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What? Bioinformatics: from Heidelberg to Cape Town

When? Wednesday October 1st 2014, 18:30-21:00

Where? COS room R 00.005, Im Neuenheimer Feld 230

Who? A team of people working at several different life-science organisations within Heidelberg are organising HUB, with your help. For this meeting, we're organising it together with the Cape Unseminars in Bioinformatics (CUB) team in Cape Town, South Africa. Let us know if you'd like to get involved in organising future meetings with us!

What should I bring? If possible, please bring along:

as we're planning on making the link between Cape Town and Heidelberg using a bunch of different laptops, some of which we expect would be best done using headsets/earphones.

Social media


18:35-18:45 Introducing Unseminars and CUB Natasha and Gustavo (CT)
18:45-18:55 Introducing the evening's program and HUB (if you want it, including premier of the HUB video...!?) Laura (HD)
18:55-19:30 Speed-dating Everyone (CT & HD)
19:30-19:50 Wine tasting
19:50-20:30 Small-group Show-and-tell (two or three rounds) Everyone
20:30-20:45 Show-and-tell summary (anything you learned you'd like to share with HD and CT?) Everyone
20:45-21:00 Wrap up, any ideas for future HD/CT collaborations? Natasha and Gustavo (CT), Laura (HD)
21.00 Cafe Botanik HD
21.15 Taxi back to Little Scotia OR on to Devils Peak Brewing taproom, 95 Durham Ave CT


An ice-breaking activity to help us all, both within the two locations, and between them, to get to know each other better.

In both locations, we'll form a pair of lines, where one person in one line faces one other person in the other line (or a laptop with someone from the other location at the other end of it).

You get 2 minutes to chat to the other person, introducing yourselves, describing what you work on, and trying to see if you can find any locations and/or people you know in common.

After two minutes, a bell sounds, and one of the lines moves along by one, the other stays in place. After the next two minutes, the other line moves along by one. And repeat.

Without the laptops, a similar procedure is described in this presentation.

Wine tasting

We'll aim to have a similar set of Cape and Heidelberg-area wines in both locations for us to taste and compare.


We'll form small groups clustered around different mostly IT-related topics. In these small groups, we'll describe to each other any tools or features of tools or other tricks or insights we've come across that we think could be useful to other people. We'll try and have two or three such sessions so you can . We'll ask one person in each discussion group to try and keep notes on the ideas we come up with on an Etherpad/Piratenpad, so we can later share these with the whole group.

At the end, we'll have a short whole-group session where you have a chance to share any ideas/things you heard during these sessions that you think would be interesting for others to hear about.

We have a provisional set of topics here - but you are more than welcome to bring your own ideas along to the meeting:

  • text editors
  • task manageres/project managerment
  • reference managers
  • getting advice and help
  • collaboration tools (wikis, document sharing, google etc.)
  • social media (tweetdeck)
  • open access stuff publishing
  • journals (expereince submitting papers, diffferent)
  • conferences, getting the best out of them, good ones/bad ones
  • community - how is it built
  • living in Cape Town cf: Heidelberg
  • BBQs Germany/CT
  • wine tasting

Important URLs

In order to co-ordinate between the locations, we will post/update below links to the resources used.

  • For overall documentation/information gathering, we'll use a piratepad at Feel free to update that page with relevant information. Also it might be a good idea to spawn off additional pads to collect topic-specific ideas and comments (eg. for commenting on the wine, you could create a pad Important: Please announce the URL in the main piratepad so that nothing gets lost...
  • For video/audio conferencing we'll use an open standard instead of closed source (skype etc.). You can establish a new communication channel by going to whereby GROUPNAME can be any name (would help to choose something meaningful). Anyone who knows the URL can join. Again, please announce the URL in the piratepad if you want others to join...
  • As we expect quite a lot of communication going on, we also want to use some rather low-level, yet reliable form of chatting: IRC Please use this channel for any form of communication. This also serves as fallback should audio/video transfer fail, so it's a good idea to join the channel early on and keep an eye on it. For this, go to and choose any nickname (prepending "hub_" or "cub_" helps avoiding any conflicts) and join channel #hubhub (on network freenode, which should be default) - click on the #hubhub link top left to see the conversation.

Short report

Well... we (the organisers) thought that this first attempt at a joint multi-location partially-virtual unseminar was a success; although we're a bit biased, obviously ;) Thanks to everyone who got involved in the event, we certainly enjoyed ourselves!

Several things didn't work as we had planned; despite all the technical testing done before the event, there were (perhaps almost inevitably) break-downs in connections and tools etc.

But... the links did work in some cases; people did meet each other for the first time both in the same venue, and across the continents; in some cases we had to pry people off the laptops to stop their chats, and there was a lot of exchanging email addresses and LinkedIn details, across the continents too. Even ideas for small discrete projects that could be tried out spanning the locations. That's all we were hoping for from the event. It was amazing that we can use technology in this way.

Another "success" is that we learnt a lot about the priorities if/when we try this again. A lot of this seems obvious, and we did try to do all of this, it's rather that we've seen (at least for this particular pair of locations and infrastructure) where the choke points are.

And hopefully there will be a next time - several people said they'd be very much up for trying again!

If we do it again, we'd want to:

  • Book the venue at both sides ideally for the whole day of the event, or at least with enough time to set up properly before people arrived
  • Set up and connect laptops before the event began (and it was really important that they were mobile i.e. I wouldn't want to do this with desktop machines). Each pair of computers should have a functioning 1:1 link and be left switched on and in touch with each other
  • One pair of computers should be allocated as the 'main' link and not also used for the subsequent networking, allowing organisers at each end to stay in touch and coordinate.
  • The 'Main' pair of laptops should be connected to speakers so the whole group, at both ends, can hear each other. This can be muted when other events go on if needs be to avoid feedback etc.
  • The 'main' connection laptops should be connected to a projector, so both rooms can also see each other
  • A mobile microphone connected to main laptop allows people to walk around and not have to stand too close to the laptop itself
  • For the other machines, it would be good to have each computer to be connected with headphone splitters and non-inner-ear headsets so people can move between machines

Other things I think we learned:

  • great idea of Holger's to go with non-registration-requiring communication tools (piratepad, where all you need to do is change a URL to get a new channel
  • the synchronised naming of tool URLs on both sides was also a great idea of Holger's ( and running on the same machine...)
  • spreading machines out around the venue, filling corridors and other quiet rooms, was a bit help for keeping background noise down
  • great that the HUBers realised that putting laptops on a central table, facing outwards on both sides, and rotating people around the table, is a good way of getting everyone to have a chance to link up
  • even just text-based chatting was an OK, even fun, way of linking up the locations
  • every now and then it was very useful to have an Internet-independent way of talking with organisers at the other location i.e. it was good to know mobile phone numbers of people at the other location

Given the above, maybe it's actually worth trying this next time on a Saturday, a day when people both ends are more likely to have time during the day to work, together, on the setup.

Task List

A list of tasks that need to be done on or before the meeting day. Just sign your name to say that you'll do a task, and the same again when the task is done.

To arrange before evening Person responsible Done
List of registered people Laura
Short presentation slides
Drinking Water and Cups? Matt
A4 signs in plastic envelopes to help people find the room Juan
Create the poster Adam
Print and display poster where relevant
  • BioQuant: Matt
  • EMBL:
  • DKFZ: Florian
  • ZMBH: Florian
  • Mensa: Florian
Advertise on linkedin Aidan DONE
Beamer Already installed in the room
Send reminder email the week before Aidan DONE
Send reminder email the day of the event Aidan

List of stationary/things for organisers to bring to the meeting
stickers for name badges
lots of (if possible thick) pens for writing on the badges
HUB signs (HUB logo with an arrow)
sticky tape/Scotch/sellotape/tesafilm to put up signs
postit notes (never know when you'll need them)

To do on the evening Person responsible Done
Open the room Juan
Arrange tables/chairs (in pairs) Matt, Tom, Juan
Hang up signs to the room Bronagh
Setup and welcome attendees Bronagh
Bring extension cables (for all the laptops) ...?
Bring tape to fix cables Florian
Setup Network/Connectivity
Help people with setup of their laptops Florian,
MC/Chair the meeting Laura
Tidy and close room Florian,
Take participants to Cafe Botanik (do this almost immediately after the meeting ends, while some of us tidy the room) Matt

Planning Meetings

Planning meeting on Wednesday 17th September 2014