What We Do At Our Meetings

Working Group on Language Design
This needs to be updated to the actual procedure that has emerged during the meetings.

-- Eelco Visser

Much of the content here has been borrowed from the web site of IFIP Working group 2.1, to which Andrew Black has been invited as an "Observer". He was impressed by the proceedings at WG 2.1, and believes that this procedure will make an excellent basis for the Working group on design. Of course, anything here can be changed if we find that it does not work for our group; conduct of our meetings is one of the things that we will discuss at the business meeting that will be held on the last day of each meeting.


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 Design Group. 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, while studiously avoiding technical detail. 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 Design Group's concerns is also welcome. However, we also welcome work that is attempting to remake the paradigm, where it is to premature to ask for formal definitions and inappropriate to make detailed comparisons with prior work. 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 expected 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.

From time to time a talk may prompt an impromptu discussion between the attendees, thus suspending the orderly progress of the presentation. Generally the chair will allow this as long as the discussion is germane to the higher purposes of the Working Group, but should cut it short when it threatens to become repetitive or pointless.


There is no fixed duration for presentations; talks run as long as they need and as long as there is sufficient interest, whichever of the two is shortest. The chair will cut off talks in which there is insufficient interest, which may take two hours or ten minutes. Clearly, under such a regime there can be no fixed schedule for presentations. At all times there is a tentative schedule, which is continually subject to change. To compound the complexity of the problem, the Design Group welcomes impromptu presentations, such as those that present a solution to an open problem of a previous speaker, or a substantive improvement on the prior speaker's approach.

The initial tentative schedule is drawn up using procedure that we will undoubtably evolve and refine. The meeting will commence with each attendee introducing themselves (name, affiliation, research interests), and, optionally, giving a sales pitch, of up to 5 minutes in length, of the presentation(s) that they would be willing to give, together with an estimate of how much time they require for the full-length presentation(s). The presentations can also be proposed ahead of time on this wiki. Once everyone has introduced themselves, and their potential presentations (if any), the participants rank the presentations they wish to hear. These rankings are collated, and are used to determine whether or not a presentation should be included in the initial schedule, and how much time is likely to be allowed for it. This initial schedule is subject to continuous revision as the meeting progresses.

-- AndrewBlack - 10 May 2011