Jürgen Egeling, Søren Schaffstein and me just finished the paper selection for this year's T3CON in Frankfurt/Germany. Time to look at the process so far and how we can improve it in the future.
Since the first TYPO3 conference in 2005 we invite the community to submit papers for our yearly conference. Personally I am not so much involved in the organization of the conference itself but rather in selecting from the various topics proposed by prospective speakers. Today T3CON is a grown up conference organized only by unpaid volunteers, a fact which amazes me every year again. And after having organized a bunch of conferences, the team around Jürgen has gained quite some experience with handling the nitty gritty details for making such an event reality.
But how does the current paper selection process work? How do you get your 45 minutes of fame during the biggest TYPO3 community event?
As you probably know, we have a new website each year which allows authors to submit paper proposals. These are managed by a TYPO3 extension which also takes care of the registration of all visitors and other people involved in the conference. After the deadline of the call for papers ends, we invite the community to become a member of the paper selection committee - which this year consisted of 16 individuals. The job of everyone in this team is to carefully read all abstracts and vote for it by marking each proposal with "not interesting this year", "maybe interesting" or "definately interesting".
After the committee members have cast their votes, the organization team of the conference meets up and discusses the most interesting proposals again and figure out the number of 45-minute-slots which are available. The result is a prioritized list of papers which then need to be categorized (this year we have "Orientation", "Business", "TYPO3" and "FLOW3") and assigned to the different slots. As soon as the papers fit nicely into the conference's concept we send out emails to the paper authors to tell them if we could fit their proposal in this year's program.
During the last months Jürgen, Søren and I (and surely more people I met) discussed new ideas for the organization of the conference, the paper selection process and the website. I'd like to share a few of my thoughts and invite you to give your comments and own ideas.
One thing we'd like to do for next year's conference is creating a new application which handles the organizational part and the website (in fact I have already started earlier this year to program such an app - based on FLOW3 - but didn't match our deadline due to the various other activities in TYPO3 Phoenix land). The conference app will give visitors and speakers a much smoother experience while interacting with the conference site and allows us to integration a bunch of new features. For T3CON11 we would give everybody (especially all visitors of course) the chance to vote on papers right after they have been submitted. And not only that – they should also be able to comment on the proposals and give advice on how the talk could be made even more interesting. By that mechanism, paper authors have the chance to upload new versions of their abstracts before the final selection process starts.
For each track we imagine to have "track program managers" who have an eye on the quality and fitness of the proposed papers for their respective track. They will take the final decision on what talk and tutorial can be accepted. During the selection process the track managers will communicate with the paper authors by writing short comments - something like "Your abstract is currently too short to give an exact idea of what you plan to address. Please tell more about topic X.", or "Could you make this talk more highlevel so that it's better suited for business people?". I'd also love to see the ability to add a comment to the emails sent to the authors to give them a little hint why their proposal was accepted or rejected.
Feedback is very important. Therefore we would like to extend the possibilities for the audience to give feedback to the speakers. We will (probably) start using joind.in this year and would like to integration such a feature into next year's T3CON site. Speakers should also get a chance to see how the audience rated their talks for the best paper award.
I see many more opportunities for improvement of the conference website – what's your take?