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Entries in conferences (69)


EAGE 2013 in a nutshell

I left London last night for Cambridge. On the way, I had a chance to reflect on the conference. The positive, friendly vibe, and the extremely well-run venue. Wi-Fi everywhere, espresso machines and baristas keeping me happy and caffeinated.

Knowledge for sale

I saw no explicit mention of knowledge sharing per se, but many companies are talking about commoditizing or productizing knowledge in some way. Perhaps the most noteworthy was an update from Martyn Millwood Hargrave at Ikon's booth. In addition to the usual multi-client reports, PowerPoint files, or poorly architected database, I think service companies are still struggling to find a model where expertise and insight can be included as a service, or at least a value-add. It's definitely on the radar, but I don't think anyone has it figured out just yet.

Better than swag

Yesterday I pondered the unremarkability of carrot-and-ginger juice and Formula One pit crews. Paradigm at least brought technology to the party. Forget Google Glass, here's some augmented geoscience reality:

Trends good and bad

This notion of 3D seismic vizualization and interpretation is finally coming to gathers. The message: if you are not going pre-stack, you are missing out. Pre-stack panels are being boasted in software demos by the likes of DUG, Headwave, Transform, and more. Seems like this trend has been moving in slow motion for about a decade.

Another bandwagon is modeling while you interpret. I see this as an unfeasible and potentially dangerous claim, but some technologies companies are creating tools and workflows to fast-track the seismic interpretation to geologic model building workflows. Such efficiencies may have a market, but may push hasty solutions down the value chain. 

What do you think? What trends do you detect in the subsurface technology space? 


Where have all the geologists gone?

ExCel LondonFresh off the plane from my vacation in Europe, I spent today exploring the Exhibition at ExCel London, at the 2013 EAGE convention. It's a massive venue, and I spent the entire day there having conversations. I didn't look upon a single PowerPoint slide all day, and it was awesome. 

Seismic domination

This is my first time at the EAGE conference, and I was expecting to see an fairly equal spread of geoscientists and engineers. I was wrong. The exhibition hall at least, is dominated by seismic acquisition and processing companies. Which suggests one thing. There is big business in seismic methods — manufacturing equipment, designing and acquiring surveys, and processing all that data.

Additionally, I counted 17 operating companies out on display. Recruiting and networking hoopla at its finest. In contrast, I don't think I saw one operator on the exhibition floor one month ago at the Calgary GeoConvention.  

Apparently, geophysics is hot. But where have all the geologists gone? Are they lurking in the shadows? Based on the technology represented at the exhibition, are we at the risk of homogenizing the industry and all calling ourselves geophysicists one day?

EAGE ExhibitionEven though the diversity of disciplines appears to be lacking, marketing creativity certainly is not. Today, I listened to a string quartet perform at one booth, while sipping on a carrot-and-ginger juice freshly squeezed at another. Moments later, I struggled through a hard-to-hear conversation because the noise from a Formula One pit crew demonstration was deafening. It is both amazing and disturbing the expense companies will rack up to try to be remarkable. But such remarks of the fleeting kind. It fades as quickly as the song, drink, or tire-change is over.

And being a spectator of it all, I am reminded that the remarkability I am after is of the more enduring kind.


Capturing conferences

Yesterday I grumbled about secret meetings. Enough whining, what's the opportunity?

Some technical societies already understand the need for recording proceedings. SPE workshops have clearly-stated deliverables, for example at the Marginal Fields workshop in Cairo later this year:

SPE workshop deliverables

That's more like it. It would be better to publish the proceedings to the world, not just attendees, and to use an open license, but it's definitely a good start.

As we reported earlier, we used a variety of methods to capture the unsession we hosted at the Canada GeoConvention in May — video, photos, drawings and notes, interviews, a wiki, and an article. This is messy and chaotic, but it's also transparent and open, making it easier to reference and more likely that someone (including us!) can use it.

What other things should we be considering? Here are some ideas:

  • Livestreaming. This enables people who couldn't make it to take part in at least one or two sessions via streaming video and social media. It's amazingly effective and can increase the audience by a factor of 5 or more. Even better: at the end of it, you have video of everything!
  • Published proceedings. This is something we used to do all the time in geoscience, but it takes a lot of coordination. The GSL is the only body I know of that still manages it regularly. Perhaps a wiki-based publishing approach would be easier to arrange?
  • Graphic recording. I have witnessed this a few times, and even tried it myself. In a workshop, it's a terrific way to engage the audience in real time; in a conference, it makes for some great conversation pieces in the break. It's also a brilliant way to listen.
  • Podcasting. Having a small team of reporters capture the proceedings in short interviews, video clips, and opinion pieces could be a fun way to engage non-attendees, and leave the event with a record of what went on.
  • Code and data. We could experiment with more 'doing' sessions, where code is written, wiki pages are hacked on, data is collected, and so on. The product then is clear: a new code repository, open dataset, or set of wiki pages. This one could be the easiest one to pull off, and the most valuable to the community.

Here's more inspiration: the EGU tweeting its round-up from Vienna this morning:

Have you seen unusually effective or innovative ways to record events you've been at? What would you like to see? What would you be prepared to do?


The forum that never happened

Recently, I keep seeing this on SEG meeting information:

Note: The mechanical recording of any portion of the [meeting] in any form (photographic, electronic, etc.) is strictly prohibited. Printed reference to the [...] presentations or discussions is not permitted without the consent of the parties involved. All participants are requested to omit public reference to the [...] proceedings in any published work or oral presentation. Only registrants are permitted to attend Forum sessions. Each participant agrees to these regulations when application is accepted [...]

Interesting! 'Regulations' about what a person can and can't say or write about a scientific meeting, a sort of gag order. It goes further: in an attempt to limit what is revealed to the outside world, abstracts are not required at some meetings, only short descriptions. There shall be no evidence of the talk even taking place.

I am convinced that meetings like this are unhelpful, unscientific, and unproductive. Here's why:

We are free. I am a professional scientist and I own my brain. If I want to talk about my field with other professionals, in public if I so wish, then I am entitled to do that. Of course I won't disclose proprietary information, but that's different — proprietary information hasn't been presented at a conference of my competitors.

Public is public. Here's how a forum should work: people should present things they wish to make public. When they're public, they're public, end of story. Asking for secret meetings is like asking for privacy on Facebook. If you want secret, pick up the phone or huddle in dark corners. Or consider the Chatham House Rule.

Ilya Repin, The Secret Meeting

Secrecy is a bug, not a feature. SEG is a technical society for the advancement of applied geophysics and those who practise it. It's not The Magic Circle. The difference between science and magic is that in science, we do things transparently whenever we can. I know industry is a bit different, but in the interests of innovation and excellence, we need more openness, not less.

No product? No point. If you organize a workshop and there is no tangible outcome — no abstracts, no proceedings (remember those?), no recording — then it's my conviction that there was no point in your workshop, except perhaps for the handful of people who came.

Down with elitism. Surely SEG stands for technical excellence among all of its members, not just the privileged few with the time and resources to write papers and travel to workshops? If you're using the resources of technical societies (their time, attention, and marketing clout) then I believe it's your duty to the membership, and to the science as a whole, to share.

An unsolved problem. Corporate secrecy was identified as one of the top unsolved problems of subsurface science in our recent unsession. So what are we playing at? Are we professionals and scientists or just industrial magicians, selfishly hoarding our ideas and data, and slowing innovation down for everyone? What do you think?


The deliberate search for innovation & excellence

Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and creativity — the soft skills — aren't important as ends in themselves. They're really about getting better at two things: excellence (your craft today) and innovation (your craft tomorrow). Soft skills matter not because they are means to those important ends, but because they are the only means to those ends. So it's worth getting better at them. Much better.

One small experiment

The Unsession three weeks ago was one small but deliberate experiment in our technical community's search for excellence and innovation. The idea was to get people out of one comfort zone — sitting in the dark sipping coffee and listening to a talk — and into another — animated discussion with a roomful of other subsurface enthusiasts. It worked: there was palpable energy in the room. People were talking and scribbling and arguing about geoscience. It was awesome. You should have been there. If you weren't, you can get a 3-minute hint of what you missed from the feature film...

Go on, share the movie — we want people to see what a great time we had! 

Big thank you to the award-winning Craig Hall Video & Photography (no relation :) of Canmore, Alberta, for putting this video together so professionally. Time lapse, smooth pans, talking heads, it has everything. We really loved working with them. Follow them on Twitter. 

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