Visweek Instructions

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As you hopefully know, October 24-29 is “VisWeek” - the IEEE Conference on Visualization.

Hopefully you’ve seen Attending Virtual VisWeek: Get Ready! so that you know to register. This posting has a bit more details. I can only give now that there is more public information about how the conference is run.

This posting describes the class requirements, but also gives you some advice on how to get the most of your VisWeek Experience. I expected to have more to say, but information is scant.

Warning: You will receive email from Vis with the information you need to log in to the various systems, and an explanation of the platforms (including the Gather link and password). For me, these messages went to the “Clutter” folder (using the University Outlook email system).

And… I use the old name “GatherTown” in some places in this posting - the official new name seems to be just “Gather.”


Putting this first, in case your priority is simply meeting the class requirements.

  1. You must register, since you can’t do anything else without that. You must confirm that you’ve registered as a Canvas assignment: IEEE Vis Registration.
  2. You must attend at least 2 hours of presentations (talks, tutorials, etc). This is to replace the 2 lectures (technically 150 minutes) that we are not holding. We will ask you what did (see below), so keep track.
  3. We want you to at least try the virtual conferencing aspects. There is GatherTown, the discord chats during talks, and other things. No specific requirements here, as it is not clear how it will work. Expect some (Piazza) postings during the week with recommendations.
  4. For the Online Discussion: Rather than being a trip report (about your overall experience), I want you to focus on the online presentations. You need to watch at least 2 “full papers presentations” and discuss how well the authors used the presentation medium of an “online paper presentation”. Some are definitely better than others. Online presentations are a different art form than in-person presentations. I think they are here to stay, so it is probably good to learn how to do them. And a good place to start is by watching and thinking about it.
  5. For the seek and find: You need to pick something your saw at the conference.
  6. For the online survey: We will ask you about your experience (we will ask you to list some of the things you attended, so keep track of at least some).
  7. We encourage you to use Piazza to recommend things - either things you are excited to go to (so others know to go as well), or things you went to and thought were good (so others can watch the video afterwards).
  8. This year, there is a minimal explicit planning requirement (we will ask for 1 session and 1 paper that you intend to attend on this week’s end of week survey). We are not having an explicit planning requirement (last year we asked students to read over the list of papers and have an online discussion about what looked interesting). However, we strongly recommend that you look over the papers and pick things of interest.

Objectives: Why are we doing this?

There are actual learning goals. This isn’t just “Mike wants to go to the conference and doesn’t want to deal with class for a week.” Even before students could attend the conference, there were “conference exercises” (like reading over the abstracts).

  1. To get a sense of what topics are current in Visualization research. Scanning over the list of papers (and abstracts) can give you a good idea of what kinds of things are going on.
  2. To experience a virtual conference. Virtual conferences became a “thing” because of the pandemic, but I don’t think they are going away. If last year is any predictor, VisWeek will be a good example to see how an online conference can work (or not).
  3. To learn about online presentations. Again, I don’t think these are going away - so a good way to learn about them is to watch a few and think about them.
  4. To get exposure to some current visualization topics. Seeing some paper presentations will hopefully expose you to something interesting. Especially since you can choose which ones to watch.

Keep those goals in mind as you do the activities this week. Even if you have no interest in Vis research, there are lessons to be learned.


I recommend before the conference, looking at the schedule to identify sessions that you want to attend. This is separate than cherry-picking papers (which is next). There is something to going to a session - where you can be suprised by a presentation you didn’t expect to be relevant or interesting. Also helps for blocking out times.

The schedule is: (you might need to log in to the virtual vis website first).

The schedule is weird (they hold things in the morning, so it’s evening in Europe) - the time slots are compressed, so a lot happens in parallel.

I put things I want to “attend” on my calendar. You can use this for ideas. You can click on the image to see it larger - be warned, the times are approximate and the titles are just notes to self. But you’ll get the idea.


I also recommend looking over the list of papers to see what catches your eye. If there is something you really want to see, you might want to mark the paper - or you can look at the paper later. Ironically, I find the things I am most interested in might be the least critical talks to go to: I know I will read the paper later.

For class, I want people to look through the papers to get a sense of what kinds of topics there are going on in Vis research. Historically, this has been an online discussion in class (even when students didn’t “attend” they were required to skim over the titles/abstracts). I am not sure how I will enforce it this year.

Some of this planning will be required for the weekly survey the week before the conference (which will ask for some things you’ve planned), and at the end of the conference.

Specific Class Mechanics

We will not have lectures during the week: your class time for the week is to attend the conference!

The readings are the things you should do for planning (above). Readings 08: Vis Conference has no explicit recommendations, beyond what is in the planning section above.

Weekly Surveys: Before and After

Expect questions about your plans and what you attended in the weekly surveys. In the survey for the week before (End of Week Survey 07 (due Fri, Oct 22)), we’ll ask that you tell us a little about your plans (at least one thing you plan to attend live). In the they afterwards (End of Week Survey 08 (due Mon, Nov 1)), we’ll ask what you did, and what you thought was most useful.

Online Discussions (OD and SF)

Both Online Discussion 08 : Vis Week (due Wed, Oct 27) and Seek and Find 08 : Vis Week (due Fri, Oct 29) related to VisWeek.

How to Attend

I expected to have more recommendations and details, but it is hard to plan this out without seeing how things work. I got a little preview (since I was part of the committee, I had access to it).

But a few things:

  1. Watching “live” - even the pre-recorded talk, coupled with the chair’s intro, and the Q&A afterwards seems to add something to the experience. Try to tune in to the various channels of conversation (last year, this happened mainly in discord). It can be interesting to see what people say. It is quite different from chatting with your neighbors during the talk: you can see what everyone says, but individuals tend to say less.

  2. Try out the various venues. Yes, the full papers are the “premiere” thing - but at least look at the posters, the tutorials, the applications spotlights, etc. You might find that some of these kinds of things are more interesting and relevant to you.

  3. A big part of conferences is meeting people. You randomly bump into people getting coffee, or you seek out a person that you know about. For me, it is often about reconnecting with people I already know. The online setting is terrible for meeting people. I find I either need to plan to talk to people, or find specific people in the online platforms. There is very little random encounter.

    That said: they are trying to re-create some of that experience in the virtual setting through the GatherTown platform. I have no idea how gathertown will work for people who don’t already know each other. I tend to use it to find people I know and talk to them. It is also hard to know if or when people will use Gather. (last year it actually worked pretty well)

  4. Try out the various platforms.

    If nothing else, GatherTown is a clever platform. Some effort was made to try to give some New Orleans experience (that was where the conference was supposed to be). For example, there is an 8-bit parade band, that will play you a New Orleans video explaining what the 2nd line is. I have no idea if going into the “virtual Cafe du Monde” will be a way to meet people (you certainly can’t get the chicory coffee and beignets).

    A warning (repeated from above): my “Gather” credentials (I think the official name for the platform is Gather, not GatherTown) were in an email that went to my spam.

  5. Talk to strangers. While it might seem forced, we’re all trying to get that “conference experience” virtually. For example, seeing virtual applause at the end of a talk, having someone come up to you and say hi when you’re in gathertown, finding someone to ask them a question after their talk (in gathertown or discord chat or email) - these kinds of things add to everyone’s feeling that it is really a conference..

  6. Use it as a way to see who you already know. It could be the only people you know at the conference are your classmates. That’s at least someone. It’ll help you experience the platforms, and when you start a group, they tend to snowball.

  7. Tell your friends (classmates). If there’s something good, post about it on Piazza. If there’s something you’re excited to go to, post about it on Piazza. I’m not sure Piazza is the best mechanism for this, but its what we have!

  8. Roam the posters - since they are interactive. For other events, I’ve seen “poster sessions” in GatherTown, they work well because you not only get to see the poster, but also to talk to other people looking at it (and maybe even the presenter). Posters are a minor venue (relatively unselective), but you can see some unexpected stuff. Sometimes it is a small ides; sometimes it is an early idea that will grow into bigger things; and sometimes, it is something that probably doesn’t deserve much attention.

  9. There is variance in presentation quality. Even in person. Some people are better at it, put more effort into it, have topics that lend themselves to good presentations, … With an online presentation, it is easy to tune out until the next one. But, you might try: if it’s a bad presentation, try to think about how you could avoid making the same mistake. What can you learn from it?