Getting a talk into

We had a programming committee meeting for 2007 on Saturday. Decisions were made. They may be revised based on budget. But the general consensus was that it’s the papers that rejects that makes the best. And here’s the more cuddly than Rusty guide to being among the best.

First a note. We had in the order of 250 proposals for 60 talk slots. (The ratio is a bit better for tutorials, about 2 proposals for every slot available.) We reject most of what we get, and we reject a fair number of things we suspect or know would be perfectly fine talks. It’s a competitive conference.

  1. Software talked about or that is core to your talk must be available under an Open Source licence. This is not negotiable, with a tiny bit of wiggle room for people who are waiting for their employer to sign off on an Open Source release. Only a little wiggle room, mind you.
  2. It is getting towards being a requirement that you are a core member of a project, or of the part of it you’re talking about. You need to have written a fair chunk of the code, initiated the documentation project, done the benchmarks, whatever. Sweated the sweat. Tutorials are a little different: for a tutorial, evidence of ability to convey enough knowledge well is generally important, and depending on your intended audience might trump not being a major developer of the tool in question.
  3. Project maturity is not essential, but is desirable. If it hasn’t been merged yet, or you are the only user, it will have to be great to be accepted.
  4. Enormous maturity can be a disadvantage, or at least it is if it leads to the the style of proposal that goes here’s the update on my LCA 2005 talk about [some project]. It’s easier to get accepted if you submit a talk focusing on a particular new feature or development.
  5. Being known as a good enough speaker is a big advantage. Standards here are high, but I feel not crazy. You can be accepted without being an amazing speaker. It is, however, essential to convince the review committee somehow that you have had and can convey 45 minutes worth of thoughts about your subject and that people will want to hear it. Being known as a good speaker from other conferences or events is excellent, and a high quality abstract can be convincing in some cases too.
  6. Insane coolness is another huge advantage. In particular, people who’ve built things they can hold in their hands, put their arms around or have a sword fight with, tend to get their papers accepted. Most proposals do not fall into this category, those that do have a high acceptance rate.
  7. Not submitting a kernel talk helps your chances of acceptance. This one is interesting. The problem is that we get a huge number of very good kernel proposals. accepts a fair number of kernel talks, but is not a kernel conference and doesn’t intend to become one. So to get a proposal accepted into this stream, you must not only be good, but be very very good.
  8. Not submitting a general commentary on your experiences in the Open Source world also helps your chances of acceptance. Again, we accept some of these, but almost everyone has opinions on how to run an Open Source project, and they submit a variety of them. We need some special reason to believe you have something to say that the audience can’t easily think up for themselves or read about.
  9. Having some relevance to a primarily Australian audience is useful. This is really only meaningful for the above mentioned commentaries, for things like kernels it doesn’t matter, and if it’s hella cool, it also doesn’t matter.

For comprehensive information about submission statistics and a list of all the program committee’s blog entries, see John Ferlito’s entry.

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Getting a talk into by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.