What We Do At Our Meetings

The meetings of the Working Group provide a medium for active researchers in this area, from all over the world, for “comparing notes”, exchanging not only results but also new problems and challenges in a concentrated yet highly informal atmosphere.

Next to the members, participation is only open to invited visitors. Visitors are selected on the basis of the perceived potential relevance of their work to the concerns of the Working Group, and the expectation that they will contribute constructively to the discussion of others’ work. Visitors are not supposed to sit in on the meetings and observe; they are expected to participate actively in discussions and presentations alike.

At scientific conferences, presentations are supposed to present a finished and well-rounded result, with emphasis on how this improves on older results. In strong contrast, presentations at Working Group meetings are more about work in progress, and it is perfectly OK to present half-baked or even raw ideas, provided that they are sufficiently inspiring. Of course, a good talk on finished work that is central to the group’s concerns is also welcome.

Whatever the topic of a presentation, the assumptions must be out in the open, so that all participants can follow the reasoning. After all, we are a group of active language designers, and how a particular result was obtained, what reasoning led to a decision, or what motivated an approach, is often as interesting to us as the end result. In short: the speaker gets to choose what the talk should emphasize; the audience is entitled to expect that the story is coherent and intelligible. If it’s not, we encourage both visitors and members to interrupt the speaker and ask for elucidation. However, the goal of the interruptions must remain the interrupter’s ardent desire to understand and absorb the content of the talk; it must never devolve into a contest to show how much smarter one party is than the other.

Talks are 50 minutes long, split equally between the presenter and the audience, metered by a chess clock. There will no questions for the first 5 minutes. The first day is reserved for member talks, so that first-time visitors can get a feel for how the group works.

We ask everyone to not use laptops during talks. To facilitate frank discussion nothing said during the meeting (including over drinks) should be quoted or attributed.