Next week I am off to IAS for the conference on Algebro-Geometric Derived Categories and their Applications. I am starting to get worried about it, since the list of talk titles is up and only a few of them appear to be welcoming to non-experts in their respective fields. Also, when registering, there was no option under ‘Occupation’ for ‘Grad Student’, which struck me as a subtle hint that I wasn’t welcome. Perhaps just being at IAS will compel speakers to turn the difficulty up to eleven.
In any event, I am preparing for there to be a fair share of bad talks. This, and other recent experiences with bad talks has given me the following idea of something to do: Bad Talk Bingo. The idea is to create a 5×5 grid of events and signs that a talk is going badly, so that I can check off which ones happen and try to get 5 in a row. My plan is that if I ever succeed in getting 5 in a row, I am allowed to pretend to get a phone call and rush hurriedly from the talk.
However, to do this, I need at least 25 possible signs that a talk is going badly. Ideally, I want many more, so that I can write a program to randomly generate a 5×5 grid, to make the game fun and exciting each time. This is where you, the reader come in! I want more ideas, and I’m sure everyone with any experience in math has seen their share of doomed talks.
Below is the list so far of possible topics, separated into Keepers, Not Bad, and Would Like Better ideas. Also, when a word or phrase appears in quotation marks, it means the speaker uses that word or phrase.
- Poor English speaker
- Trouble with laptop
- Went over allotted time
- Ignored a reasonable complaint
- Name dropping
- Gratuitous use of indices
- Screwed up a computation
- Important theorem has hidden assumptions
- Erased the last thing written
- Wrote out unnecessary technical details
- Didn’t write down important theorem
- Speaker was late
- Referenced a ‘folklore result’ that is ‘known to experts’
- Topic was TBA
- Talked facing the blackboard
- Construction that wasn’t functorial
Would Like Better:
- Annoying noises with chalk
- Wrote out long list of collaborators
- Wrote subjects of math and drew arrows between them
- Hand gestures instead of explanation
- Various hygiene concerns
If possible, I’d like five general categories of topic, so that each column could have a theme. These might be ‘Buzzwords’, ‘Apathy’, ‘Intentional Obfuscation’, ‘Technical Shortcomings’, etc. I want more than 25 good ones, so that I can randomly pick from them to make many sheets. Also, this is all in good fun, so please try to stay away from pointed criticisms of specific people and things the speaker might not have any control over (like speech impediments).