Friday, November 25, 2011

Back to Back Conferences

I'm back from two conferences in consecutive weeks: INFORMS (Charlotte NC) and DSI (Boston). (The link to the DSI meeting is a bit ephemeral -- it will eventually point to the 2012 meeting.) Two conferences in two weeks is a bit hard on both the waistline and the brain.  I have a few odds and ends to share.

Repeating something I posted on the INFORMS conference blog, I found out from Peter Horner (editor of Analytics Magazine) that a recent change in the magazine’s URL (from to may have broken some people’s RSS subscriptions to the web site, as well as screwing up the site's Google ranking. If you subscribe to the magazine's RSS feed, you might want to test the feed and resubscribe if necessary. If you're unfamiliar with the magazine, it is worth taking a look (and, if you choose, using the RSS button at the lower left to subscribe). For readers of this blog who are active on social networks, please help spread the word.

Changing gears, in a previous post  I wrote about PowerPoint users suffering from invisible math formulas when they ran their presentations on someone else's laptop at a conference. Out of curiosity, I made a list at the INFORMS meeting of how many presenters I saw using different types of software. My classification system was a bit fuzzy.  Beamer presentations tend to be distinctive, but PowerPoint presentations are not as obviously PowerPoint unless you see the presenter launching them from the PowerPoint program. Similarly, the only ways I have to determine that a presentation was done in Keynote (Apple's presentation software) are if it contains tons of eye candy, or it is being played from an MOV file, or if I see the presenter using a Mac. Besides Beamer, there are several other ways to produce presentations in LaTeX (including FoilTeX and Powerdot), and I don't know how to tell the end products of those apart. So my classification systems was Beamer, PowerPoint, Keynote or "Other" (where "Other" could include any misclassified presentations).

As it turns out, I did not see any presentations that I could detect were done in Keynote. (I think Tim Hopper might have used it for his portion of our panel session on social media, but I had my back to the screen when he was presenting.) My final count was 24 Beamer files, 9 PowerPoint files and 8 "Other" files.

I came away with two conclusions. The first is that PowerPoint may be losing market share among the INFORMS crowd, since a few years ago my informal survey had an even split between Beamer and PowerPoint. Then again, this may reflect a decrease in the number of US presenters at INFORMS, since LaTeX (and Beamer) seem to be more popular among European and possibly Asian users than among Americans. PowerPoint was pretty ubiquitous at the DSI meeting (which is populated mainly with business school faculty and doctoral students). The second conclusion is that either PowerPoint has gotten better or people have gotten better at using it: there were no missing formulas in any of the papers I saw presented.


  1. I thought I remembered your saying something about having your presentation in a PDF file (suggesting Beamer), but I also seem to recall that you're a Mac user. Happy to see you favor substance over glitz. ;-)

  2. I use LaTeX whenever I can :-)

  3. I used to be a big Beamer fan, but lately I've been favoring speed over perfection. My favorite method now is to write the presentation in Powerpoint and paste all the formulas in as JPG's that I screen capture from a paper written in Latex.

  4. That's faster? Have you tried any sort of GUI for LaTeX, such as LyX? For low eye candy jobs, I'm at least as fast in LyX as I was in Corel Presentations.


If this is your first time commenting on the blog, please read the Ground Rules for Comments. In particular, if you want to ask an operations research-related question not relevant to this post, consider asking it on OR-Exchange.