Eusprig 2008

I have been involved with Eusprig for a few years now, and have presented a few times too. My presentations are generally ‘the view from the trenches’ as a bit of a spreadsheet foot soldier. 

There are a few others who present from the same viewpoint so its always good to share war stories. Some of the presentations/papers are perhaps more scientifically researched. I find these to be the most varied – the good are stunning – I got sooo many forehead slapping ‘of course’ moments this year I almost got a headache. Some are not so remarkable, but in all cases there is something useful to take away.

Anyway for the forthcoming year I got elected as a member (not entirely sure of what, possibly the management committee?). Committees and meetings aren’t generally my cup of tea, but I think Eusprig has the potential to make a real improvement to the way people use spreadsheets. So its in my interest to help, the less spreadsheet horrors that are out there the more chance I get to work with more interesting issues and technologies.

One of the aims for Eusprig 2008 is to improve attendance from commercial spreadsheet users. Its frustrating to know that some of the organisations that could benefit most are scared to attend. But banks are scared of everything, except charging you for the privilege of investing your money for their gain of course.

My first job is assigning the Codematic web division (Mrs Smurf) to revamp the Eusprig website, in particlar to make it more attractive to these business folks. Initial thoughts were clean and simple like the codematic site, if you have other suggestions (or examples) please leave a comment. If you put too many links in your comment it will drop into moderation, but I’ll keep an eye on it, so don’t keep reposting.

We would also be interested to hear from those that went

  • what could be added to make it more certain you come back?
  • what could be binned? (politely/diplomatically of course, who knows whos reading ;-))

for those that didn’t come this year

  • What would have to be added to make it a must attend event?
  • From what you know is there anything that put you off, or would put you off?

No promises of course.

I’d say spreadsheet users are a tricky group to contact really. Lots have a finance background, but there are plenty in the engineering and marketing (and other) fields too. Any good suggestions for contacting them effectively?

Cheers

Simon

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11 Responses to “Eusprig 2008”

  1. dermot Says:

    Simon

    the enthusiasts who visit Eusprig are often not the decisionmakers. What is needed is a well presented front office for Eusprig that makes a compelling case for change.

    At the moment, Eusprig seems to consist of a forum which is hard to search, and papers which tackle various bits and pieces. But nowhere is everything brought together coherently and persuasively. It’s very fragmented.

  2. Marcus Says:

    Hi Simon,

    While I would have loved to come (yes I know – here comes the lame excuse) I couldn’t justify the jaunt from the other side of the planet. However, as I expect to be in the UK before next year’s conference, I fully intend to be there.

    Web site
    From what I’ve read, a major use of the interest today is product (or service) research. I had a quick look at the Eusprig web site and then at compassoft, a major Eusprig sponsor. By comparison, the Eusprig site appears amateurish. If Eusprig wants to attract corporates, it needs to appear more corporate and professional.

    The Eusprig forum is on Yahoo. Couldn’t this be made more visible within the site. Wilmott has a fairly lively s/s discussion area.

    ROI
    I don’t need to convince you that banks wont spend anything (time, money) unless there’s something in it for them. Financial ROI (e.g. reduce costly spreadsheet errors) may not be enough because, as you’ve stated, their attendance may infer that they do have a problem.

    Perhaps soliciting banking regulators to be involved may have some pulling power. APRA in Australia is not a complete toothless tiger. I’ve seen senior exec’s alter project plans and increase project budgets (by millions) to appease the regulator.

    Within banks themselves a good group to approach is Risk and Compliance rather than the business users themselves. I’ve had to give numerous presentations to these guys as to how a new MSO solution complies with the bank’s standards or addresses security risk and/or regulatory compliance issues. They are just much more aware of the issues than the typical manager or exec. They also have capacity to ‘exert’ influence on business decision makers.

    Cheers – Marcus

  3. Simon Says:

    Thx, all good suggestions
    Dermot, ‘fragmented’ – exactly.
    Marcus, ROI – very good point, hard to demonstrate though I think?
    The FSA (the UK regulators of banks etc) are very active in Eusprig.

    I personally would much prefer an online forum, as I am forever getting locked out of Yahoo, but more importantly, if people could see the quality and nature of discussion without joining, it may encourage them to participate.
    cheers
    Simon

  4. Don Price Says:

    Simon,

    First, well done on getting on the committee!

    Second, I’m pleased you have been given the site to look at. It has suffered due to the lack of investment (due to no funds for it) so it’s good to see that you will be investing time and effort into it.

    The EuSpRIG site is a portal to other sites and as such can get lost within itself. It is hard to search and visually I find it hard to make out some pages.

    Anyway – you know all that. The bee in my bonnet, which I voiced to Pat Cleary and David Ward, is that the conferences cover a large amount of papers, which are beautifully printed for those who attended. But, if you want to write a paper, then the chances of finding previous papers for research is almost nil, unless you are one of those who somehow (like me) managed to get a paper actually on the site itself.

    My point is that the site could be a major repository of research papers, if they were all brought together and put on the site – allowing them all to be found and looked at – which can’t happen now – most papers get sent around friends and colleagues and that’s it. All authors have given permission for them to be published; they are all held on disk somewhere so could be brought together.

    Thirdly, re getting firms to attend, we all have contacts. All delegates have firms that they deal with. I emailed all firms who, this year, have show an interest in buying SpACE and asked them to come – only one did out of 15, but they bought 2 tickets. So, why can’t the members themselves be proactive, not just wait for the committee to decide on a marketing strategy. I have started advertising next year’s to some other Government departments , and will do the same to any other possible SpACE customers.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Sorry for a long post!

    Don

  5. Simon Says:

    Thanks for the input Don, all very good points, I too would like all that great content made easily available. I have offered all my papers for the site, not sure if they are there.
    I asked a few people to attend, but none did.
    cheers
    Simon

  6. Kath McGuire Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I agree with what Don has said. I found it difficult finding past papers when researching my paper this year. It would be great to have papers (and slides?) available on the site.

    To increase attendance it might be an idea to approach the professional bodies (CIMA, CIM, BCS etc, etc, etc) and try and pitch it to their members via them. Perhaps getting articles for their magazines that serve as information/warning/invitation.

    I was also thinking about the people who are geographically challenged when it comes to the conference. Could the conference be broadcast via the net? It could get more people involved and raise the profile.

    I really enjoyed both this year’s conference and last year’s (the only two I’ve been to). I particularly liked this year’s bug hunt. I also really liked last year’s interactive session with Brandon from Microsoft. Maybe more practical things would be interesting? I’d love a session (not sure if it’s possible or practical) where we get given a small problem and a few implementations of it and we get to discuss some of the good/bad things that have been done in the different implementations. Not sure if that’s everyone’s cup of tea though.

    Kath

  7. Amber Newman Says:

    Hi Simon,

    Don’t forget that you want to try eXpresso. I’ll be happy to share a spreadsheet with you if your friends aren’t willing to help. Amber http://www.expressocorp.com

  8. Jocelyn Says:

    Don and others: Grenville Croll has been doing excellent work putting EuSpRIG papers up at arXiv. Perhaps you don’t all know about arXiv. It’s a repository for online papers at http://arxiv.org/ , run by Cornell University. To quote their description of the site (at the bottom of the home page):

    arXiv is an e-print service in the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, quantitative biology and statistics. The contents of arXiv conform to Cornell University academic standards. arXiv is owned, operated and funded by Cornell University, a private not-for-profit educational institution. arXiv is also partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

    I’ve just checked it by using the arXiv search engine to find the papers I’ve given at my EuSpRIG talks, which have been from 2001 to 2008. I know they’re there, because Grenville sent me the access keys earlier this year when he uploaded them. But it’s a good test case for this comment. I used arXiv’s search engine to look in “Computer Science” for all papers with author Paine. Sure enough, back came the six papers I’ve submitted in those years, nicely arranged in a list with a link to each as a PDF.

    Of course, you probably won’t know which authors you want before finding their papers. And you can’t use “spreadsheet” as a search term in the title field, because not all papers have the word in their titles. But arXiv’s search engine also has a “journal-ref” field, and Grenville has made sure (I think) that all EuSpRIG papers contain the phrase “Proc. European Spreadsheet Risks Int. Grp.”. I’ve just tested this by searching for all papers with a journal-ref containing “spreadsheet”. This gave me a list of 74 papers, and all the ones I then checked were from EuSpRIG. So there’s a lot of our stuff there.

    Any authors reading this: why not put up your papers on your own Web site too. Even if they’re not in arXiv, as long as you think they’re useful? Then Google could find and index them. I don’t know why not everyone does this, because it would obviously help others.

    Jocelyn

  9. Jocelyn Says:

    An afterthought to that comment: I usually prepare a copy of my talk too, and put that on my Web site, so that the audience don’t feel they must rush to write down every word. That kind of thing is probably too informal for arXiv, but again, it would be good if authors were to put up their presentations on their sites. I encourage all to do so…

    Jocelyn

  10. Grenville Croll Says:

    All the EuSpRIG papers that can be loaded onto ArXiv have now been loaded onto ArXiV. Simply type “spreadsheet” in the ArXiV search box to access them all. There are 98. The main reasons for papers not going up onto ArXiv are: 1) Must be a paper, not a presentation 2) There must be at least six references) 3) I need the electronic version, or OCR needs to be possible – OCR’ing diagrams can be difficult. Conference papers will be uploaded immediately after each conference. The Paper Indexes (author, title & date) are now on the website. I hope to add a subject index so that they are grouped by topic. If anyone would like to volunteer to do this, I’d be grateful.

    I am in the process of re-writing the EuSpRIG website using the notes from a Strategy meeting we had in Nov 2007, which was followed up by a couple of Marketing/Website subcommittee meetings in late 08. We also have a specification for a new logo. We will shortly be going out to tender with the agreed text of the new site and the logo spec. We have David Colver to thank for causing a proper process to be put in place. I will try to incorporate as many of the above comments as I can. Further comments welcome.

    I apologise that website progress is slow, but obtaining, editing & uploading the papers to ArXiv, thus preserving our heritage, was at least a couple of hundred hours work.

    Grenville, EuSpRIG Chair

  11. Grenville Croll Says:

    It is interesting reading the comments of Don, Kath and others as above. In creating the new EuSpRIG site, which went live in late October 2009, I hope we have acted upon their concerns and in particular have made it easier to access historical material.

    The new EuSpRIG website (www.eusprig.org) gives direct access to about three quarters of the historical EuSpRIG proceedings – about a million words in total. In due course we will add most of the remainder.

    For those lucky enough to have passed the EuSpRIG peer review process AND the ArXiv submission process, your work is permanently archived at http://www.arxiv.org within the computer science repository.

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