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The following instructions were sent to poster presenters at some online conference (AAAI 2022):

Submission guidelines: All posters must be uploaded as PDF files. Posters may not exceed 1 page/side. Recommended file size: under 2MB. Posters should be horizontally oriented in 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. Do not include any URLs or hyperlinks.

Why would the organizers of an online conference ask poster presenters not to include any URLs or hyperlinks in their poster?

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    You could just ask them why? And, if the reason is not technical, and you have a pressing reason to include these (which in 2022 for communication and multimedia purposes I imagine is not out of the realm of possibilities), ask them to be exempt from this rule?
    – MiG
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 11:51
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    As an organizer of several virtual poster sessions: I don't know.
    – usul
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 16:44
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    @J... Because a URL is easy to memorise or write down, whereas a QR-code is completely useless for anyone who doesn't have a smartphone with a QR-code scanning app and an internet connection on that phone.
    – Stef
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 18:34
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    @J... Many of my friends don't have a smartphone. I've only had one for three years. The OP specified that it's an online conference, not an in-person conference. URLs might even be clickable. Even for an in-person conference, how can you be certain it'd have free wifi accessible by the attendants? The only conferences I've been which had free wifi for the attendants were conferences held inside universities, where the Eduroam network was available. Other conferences didn't have wifi for the attendants, only for the organizers.
    – Stef
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 18:40
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    @Stef Weird, I'd consider it wildly unprofessional if a conference didn't have free WiFi. Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 20:49

3 Answers 3

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The organizers of a conference generally need to put restrictions on the amount of content presenters can communicate to their audience. For example, talks cannot go over time, a poster has specified dimensions, conference papers have page limits and sometimes limits on font sizes and page margins, etc. This is to ensure that attendees have a pleasant experience and are not overwhelmed by an unreasonable amount of information by presenters eager to capture more than their fair share of the audience’s attention.

(This eagerness is amplified in competitive situations in which getting more of the audience’s time and attention can increase a presenter’s chances of, say, winning the Best Poster Award, or of generally improving their standing in the community. So these restrictions are also about fairness and ensuring that presenters don’t game the system to gain an unfair advantage over other presenters.)

As for the rule about hyperlinks, I don’t have a strong opinion about whether it’s a good rule, but it seems likely that it’s at least motivated by these sorts of considerations.

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    these restrictions are also about fairness and ensuring that presenters don’t game the system to gain an unfair advantage over other presenters – I don’t think I ever witnessed a case where gaming these restrictions worked as intended instead of leading to a horrible talk, poster, or similar.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 19:14
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    @Wrzlprmft: It does not matter whether "gaming the system" works or not. If it works, then it's unfair, and if it doesn't, then it causes attendees to have an unpleasant experience. Either way, the conference is better off if you prevent people from trying to game the system (which they will do, regardless of whether it is advisable or likely to work).
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 20:30
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    I agree with @Kevin. It’s also the case that gaming the system (in the context being discussed sometimes does work (that is, produces actual benefits for the presenter). What’s even worse is that sometimes it produces benefits for the presenter and leaves some attendees with an unpleasant experience. But basically as Kevin said it doesn’t really matter whether it works or not, only that some presenters think it works.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 22:04
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    @Kevin: Sure, I wasn’t arguing against the rule. I just wanted to emphasise that (at least in my experience), the problem is less people successfully gaming the system but people hoisting everybody with their own petard when trying to game the system (or being clueless about good presentations in general).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 8:15
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This can steem from possible technical causes, such as organizing and publishing software will be used by the conference organizers, to limiting the possibility of publishing harmful material, where harmful can cover the whole spectra from cultural (indecent content, political messages, religion, hate speech) to technological (hacking smartphones, browsers, etcetc).

It is rather easy to present an abstract good enough to pass the screening, then you have access to the poster room (either in person or even riskier in the virtual room).

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    If the organisers want to avoid the sort of attack you are envisioning, trusting on the participants to not use any URLs seems wouldn’t work. They would need a somewhat efficient way to detect all hyperlinks in the posters, in which case they may as well check for any shenanigans directly. – Of course that doesn’t mean that your answer is wrong. The organisers may just be clueless.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 19:04
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    From a security point of view, the content a url points to can be updated after inspection, which can beprevented for posters. I doubt that's the reason of the organizers though.
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 19:54
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    @Mark let's have always a moment of WTF for "A man in Germany was surprised when the QR code on the back of his Heinz Ketchup bottle led to a porn site" (2015) businessinsider.com/…
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 9:29
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Presumably they don't want hyperlinks because you can't click on a physical poster. As to eschewing URLs, that's unclear, particularly since posters frequently refer to external sources in the bibliography. I guess if you want to find out why they don't like URLs you'll have to ask them. Alternatively, you could be really cheeky and use QR codes instead.

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    it's an online conference, no physical poster will be printed :)
    – MiG
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 12:18
  • You can also use DOIs in the bibliography, without expanding them to URLs. A PDF is more likely to make those copyable (compared to QR codes, which would mean photographing on screen, then the citation is on your phone not your PC)
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 14:58
  • @MiG: ...and what about after the conference, when both virtual and physical copies will be made for publication?
    – Vikki
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 16:12
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    @Vikki I have yet to attend a conference where physical copies of posters are made available to attendants :)
    – MiG
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 16:22
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    This would be presenters taking printouts themselves, and bears no relation to conferences banning the use of URLs (nor would it prevent them from adding those to their posters) :)
    – MiG
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 18:50

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