Monday Jun 27, 2011

JavaOne 2011: Content review process and Tips for submissions

The Technical Sessions, Birds of Feather, Panels, and Hands-on labs (basically all the content delivered at JavaOne) forms the backbone of the conference. At this year's JavaOne conference you'll have access to the rock star speakers, the ability to engage with luminaries in the hallways, and have beer (or 2) with community peers in designated areas.

Even though the conference is Oct 2-6, 2011, and will be bigger and better than last year's conference, the Call for Paper submission and review/selection evaluation started much earlier.In previous years, I've participated in the review process and this year I was honored to serve as co-lead for the "Enterprise Service Architecture and Cloud" track with Ludovic Champenois. We had a stellar review team with an equal mix of Oracle and external community reviewers. The review process is very overwhelming with the reviewers going through multiple voting iterations on each submission in order to ensure that the selected content is the BEST of the submitted lot. Our ultimate goal was to ensure that the content best represented the track, and most importantly would draw interest and excitement from attendees.

As always, the number and quality of submissions were just superb, making for a truly challenging (and rewarding) experience for the reviewers. As co-lead I tried to ensure that I applied a fair and balanced process in the evaluation of content in my track. . Here are some key steps followed by all track leads:
  1. Vote on sessions - Each reviewer is required to vote on the sessions on a scale of 1-5 - and also provide a justifying comment.
  2. Create buckets - Divide the submissions into different buckets to ensure a fair representation of different topics within a track. This ensures that if a particular bucket got higher votes then the track is not exclusively skewed towards it.
  3. Top 7 - The review committee provides a list of the top 7 talks that can be used in the promotional material by the JavaOne team. Generally these talks are easy to identify and a consensus is reached upon them fairly quickly.
  4. First cut - Each track is allocated a total number of sessions (including panels), BoFs, and Hands-on labs that can be approved. The track leads then start creating the first cut of the approvals using the casted votes coupled with their prior experience in the subject matter. In our case, Ludo and I have been attending/speaking at JavaOne (and other popular Java-focused conferences) for double digit years.
  5. The Grind - The first cut is then refined and refined and refined using multiple selection criteria such as sorting on the bucket, speaker quality, topic popularity, cumulative vote total, and individual vote scale. The sessions that don't make the cut are reviewed again as well to ensure if they need to replace one of the selected one as a potential alternate.
I would like to thank the entire Java community for all the submissions and many thanks to the reviewers who spent countless hours reading each abstract, voting on them, and helping us refine the list. I think approximately 3-4 hours cumulative were spent on each submission to reach an evaluation, specifically the border line cases. We gave our recommendations to the JavaOne Program Committee Chairperson (Sharat Chander) and accept/decline notifications should show up in submitter inboxes in the next few weeks. Here are some points to keep in mind when submitting a session to JavaOne next time:
  1. JavaOne is a technology-focused conference so any product, marketing or seemingly marketish talk are put at the bottom of the list.Oracle Open World and Oracle Develop are better options for submitting product specific talks.
  2. Make your title catchy. Remember the attendees are more likely to read the abstract if they like the title.
  3. We try our best to recategorize the talk to a different track if it needs to but please ensure that you are filing in the right track to have all the right eyeballs looking at it. Also, it does not hurt marking an alternate track if your talk meets the criteria.
  4. Make sure to coordinate within your team before the submission - multiple sessions from the same team or company does not ensure that the best speaker is picked. In such case we rely upon your "google presence" and/or review committee's prior knowledge of the speaker.
  5. The reviewers may not know you or your product at all and you get 750 characters to pitch your idea. Make sure to use all of them, to the last 750th character.
  6. Make sure to read your abstract multiple times to ensure that you are giving all the relevant information ? Think through your presentation and see if you are leaving out any important aspects.Also look if the abstract has any redundant information that will not required by the reviewers.
  7. There are additional sections that allow you to share information about the speaker and the presentation summary. Use them to blow the horn about yourself and any other relevant details. Please don't say "call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to find out the details" :-)
The review committee enjoyed reviewing the submissions and we certainly hope you'll have a great time attending them.

Happy JavaOne!

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.

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