Monday, November 26, 2007

AGU Meeting Planner

I spent some time this morning searching the schedule for the upcoming American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, and decided to vent. The on-line abstract searcher and meeting planner could be the most user-unfriendly and time-wasting internet tools around. I don't think AGU has updated their online searching in years, and as far as I can tell you can only export your selected itinerary as a poorly formatted email, damn near impossible to import into anything useful or make easier to read in any way. I move that AGU pays one of its computer savvy members to redesign the meeting website for next year, this time with a focus on being user friendly. Seriously, I'd be thrilled for a tab-delimited text file right about now. As it is I have about 13 printed pages of session names, posters, and talks. I think the style is properly called "dot matrix, circa 1991." I feel like printing it out on that wide green-striped paper we used when I worked for the Department of Fish and Game.


thm said...

If you learn how to use Regular Expressions (one of the best computer books ever is Mastering Regular Expressions by Jeffrey Friedl) and combine that either with a scripting language (e.g. Perl, Python, Tcl, Ruby), a command line Unix tool like grep, sed, or awk, or with a Regex-compatible text editor (I'm an Alpha holdout on MacOS X, and of course there's Emacs), then you can chop nearly any ugly text into a properly formatted schedule.

I went to the AGU website, randomly selected some sections and had the site email it to me. The online interface isn't bad, but the email output! I see what you mean about vintage 1991--actually, it'd be considered pretty fancy and well-formatted output in 1991. It's like they just ran the html page through an html-to-txt converter. I can sort of see how I'd write a script to parse it but I'm at work now and shouldn't try to actually write such a script.

Thermochronic said...

Learning to shop ugly text could be useful, not just for AGU, but for some of the things I am trying to do automating labs. I'll have to investigate.

I think my biggest beef with the AGU meeting planner (aside from the output) is the lack of search options. You cannot search abstract text in the meeting planner (that of course is a separate tool), and you cannot differentiate between title and author text. So if you happen to have a field area or feature that is also a common last name, you get a few dozen search returns for one or two relevant presentations. The same is true for the abstract searcher. If you search for "pyrenees", you also get back people who work at the Pic du Midi (Pyrenees) research center. It just seems goofy to me.

For the output, I am a huge fan of all of the "|" characters. Very visually appealing.

Brian R said...

i don't even try w/ the online thing ... I just look at the book when I get there, highlight things, and tear out pages of sessions I want to go to.

Andrew said...

I've never relied on the "meeting planner" widget or the searcher. My strategy is top-down: browse the sessions and jot down any that look interesting, then read the abstract titles to choose the best prospect. A long time ago I gave up trying to rush between sessions to catch a particular talk--it's either the whole session (or a good chunk of it) or nothing. In the end I have a very small slip of paper with two-to-four sessions and their room numbers for each day.

Sometimes I envy real geologists, who have actual research specialties and can winnow out almost everything. I try to cast the widest possible net for Geology at, and some days at AGU are real agony because of what I have to miss.

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