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Rules for a Better Conference Name Badge (2017) (badge.reviews)
97 points by fanf2 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

The best badges I've ever had the pleasure of wearing were at Srccon (a conference for news nerds). They were highly legible and simple. Here's an example: https://media.opennews.org/img/uploads/article_images/emily_...

At first I was a little dismayed that they omitted the company name, but I came to really like that. It made it a lot easier to have conversations with people if you remove the barrier of status that a company might infer, probably wrongly. It was a great equalizer to know the folks at the smallest college dailies had the same problems as the largest news outfits in the country.

The best badges i've had are at various low-rent unconferences, where you get a sticky label and a sharpie on arrival, and you can write your own.

Want to chat but be a bit anonymous? Just write your first name but big! Want people to be able to find you after? Full name and twitter handle! Primarily known by a pseudonym online? Write that! Proud of where you work? Add your company name! Tired of being mistaken for a designer? Use your job title! Prefer certain pronouns? State xem! Impressive title? Prefix in your neatest calligraphy! Burning passion for a particular subject? Jot it underneath your name! Hiring, raising, jobhunting, looking for someone to play baduk with? Put pen to label! Mad art skills? Throw down!

No lanyard length quandaries, cheap and easy to supply, usually end up around eye level, don't poke awkwardly when sitting, and they don't flip round!

A fair number of more casual events I attend omit company info. You mostly want it at big shows where the employer is probably paying and many people are directly representing their employer in some way.

But when there's a more diverse group where individuals' attendance isn't necessarily as tied to specific "tribal identities," it's not clear that affiliation is as big a deal. (And, as you say, may actually be a negative.)

They were way too big and annoying and flipped around all the time. They also certainly should've added at least the category of company you were from, if omitting the name, as too often networking ends up in a conversation that is not going to be productive.

The one good thing they had was color-coding the lanyards to express your interest in being photographed.

That looks nice and simple, but also comically large to me. I'm surprised by the remark in the article that 4"x8" is a recommended size. Anything bigger than a postcard and I'll be wearing it as little as possible.

How much I like a badge is pretty much in proportion to how small it is. A large badge optimizes for the wrong thing: I may (try to) read tens of names, but you're asking me to wear the badge all day every day.

If I got a badge like this, I'd either throw it in my bag (and only take it out for proof of registration when required), or cut it off right below my first name.

(Putting badges on lanyards seems an odd choice in the first place. Why not, oh, an arm wrap which attaches just below my shoulder? Then at least it won't bounce around and flip backwards and get in my way all the time. You're a tech conference! You really have nobody here who can think of how to improve on a piece of paper looped around your neck with a piece of string?)

As someone who probably gets a good dozen full-blown conference name badges a year, I mostly agree with his comments with the exception of a few things.

1. Badges with two attachment points do reduce flipping but they don't eliminate it. I'm sympathetic to using the back of a badge for useful info like a map of the venue or even a plastic sleeve for a schedule. So it's a tradeoff. But if you're not going to use the back for something useful, print on both sides.

2. Preferably use a lanyard if it's a "real" conference. It's often hard to pin stuff.

3. I get his comment on the QR codes but larger conferences need some way to scan people at booths and possibly breakouts (for attendee reports). NFC/RFID can work too and is sometimes used. Not clear to me one way is a big win over the other.

QR code on the back as he suggests seems a perfectly fine place for it. In fact, that makes it slightly less likely that I'm going to get irrelevant spam after the conference from someone scanning my badge when I didn't intend to permit it.

I disagree vehemently with rules 1,2,4, and 7. I value my privacy and don't want to provide my name and details to everyone I pass and every vendor I talk to.

At every conference I've attended, I remove or flip my badge immediately after entering. I've never felt that this impacted my ability to meet new people and connect with them, so I don't accept the author's assertion that it's necessary (or even helpful) to make new connections. The remainder of the rules are predicated on rule 1, which I think leaves them irrelevant.

I'd go so far as to say that if a conference tries to enforce rules 1 and 7 (everyone has to wear a badge and no flipping), then I will simply decline to attend. The only badge that I'd be happy to wear continuously is a badge with no legible PII that's used purely for access control, and even then, most of the time, conferences don't require that kind of access control.

This sounds like a good case for something like the "traffic light" system for indicating who's happy to have photos taken of them. Doing it with lanyards makes it nice and simple to rectify afterwards: if you see a red lanyard in the photo then you've made a mistake.

(Obvious point: badges that are highly readable by humans squinting to see your name are also highly readable in photographs. And please consider if there's a solution for badges for female attendees that doesn't encourage people to look at their chests to read their names.)

I've seen badges for how willing people are to have conversations - a traffic light system for 'please talk to me about anything' to 'I'd rather mind my own business'.

> And please consider if there's a solution for badges for female attendees that doesn't encourage people to look at their chests to read their names.

As a conference organiser who'd love to provide a great event experience to as many people as possible, I was wondering if you (or anyone else) might have ideas for potential alternatives?

> I remove or flip my badge immediately after entering

You may find that the terms and conditions of the conference, that you've agreed to, require you to keep the front of your badge visible.

If you don't like that then, as you say, you should probably not attend, rather than go against your agreement.

Forget about T&Cs, it's a part of the social norms of most conferences. Don't like it? Don't attend.

It's not. Sitting in a conference, no one has one.

Know enough conferences with only wrist bands.

And no the people making them probably care more for attendance than for showing your name.

> Forget about T&Cs, it's a part of the social norms of most conferences. Don't like it? Don't attend.

You wouldn't know it by looking at the current sad state of tech culture in 2019, but a lot of people in the "Hacker" culture aren't particularly inclined to capitulate to social norms and much prefer freedom.

The freedom you have is to not attend the event, rather than to attend and then not follow the norms there.

There are tons of casual community events of various sizes that are just fine with you identifying or not identifying yourself to whatever degree you want to.

What's being discussed here is mostly badges for commercial events like Google I/O. If you don't like the norms of these types of events--scanned badges, real names, probably a fair bit of photography and video of those attending--you have lots of other options.


We've been giving this account a chance to participate appropriately, but if you continue to comment like this we'll ban it.

That is beautiful. Not even trolling I'm sure.

This is a great point. I would add that conferences should allow attendees to register and attend anonymously; i.e. possibly known to the conference at the time of registration (if otherwise required), but not necessarily known to all other attendees at all times. The badge should then simply not show a name on it.

Some conferences allows for pseudonyms to be used, which is good, and should also be allowed, but allowing pseudonyms doesn’t really solve this problem, and I don’t think it was really meant to do that.

(Of course, for those people, like me, who do want to have their name on their badge, those rules which you oppose are still very good and relevant.)

> allowing pseudonyms doesn’t really solve this problem

If it allow pseudonyms like throwawayRandom123, I'd say it's solved.

Technically, maybe, but it’s ugly, since at first glance the badge seems to have a name on it, but anyone who then makes the effort to read it get nothing for the effort. (Yes, it takes a conscious effort to read a name off a badge.) It would be better if it was immediately obvious that the badge had no name, to spare everyone the wasted effort.

If not, lie. Also solved.

>I'd go so far as to say that if a conference tries to enforce rules 1 and 7 (everyone has to wear a badge and no flipping), then I will simply decline to attend.

That is probably your appropriate response for most conferences then. To give just one example, if I'm working a booth and someone wants to ask me questions, I will probably not do so unless I know who they are. It's a common trip of financial analysts to flip their badges so they're incognito.

Knowing the name gives you what practical information? Seriously.

I think that you are an outlier. I rarely have badge visible except when going through doors and have yet to meet booth or any other service that would decline to answer or give me food etc due to missing badge.

> Knowing the name gives you what practical information? Seriously.

If someone talks to me about a topic it's helpful to see their name so I know what they've worked on in the past. Partly so I don't try to explain their own work back to them.

You can guess what I worked on from my name?

Yes if you've written about it and I've read the work. My field is pretty small so both things are usually true for people I meet who want to talk to me about technical things.

That does not sound like quite special situation. Most fields are bigger and overwhelming majority of tech people dont write publicly.

People don’t write blog posts, give talks or be publicly responsible for any projects in your field?

Most people don't, no. A very tiny subset of people in any given field do this.

Also disagree with 1. Wearing badges seems like something out of kindergarten. If you want to know someone's name, just ask, like in every other situation in life.

For me, it's a cheat. I'll absolutely ask your name, but I'm meeting a ton of people at a conference and am likely to forget or mix you up with someone else I just met. It's a heck of a lot easier to glance at a badge to keep people straight.

I really liked the system where you had to fill in a nickname which you would be comfortable with - it was only information about you on the badge

I agree with you.

I would like to have a double-sided badge, one with and one without my name, and be allowed to decide which to display.

The best privacy solution is to lie. Make up a conference name. This way, you're in control of who you meet and who can stalk you.

Many (most?) conferences check IDs at registration. You might be able to get a name change on the spot but I wouldn't be surprised if you were told it's not possible for some reason.

I know several people with long or 'strange' names who use their easy to pronounce nickname for their name badges. Never been a problem.

Something I liked immensely from a conference that dealt with under-represented people in tech is that a lanyard colour denotes whether or not you can be photographed.

i.e. a blue lanyard means that you can be photographed, and a red/pink one that you cannot be photographed (these colours survive most colour blindness too)

Can also add the Trello "pattern" approach. A white dots pattern means you can be photographed, stripes means no.

All these examples of bad badges, but not a single good one? A picture would have been worth the entire blog post here.

Update: Huh, apparently that angry fruit salad at the end was supposed to be a good one. Fortunately the one on the homepage looks decent: https://badge.reviews/

Github: https://github.com/BadgeReviews/badges

It also took me a while to realize the last picture was of a good badge, but the article never states that a good badge looks good, only that it conveys a few key information in clear, large print.

You didn't read the article, there's one at the bottom.

> You didn't read the article

It's against HN guidelines to accuse someone of not reading the article.

You're getting downvoted, but the guidelines explicitly say:

> Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

There are "Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names" that are relevant to badges. For instance #6, people’s names fit within a certain defined amount of space; names being in 64 point type is good unless will make a name wrap to another line.

Most conferences are not multilingual and it's reasonable to write names in an alphabet understood by most attendees. Something helpful is if given name and family name are to be styled differently, that that actually be done, don't just make the name that comes first different.

What mostly tends to happen in practice is that people come up with simplified/shortened versions of their name for name badges (whether full conference badges or just informal sticky-type badges).

This isn't just conference-specific. I know people from cultures where long names are quite common. Just like Theodore contracts to Ted, there's a reasonably simple culture-specific way of shortening them, and most of them do shorten them, e.g. Venkataramarajan to Venkat or Consolación to Conny. Note that often the contraction isn't obviously related to the original name (e.g. William => Bill).

This is why any system that takes names should have a way to specify a "Display Name", which may or may not follow the firstname lastname pattern. Particularly when those names need to be printed out for conferences.

The other aspect to badges are their usefulness to convention staff. Depending on the conference, you may have 30 different types of badges, and real humans all around the conference need to interpret these things for sometimes tens of thousands of people.

Badges need to be unique, easily differentiated from each other, not easily lost or destroyed, and (ideally) carry uniquely identifying information. They should be hard to duplicate, easy to verify, and include useful information on the back (such as contact information, conference dates/hours, and rules and regulations). They may convey emergency response information, age, a photo ID, and convention access designations. And they have to work within the constraints of convention registration, which includes buying/generating a brand new, personally-identifiable badge on-site.

All these considerations typically trump your networking goals. If your convention has a "good networking badge", it may suck for use by the convention staff. (also, a lot of conventions don't learn from others and slowly, painfully evolve their badging. and the people designing these badges often never had to actually use the damn things)

> unless you print the same thing on both sides (and you shouldn’t)

Yes you should.

> Of course you can just print the same thing on both sides, but why not use the backside for something useful like a map of the space or basic agenda information?

Print the same thing (name, affiliation, etc.) on two pieces of paper facing either side, stick them in the plastic sleeve, put additional info between them. It's not that hard.

That is probably the ideal. It probably costs more than most other approaches to badges though.

Most of the (scientific) conferences I've been to already have the paper-in-plastic-sleeve badge kind, and universities are very stingy, so I suspect it's the cheapest possible version. Very often you already have extra info in there, like a slip of paper with your individual Wifi access information. The only extra cost to having this two-sided is printing the name slip twice instead of once, and I that should be negligible. A little extra paper is certainly cheaper than lanyards with two attachment bits for the two attachment point version (that can still flip).

One of the issues with a lot of those plastic sleeves with one lanyard attachment point is that it's relatively easy to tear the plastic with a thin metal clasp.

For pricey conferences that are very strict about replacing lost badges, I do want something that's solid. (which should probably be another badge best practice if you won't readily replace for free.)

You don’t even need to do that: flip the back and print it just below the front. If you want to be fancy, add a line indicating where to fold.

I’m surprised there’s no mention of the convention of using all caps for surnames. Being able to read the letters and your company name and preferred pronoun and favorite subjects and twitter handle is not worth much if I can’t even tell which is your given name.

Hello ... Mr. Brian?

You presumably have your own badge so you know what the convention is for a given show.

So I'm supposed to check my name on my own badge, when meeting someone else, to be able to parse their name correctly? And I should assume that the organizers printed surnames (rather than last names) in the same relative position, despite this being wrong for a lot of people?

We already have a well established international convention on how to write names. Why would anyone create their own?

I went to Collision Conf last year and there was one hyper useful feature on the name badges (which had a great design): "role". All badges had on top "Startup", "Guest", "Investor", and other categories I can't recall. This was really useful, if you are an investor you can talk to startups and the other way round. Startups also had a "beta" and "alpha" subcategory, that represented startup scale. Obviously, many don't like being so easily spotted, but it helped strike a lot of conversations.

As someone who cannot remember names, I've given this topic way too much thought.

> You should be able to read a badge with a quick and non-obvious/non-lingering glance

I'm looking forward to the day in which wearing name badges in your forehead is the accepted rule. There really is no way to look at someone's stomach "discretly".

Adjustable badges would help a bit, until you realise that the people whose name you should already know are often the people who don't bother adjusting their badges to begin with.

QR codes that give recruiters and marketers my email information are bad and should die. I'm looking at you codemotion!

This is a legislation problem, not a conference problem. I've had my badge scanned for a contest at a European conference early last year and the person at the booth pointed out that it's pointless because they'll have to delete all that data when the GDPR is implemented anyway.

I never heard from them again. Nor should I. The GDPR pretty much got rid of data collection without explicitly informed consent and makes it trivial to withdraw at any point.

I'm surprised that this sort of thing hasn't been addressed before. At most big conferences, the exhibitors want to know who you are, where you work and what you do and bigger/more clear the badge is will only help them. Of course, this can make some people feel uncomfortable, but this rarely stops organisers.

I love the interactive nature of the Defcon unofficial hardware badges. https://hackaday.com/2018/08/14/all-the-badges-of-def-con-26...

> If you can learn something via other means, meeting new people becomes the most important part of a conference. But meeting new people at a conference isn’t a given for all of us.

This should have been front and centre. The author's goal at conferences is to meet people - to be able to prowl through a crowd, pick out people who seem interesting, approach them, and be easily able to start a conversation with them.

He has designed a badge to support that - where everyone is required to display a large name and some credentials at all times. He has not designed a badge to support any other use cases. Whether this badge design works for you or your conference will depend on what your use cases are.

Hoo boy--huge badges are the worst (4 x 8??). Fine when you're standing up, I guess, but they turn into such a poky distraction when you sit down for a talk. I'd rather apply the rest of these rules to the 4x3 or 4x4 badges.

"Ditch the QR code" -- cannot agree enough. The two sources of unsolicited email that Gmail doesn't eliminate (at least for me) are political actors and people who scanned my badge at a conference. So far conferences haven't refused me entry for putting a QR code sticker over their QR code which contains an alternative email address but I wish I had the opportunity to give the conference organizers one email address and a second one for embedding on the badge.

Or, as the article suggests, just let me supply an email address when vendors and sponsors ask.

Do you have to supply your real email address to the conference in the first place?

It's not always me signing up for a conference but whoever in HR drew the short straw. Explaining to them why they need to sign me up as someRandomConference@myPersonalDomain.com is like explaining astrophysics to my 3 year old niece.

> Rule 6: DON’T USE ALL CAPS > Because it’s harder to read ALL CAPS at a distance.

Source? I've never heard this before and it's the opposite of what I would guess.

Yeah. Someone ought to tell the US Department of Transportation. (CAPS probably do take more space but the statement that they're harder to read in the distance is definitely not true in the general case.)

Came here wanting to cite a study advocating use of lowercase letters (as I've been told), but a quick search turned up this:


"Our finding that size thresholds for upper-case text were lower than those for lower-case text in Experiment 1 are not surprising, and corroborate the findings of (M. Tinker, 1963) that at great viewing distance (as simulated by small visual size), upper-case text is more legible, even in a font with a relatively large x-height, which might be expected to minimize upper- and lower-case differences. Other fonts, which typically have smaller x-heights, might be expected to show upper-case text to have even greater relative legibility. Contrary to Tinker’s findings, and the conventional wisdom, is the result that upper-case text is more legible in terms of reading speed, for readers with reduced acuity due to visual impairment, and in normally-sighted readers when text is visually small. This result may have practical significance as well; it suggests that, apart from economic considerations of how much space a given sample of text occupies, letter size determines legibility for low vision readers and for those viewing visually small text; and when point size is fixed, upper-case text is simply more legible, albeit less aesthetically appealing, than lower-case."

> If the badge wearer is a woman, you’re not asking other attendees to stare at her chest which is incredibly uncomfortable for the badge-wearer. Not to mention it's uncomfortable to me as the one staring. Nothing says "I don't know your name (even if I should)" like that half-second glance down to a badge. Or longer, if the badge suffers from usability problems.

Totally agree with a lot of this, especially the part about making it harder for badges to flip. I went to re:Invent this year and if the security drones are going to yell at you to turn your badge over as you're walking through their nonsense gates to nowhere, and they ARE going to yell at you, then the badges shouldn't flip over in the first place.

Why do these badges emphasise the first name so much over the surname? If I'm talking to someone at a conference seeing 'Mary' or something won't help me much. I need to see the surname 'Wollstonecraft' or something in order to be reminded about what they've worked on that I know about and what I wanted to talk to them about.

I've observed this discrepancy between scientific conferences and more industry/community oriented ones. In scientific circles it makes sense not to de-emphasize last names. As you say, last names are how you identify authors whose work you've seen. Emphasizing first names may make more sense in communities where you aren't expected to know exactly who works on what. Compare "ah, you're M. Wollstonecraft, I've read your book" vs. "nice to meet you, Mary, one of the many faceless persons who work on a project named Frankenstein at Huge Company, Inc.".

If I had to come up with a rationale it's that name/company info on badges is designed more for interaction at booths (where first name and company are probably more relevant than last name) rather than catching a familiar name on a badge while wandering around.

After reading TFA my question now is who sells badges that don’t flip around?

They all flip around to some degree. There are badges that have two attachment points that are less likely to flip around. (Or, as others have said, you can print on two sides so it doesn't matter if they flip around.) But I don't know a specific vendor. I imagine their are online suppliers for this sort of thing.

I'd also suggest adding preferred pronouns.

That's explicitly covered in Rule 5.

I think it bears repeating that allowing people to show a preferred pronoun is a great way to keep everybody happy while keeping politics out of the conference. It allows both people who prefer a different pronoun than their name or appearance might suggest, plus the people who want to show their support, for an opportunity to communicate this. But also it lets people people who are offended by this or who simply do not care about the entire debate off the hook.

Stickers are a good way to do this. It rather surprises me the number of conferences (including tech ones) that have mandatory dropdowns with traditional Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/maybe Dr type titles (or M/F). Whatever your personal take, it just seems like an all downside and no upside for conferences to continue doing this.

Of course, some get downright silly. Look at some European conferences (e.g The Economist) and you get about a 25 title dropdown with all sorts of aristocratic titles (Earl, Duke, Your Holiness, etc.)

> Whatever your personal take, it just seems like an all downside and no upside for conferences to continue doing this.

I prefer to be addressed as 'Mr. Lastname,' not as 'Yo, Firstname!'; a mechanism for me to indicate that preference makes sense.

> Of course, some get downright silly.

I don't see how 'His Grace' is any sillier than 'xir.' At the very least, it has many, many years of tradition behind it.

I'll admit, I missed this in my speedier skim of the article. Apologies.

Do you mean "implicitly"? I can't find any mention of pronouns and Rule 5 only seems to propose allowing attendees to add personal interests to the badge.

The idea behind adding pronouns is both to help avoid awkward situations both for people unintentionally appearing rude out of ignorance and people having to point out how they'd like to be referred to.

No, explicitly. Last sentence in first paragraph for rule 5:

> Also it’s nice to allow your attendees the option to add pronouns to their badge.

Sorry. I skimmed that entire section three times and never noticed that sentence.

CTRL-F pronoun:

"Also it’s nice to allow your attendees the option to add pronouns to their badge."

Those Google IO badges are the worst.

Like ok we get it... You're at io... Apparently that's all that matters. No one needs meet other people. They just need to compliment each other on going to io.

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