e-mail letters are fairly short.

I thing the general format is fine.

have more time have someone put discussion in chronological order

Keep replies succint, perhaps use abstracts.

It would be nice to be able to peel of the general noise and only take
part in specific discussion forums. Could we have sub-LISTSERVers
running for each paper. I don't want to be limited to personal e-mail,
thus a small forum seems most appropriate.

perhaps fewer papers and have fall winter spring summer sessions for
just a 2-3 week interval.

Do not include more papers in future conferences. A larger number of
papers will be just too overwhelming, especially if one wants to have a
peek at the different discussions going on. You never know what
goodies they'll give you.

Perhaps, very specialized conferences are the way to go -- keep the
range of topics very narrow so that participants are not overwhelmed
with a tremondous amount of information. Once people become
comfortable with e-mail, the amount of discussion will "explode". I
probably spent more time on this conference than indicated above. I
didn't really monitor my time very accurately. If anything, the numbers
given above are on the low side.

Combine short questions and discussion. I thought that separation was a
little artificial, although I understood the reason for it. This would
save a little time.

It was a well-run conference, especially for a first try. I don't have
many suggestions. 1. You might try breaking the longer conference
documents (such as "Welcome") into shorter ones and sending them out at
different times. They might be read more carefully and absorbed better.
2. As I mentioned in another message, include reference to materials at in introductory mailings for other conferences.

Find a way to work in more time for discussion of past papers or
issues. Provide a way to thread discussions much as Network News
Groups do. I orgainized the discussion by paper, but for paper 9 in
which there were 91 discussion postings ranging over a variety of
topics, this approach broke down.

Obtain better papers. The quality of the conference depends upon the
quality of the papers.

I think it was Ok as it was. A lot of work for all involved.

I think it went very well as done (I think that a great deal was
learned from the early trial in February). I think that another of
about the same format should be tried before extensive changes are

It would have been better if more of the "lurkers" had participated.
From the list, it was clear that many people kept their heads down.

Not a lot I can say. I have found idea interesting, but the topic
(section 3) is not one in which I have any expertise.

Have more network conferences!

I would like to see the whole process speeded up a little, despite the
fact that I also liked the time to think. The conference protocol was
carefully thought out and organized, but anything can seem tedious when
stretched out for a whole summer.

I would change the short question session. Have questions sent
directly to the authors and then have their response (with the
questions and the source) begin the discussion period. This would
allow more discussion time which I felt was the most valuable part of
the conference. Alternatively would it be possible to carry out
parallel sessions by using "sub-lists". This might make it easier to
only listen to topics of interest.

I am very interested in the ideas for exchanging more complex
documents, hence my questions about PINE and NuPop. It appears that
there are two standards MIME and binhex. We all need to push our
computer centers towards providing support for this type of exchange. I
am working on a book with someone across the country and being able to
exchange ideas electronicly will (I hope) cut lots of time from the
development process. It would also be useful for a conference like
this to exchange more complex documents than ASCII allows.

It might be possible to schedule question and discussion times for
several papers in parallel (eg. several streams, with one paper per
stream at the same time). In that way you could extend question and
discussion periods, without having the conference dragging on for too
long. Everyone can choose which discussion they want to participate in.
The beauty of an electronic conference, as opposed to a traditional one
is that if you can spare the time you can join all discussions.

authors should test that their software is sufficiently standard to be
FTP'd or e-mailed so that it will work on the majority of the machines.

questions re time and number of interventions etc are meaningless --
who keeps track -- I respond to my e-mail multiple times during the day
and it would have taken more time to do the bookkeeping than to

For me personnally, I need to get the operation of downloading the
papers down so that it is not a problems. Also must have corrected the
problems that we have had here with our mail/network system.

Please continue this interaction. Please present us all summary
information on what is available out there via our terminals.

More information on the general use of computers for improving
productivity and discussion on teaching techniques on getting people to
understand the value of computers and how to use them.

I liked it the it was. It was already better than the trail session.
Other time of the year would be better for me.

I am interested in the results of someone who was going to try
something like this with his students and a external specialist.

Perhaps you could make a paper for non-USA listmembers how the american
system works and what terms like PChem etc mean.

I think the format used is satisfactory. I would like to see some way
for threads to spin off the main conference just to keep the E-mail
load manageable. However, that would require conference joiners to be
somewhat proficient in the E-mail, which many appear not to be at this

papers should be accessible with special features encoded (and decoder
provided) rather than as separate files for text/graphics/programs.

I am usually an overly critical person. I'm at a loss to come up with
suggestions! Everything went so smooth, at least from my lurking
viewpoint, that I don't think major changes are needed. Of course,
this opinion springs from someone that didn't read most of the papers.
I did have some trouble with viewing some graphics in the
mini-conference, so that probably kept me from attempting it in this

organization was good--maybe filter the flow to purge out mail mistakes
and endless repetitions of the same "can somebody tell me how to...."

The questionnaire in its presented form defeated the
economy of time through electronic delivery. Perhaps the next
conference will have a user friendly final survey.

because I was gone part of the summer, I fell behind in some
discussions I would very much like to have particpated in. How about
doing this in the spring?

Some helpful information regarding LISTSERVES, USENETS, other
references and workshops has surfaced during the discussions. Would
it be realistic to attempt to summarize these and distribute them at
the end of the conference?