Our concept for the IT-plan was to connect scientists through Information Technology. However, as the often used word “digital divide” signifies, IT can also separate people.
There are limits to what technology can do to prevent a “digital divide”. Still, we thought that it was our duty to do what we can to support people on the other side of the “divide” so that they would be encouraged to come to the IT-rich side.
What we did
- We supported as many devices as possible.
- We used IT to provide a better reading experience even for the PDFs.
- Do as much as possible to support the late majority.
- Even if you can’t support them fully, try to make life better for even the laggards.
Up till MBSJ2011, the abstracts were also provided as a PDF file. However, the implementation was terrible. The figure below illustrates what was wrong with the PDF.
The reasons for the issues in the MBSJ2011 PDF are probably not simple and I have no reason to doubt that the programmers put a lot of effort into the system that automatically churned out these files. There is however no doubt that one should try to do better.
4 presentations per page is difficult. 2 presentations per page should be OK.
The MBSJ2011 PDF had 4 presentations per page, probably as a remnant of the days when all abstracts were actually printed onto paper. I have heard that there was even a time that 6 presentations were squashed onto a single page. However, 4 presentations per page is very close to or even exceeds the limits. In the publishing industry, 7 points is the smallest font size that is acceptable. The MBSj2011 format uses 6 points (and sometimes 4).
Considering that most people would only want a few tens of presentations at most, we thought that it is not necessary anymore to squeeze 4 presentations into a page; 2 presentations per page should be sufficient. This enabled us to use 10 points for the main font.
Make it easy to print out the presentations that the user wants
Users will only want to print out a small number of presentations. We have to make it easy for them to do this. At MBSJ2012, we provided a separate PDF file for each session so that participants could print out abstracts for the ones that they were attending.
MBSJ2011 did not have this feature, but enabled users to print only those that they had entered into “My Schedule”. This is a feature that MBSJ2012 did not have, and we are thinking about implementing it in the future.