Friday, December 01, 2006

The importance of being earnest

A little rant.

While attending a technology conference recently, I was annoyed to see people walking out in the middle of presentations. No, it wasn't because the presentations sucked, or that they were walking out as an act of protest against what was being said, or anything dramatic like that. They were walking out because they were bored and wanted to leave early.

Here's the thing - I know with some certainty that these folks were sponsored by their employers to attend. The conference took place during working hours. In effect, they were walking out of work early. Now, I don't have too much of a problem with people walking out of work, hell I think about doing it all the time. I just wanted to highlight the fact that they were technically breaking the rules, which is just one reason why they shouldn't have walked out. But there's a more important reason.

They were at a conference - a conference where a whole bunch of folk, many from academia, were presenting their research work. Much of it was quite interesting, truth be told. Some of these people may go on to do things that affect the future of the industry, and perhaps even society. Here they are, presenting their work, and what do they see? People walking out during their presentations. One person starts it, and the rest follow in droves like some kind of domino effect, all eager to get home a little early (remember, they are still technically at work, and had they been at their offices there's no way they could have got home early).

Leaving during the break would have been bad enough, but leaving in the middle of a presentation? What kind of message does it send these people, how dispiriting must it be, when they witness people just walking out? The last presenters were talking to mostly empty seats! The fact that people gave enough of a damn to hear them out could make all the difference to them.

So, two things. These people were not entitled to leave, and even if they had been, they should have had the basic human decency to stay through to the end, no matter how bored they were. These same people would no doubt have lined up for hours to catch a glimpse of some vacuous celebrity - and that's their right. But is it too much to ask to show a modicum of respect for the intellectuals of society, to show that you attended in earnest? I think not.


sanity index said...

On the other hand, if employers did not require their employees to attend, people are less likely to walk out due to disinterest.

But I agree, it is disrespectful, and frankly rather sad. Human decency (and most "human ____") just isn't that basic.

Antimatter said...

Well, they ARE paid to attend (i.e. it's a part of their job). Plus, it's effectively like a day off work in some cushy conference room in a hotel somewhere (with free food)! :D

Sad, it is...