nbauman writes "This summer, NASA's Lunar Science Forum became the largest scientific gathering to embrace the new world of cyber meetings. The experience drew mixed reviews, according to a report in Science magazine. Mihály Horányi, who has been a regular, sat down at his computer at 1:45 p.m. on the first day of the conference and began talking into a webcam perched above the screen. 'Last year it was a performance. This year it meant staring at myself, being annoyed that I kept leaning in and out of the picture, and thinking, "Boy, am I getting old."' He and other participants say the virtual conference was a pale imitation of the real thing. At previous forums, 'You see your friends, you ask about their kids, and then the discussion flows into the science.' He participated much less this year, 2 hours a day. In addition to the physical challenge of sitting at one's computer for hours on end, participants say that their day jobs competed for their attention. 150 to 200 people "attended" at any one time. Even without distractions, the quality of the interaction was much lower than in person. 'I received a handful of short comments [from my talk] and had maybe one e-mail exchange,' Horányi recalls. One scientist who didn't present this year—and who listened to only one talk after the fact—said that he much prefers an in-person meeting because 'you get a much better sense of how the audience is reacting to what you're saying, especially any negative feedback.'"
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