Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 22:05:17 -0700

From:  Nick Ragouzis
To:    Christine Quinn     cquinn@leland.Stanford.EDU, 
       Bebo White,
       Michael Genesereth
       Benay Dary-abrams
       Corinne Moore
Subject: Rethinking the conference planning and operations model?

Christine, Bebo, Mike, Corinne, Benay:

We have all talked about the need for a plan. An conference description,
an operations plan, a budget, a schedule, requirements. And a need to
determine just how the work of the conference will get done.

One problem we have faced, especially Christine, in trying to delineate
primary responsibilities and other authorities and responsibilities,
is the multi-phased and multi-team aspect of the conference.

I think that we may be able to adapt known business models to assist 
in constructing a long-term workable planning and execution environment. 
One that continues to build on itself, to evolve without complete 
reconstruction at each stage. The traditional business operations 
approach for manufacturing and services (i.e., planning then production) 
nor the traditional conference approach (i.e., secure facilities and 
basic services, manifest it, then open your doors) has worked up to now. 
We face the dumbing down of the conference to fit these methods, or the 
challenge of finding a model that _will_ work. 

The conference happens in two major and partially overlapping phases. 
Other characteristics add to these difficulties. Perhaps we need to 
consider a hybrid model. 

What do you think of this?




     Nature: These productions parallel a standard conference, but 
             with more, and more complex, interactions. 

             Like our conference, and unlike a traditional 
             conference, theatre and movie productions involve 
             more pre-building of custom and single-purpose 
             (and never-been-done-before) elements. This is especially 
             true of today's productions which involve, for example, a 
             high level of planning for location shoots and 
             customization, and customized special effects 
             programming. Another area where our challenge is more 
             like theatre and movie production is in the detail planning 
             of the interaction of various components. Sure a 
             standard conference must worry about the arrival of 
             food, exhibit pipe and drape, union assemblers, folks to 
             direct lost guests to registration. But in parallel with 
             a theatre or movie production's need to plan every set 
             and every cut, our conference needs, for example, to 
             plan things such as network traffic and systems support. 
             These are higher-level needs than a traditional conference. 
     Timeframe:  Now and through period immediately preceeding the 
                 conference. Infrastructure and support continues
                 throughout the conference.

     Implication:  Responsibilities are divided into production teams.
             Each production team has a job that falls into two components,
             each of which may be serviced by different parts of that team.
             1) Build and prepare their elements
             2) Build and prepare their operations and support of those
             To emphasize speed of decision and independence of 
             execution, each of these teams are responsible for the 
             conduct of their own area. They produce whatever is clearly 
             in their hands, and act as service units to other 
             production teams. They respond to and serve the requirements 
             of other production teams as they determine that they must and 
             can. They take on responsibilities and look (independent of
             'executive' directive) within the other service units for

             This differs in a significant way from traditional 
             hierarchical methods. In those methods, plans and 
             exceptions flow up, decisions get made, and the teams 
             would execute - identifying problems through reporting 
             and reviews. The method used by theatre and movie 
             production orgs. 'demands' two dependent teams to 
             determine their own solutions for the problem. If they 
             intend to drop or change something, they must seek out 
             those impacted and determine how another solution can serve 
             the principles intended by the original. The director has 
             no time to interact with that process - and teams 
             pride themselves in resolving it. Unsatisfactory solutions 
             are escalated as appropriate by the _impacted_ teams. 

             1. (Re)Casting these teams. These are not the same as the 
                sub-committees. Telecommunications, Internal, External
                Web services, and Volunteer SCs are four that would be  
                significantly re-structured. So would the Exhibition, 
                Sponsor, and P/R, Marketing, Promotion SCs. And adding units
                focusing on, for example, File System, Database,
                system configuration, and traffic management services.
             2. Assigning these teams will help make clear to Conf Mngr,
                Exhibit Mngr, Conf Svcs Mngr, Tutorial and Developer track
                folks, that several different teams will have design and,
                (possibly not the same team), primary decision, or demand
                power over various aspects of their work. In a sense this
                reflects the reality shown in Christine's recent grid where
                several people/committees had primary responsibilities - 
                for different aspects in different times.
             3. Preparation of the plans - it might seem natural to us 
                but these folks will need outlines. Ones that focus on
                the two stages mentioned above would help a lot. For 
                example the constitution and training of a problem 
                response center and team for server outages, or a 
                service for updating and maintaining consistent 
                configurations on public systems, would probably be missed 
                at this stage in our current methods. Also the difference 
                between testing designs and testing the implementations  
                themselves. (In my discussions, few were thinking about
                that, but rather just taking the 'build the systems' view.)
                We also have the need to remind them of the difference in  
                planning the implementation and the kind of planning and  
                coordination (very detailed) that is necessary for the 
                build-up at conference time. Finally, the grid of activities
                must be redone to reflect these different phases in the
                work, and the many interacting demands. 

     Nature: These organizations consider the look and feel of their content
             and the structure in which their content is presented, as
             paramount. They care little about the technical aspects; those  
             must be there and must provide the capabilities they feel are
             necessary to provide the desired audience experience and to
             compete. (If the capabilities aren't there, they will make your
             life miserable!)

     Timeframe: For some areas this begins now - we should have people
             working now to develop the content of our experience -
             investigating the methods for developing content, determining
             the nature of the experience, and defining the road to getting 
             that content. This would be true for activities ranging from 
             standard broadcast, basic news groups and forums, and even
             general exhibit floor activities. It extends to fun stuff
             happening during the Great America or other events.

             For specific Technical Program categories their timeframe for
             active participation is a few months off - at least after the
             call. If we do any sort of advanced participation (which we
             could certainly do at the Technical Program/Tutorial/Developer
             CATEGORY-level without involving specific papers, etc. then the
             timeframe for full involvement of this type of activity is 
             quite early - Sept to begin, Oct to be up and active.

             Of course, the focus of this 'new-style media and content-dvlpr
             stage' is on the meeting days themselves. Active meeting
             activities, Partner sites, Satellite conferences increase the 
             need for this. 
     Implication: Responsibilities for this divide the conference into
             possible 'content channels'. 

             Like channel directors in web media publication houses, 
             or standard program directors in production broadcast, 
             plus editors in standard print media, assign one, two, 
             five, ten of these folks to reflect the content and channels 
             to be emphasized. 
             These folks also help in determining how the content and
             channels can be best promoted and extend their reach. Even
             determining how search facilities would best be categorized
             and managed.

             Just in case someone has gotten the idea backwards - this 
             second stage does _not_ work to control the Technical Program, 
             but rather to prepare themselves, their channel, to maximize 
             TechPgm exposure and play in the ways determined and controlled 
             by the TechPgm cmmttee and the Conference Chairs. The proper 
             folks for this are among the best technology folks in their 
             area, candidates perhaps also to be on panels or to lead 
             panels; past presenters who don't have new papers; etc.

             Further, these folks become critical to the success of any part
             of the active meeting aspect. Paris had very low remote and
             advanced participation but also didn't work to develop it!

             Involvement of these types could expand the outlets for
             the Program Committee, the Tutorials and Developer track, and
             the Exhibit floor science faire, tutorials and demonstrations.

             Last, this is not only the domain of the remote/papers-related
             type stuff. This also required the assignment to someone of the
             'channel' of, for instance, what a Delegate sees on their web
             pages, or the conference web pages during the conference: 
             dynamic and static adverts, announcements, scheduling.
             'Reminding' Delegates of neat software or activities available
             on the conference servers (before and during the conference. 
             Or the 'channel' of the orientation and training for Delegates 
             to participate in the conference web services - before and at 
             the conference. In any of these 'channel director' roles, this
             involves high-levels of interaction between those responsible
             for communications, devices, systems, or timing.

             1. Casting these teams. Again, these are not the same as the
                Subcmmttees. Perhaps they should be an arm of the Program
                Committee. (Situated in that way they may also be a resource
                for the papers/panels/posters and science-faire activities.)
                This would explicitly remove from a unit such as the Meeting
                Web services the problems of the content itself; from the
                Telecom unit the problems of estimating the bandwidth - this
                information _IS_ needed now, but it isn't their
             2. Assigning teams will make clear the need for cohesive 
                messages in each channel, and coordination across channels. 
                We are now in critical need of segmenting our audiences and 
                these folks should be doing it.
             3. These folks will set requirements and develop ideas. For
                instance if we were to do the 'parallel font development'
                idea, or the WebQuest from Paris, or the Medical data
                services, or any similar thing outside of the Tech Pgm but
                still content, these folks must begin work and inform 
                others. The collaborative choir idea might fit well treated 
                in this way.
             4. Planning. This area requires significant planning for 
                effective execution. Some of it imposes requirements on
                others; in other ways it requires money. But it also 
                requires significant development of primary and alternate 
                content; identifying participants; scripting activities; 
                coordinating supporting and related events and activities; 
                seeking and architecting sponsorship and promotion.