Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-10-24: 20th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries (TPDL 2016) Trip Report

"Dad, he is pushing random doorbell buttons", Dr. Herzog's daughter complained about her brother while we were walking back home late night after having dinner in the city center of Potsdam. Dr. Herzog smiled and replied, "it's rather a cool idea, let's all do it". Repeating the TPDL 2015 tradition, Dr. Michael Herzog's family was hosting me (Sawood Alam) at their place after the TPDL 2016 conference in Hannover. Leaving some cursing people behind (who were disturbed by false doorbells), he asked me, "how was your conference this year?"

Day 1

Between the two parallel sessions of the first day, I attended the Doctoral Consortium session as a participant. The chair Kjetil Nørvåg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, began the session with the formal introduction of the session structure and timeline. Out of the seven accepted Doctoral Consortium submissions, only five could make it to the workshop.
My talk was mainly praised for the good content organization, an easy to follow story for the problem description, tiered approach to solving problems, and inclusion of the work and publication plans. Konstantina's talk on political bias identification generated the maximum discussion during the QA session. I owe her references to A visual history of Donald Trump dominating the news cycle and Text analysis of Trump's tweets confirms he writes only the (angrier) Android half.

Each presenter was assigned a mentor for more in-depth feedback on their work and provide and outsider's perspective that would help define the scope of the thesis and recognize parts that might need more elaboration. After formal presentation session, presenters were spread apart for one-to-one session with their corresponding mentor. Nattiya Kanhabua, from Aalborg University, Denmark, was my mentor. She provided great feedback and some useful references that might be relevant to my research. We also talked about the possibilities of collaboration in future where our research interest intersects.

After the conclusion of the Doctoral Consortium Workshop we headed to Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) where Mila Runnwerth welcomed us to German National Library of Science and Technology. She gave us an insightful presentation followed by a guided tour to the library facilities.

Day 2

The main conference started on the second day with David Bainbridge's keynote presentation on "Mozart's Laptop: Implications for Creativity in Multimedia Digital Libraries and Beyond". He introduced a tool named Expeditee that gives a universal UI for text, image, and music interaction. The talk was full of interesting references and demonstrations such a querying music by humming. Following the keynote, I attended the Digital Humanities track while missing the other two parallel tracks.
Then I moved to another track for Search and User Aspects sessions.
Following the regular presentation tracks the Posters and Demos session was scheduled. It came to me as a surprise that all the Doctoral Consortium submissions were automatically included in the Posters session (apart from the regular poster and demo submissions) and assigned reserved places in the hall for posters, which means I had to do something for the traditional Minute Madness event that I was not prepared for. So I ended up reusing #IAmNotAGator gag that I prepared for JCDL 2016 Minute Madness and utilized the poster time to advertise MemGator and Memento.

Day 3

On the second day of the conference I had two papers to present. So, I decided to wear business formal attire. As a consequence, the conference photographer stopped me at the building entrance and asked me to pose for him near the information desk. The lady on the information desk tried to explain me routes to various places of the city, but the modeling session extended so long that it became awkward and we both started smiling.

The day began with Jan Rybicki's keynote talk on "Pretty Things Done with (Electronic) Texts: Why We Need Full-Text Access". For the first time I came to know about the term Stylometry. His slides were full of beautiful visualizations. The tool used to generate the data for the visualizations is published as an R package called stylo. After the keynote, I attended the Web Archives session.

After the lunch break I moved to the Short Papers track where I had my second presentation of the day.

After the coffee break I attended the Multimedia and Time Aspects track while missing the panel session on Digital Humanities and eInfrastructures.
In the evening we headed to the XII Apostel Hannover for the conference dinner. The food was good. During the dinner they announced Giannis Tsakonas and Joffrey Decourselle as the best paper and the best poster winners respectively.

Day 4

On the last day of the main conference I decided to skip the panel and tutorial tracks in the favor of the Digital Library Evaluation research track.
After a brief coffee break everyone gathered for the closing keynote presentation by Tony Veale on "Metaphors All the Way Down: The many practical uses of figurative language understanding". The talk was very informative, interesting, and full of hilarious examples. He mentioned the Library of Babel which reminded me of a digital implementation of it and a video talking about it. Slides looked more like a comic strip which was very much in line with the theme of the talk which ended up talking about various Twitter bots such as MetaphorIsMyBusiness and MetaphorMirror.

Following the closing keynote the main conference was concluded with some announcements. Next year TPDL 2017 will be hosted in Thessaloniki, Greece, during September 17-21, 2017. TPDL is willing to expand the scope and encouraging young researchers to come forward with session ideas, chair events, and take the lead. People who are active on social media and scientific communities are encouraged to spread the word out to bring more awareness and participation. This year's Twitter hashtag was #TPDL2016 where all the relevant Tweets can be found.

The rest of the afternoon I spent in the Alexandria Workshop.

Day 5

It was my last day in Hannover. I checked out from the conference hotel, Congress Hotel am Stadtpark Hannover. The hotel was located next to the conference venue and the views from the hotel were good. However, the experience at the hotel was not very good. It was located far away from the city center and there were no restaurants nearby. Despite complaints I have found an insect jumping on my laptop and bed on fifteenth floor, late night, for two consecutive nights. The basic Wi-Fi was useless and unreliable. In my opinion, nowadays, high-speed Wi-Fi in hotels should not be counted in luxury amenities, especially for business visitors. The hotel was not cheap either. These factors should be considered when choosing a conference venue and hotel by organizers.

I realized I still have some time to spare before I begin my journey. So, I decided to go to the conference venue where the Alexandria Workshop was ongoing. I was able to catch the keynote by Jane Winters in which she talked about many Web archiving related familiar projects. Then I headed to the Hannover city center to catch the train to Stendal.

"I know the rest of the story, since I received you in Stendal", Dr. Herzog interrupted me. We have reached home and it was already very late, hence, we called it a night and went to our beds.

Post-conference Days

After the conference, I spent a couple of days with Dr. Herzog's family on my way back. We visited Stendal University of Applied Sciences, met some interesting people for lunch at Schlosshotel Tangermünde, explored Potsdam by walking and biking, did some souvenir shopping and kitchen experiments, visited Dr. Herzog's daughter's school and the Freie Universität Berlin campus along with many other historical places on our way, and had dinner in Berlin where I finally revealed the secret of the disappearing earphone magic trick to Mrs. Herzog. On Sunday morning Dr. Herzog dropped me to the Berlin airport.

Dr. Herzog is a great host and tour guide. He has a beautiful, lovely, and welcoming family. Visiting his family is a single sufficient reason for me to visit Germany anytime.

Sawood Alam

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