On Tuesday, I attended this workshop and I really enjoyed it a lot. The difference with other workshops? This workshop was by invitation (open to all the particpiants in the ASE PC Board meeting taking place the day after) so no call for papers, no publications of any kinds of proceedings, no restriction on the topics to talk about, no nothing.
For me, the key aspect was the fact that authors were not there to talk about any specific paper. In general, most workshops work by publishing a call for papers and you must submit a paper to the workshop in order to be able to do a presentation in the workshop. Too often, this results in a workshop full of delta papers (i.e. papers that are just a minor improvement wrt previous papers) quickly written to justify the attendance to the workshop. The problem is that, then, during the workshop, authors feel obliged to talk about that specific paper instead of taking the opportunity to have a more open discussion which results in boring and uninteresting presentations.
I’d like to see more workshops going back to their original mission: be a place for discussion and exchange of ideas, instead of becoming mini conferences!