Recently many conferences have begun experimenting with their CFP process. Last year, we had a fairly standard, closed CFP process. We will have a closed process again this year, adopted from JSConf EU. The details of our CFP process can be found here. This post explains our goals and takes a look at some other processes.
Our Goal: A diverse conference
While "diverse" may be en vogue at the moment, the focus is not always clearly expressed. Diversity comes in many forms, so I'd like to define our way of thinking about it. We'd like to have a selection process that:
- is not biased by gender, race or nationality
- attracts new and seasoned Rubyists alike
- encourages unusual topics and "ready-to-use" talks alike
- encourages unusual talk formats
- encourages people that would otherwise not submit
We are aware that this is idealistic, but we strive to create a fair process that respects the plurality of our community.
Nevertheless eurucamp is a curated conference and building a coherent and useful body of talks is the main concern of the conference.
What our CFP process looks like
Our CFP process is modeled after the JSConf EU process and is similar to the one that we (silently) ran last year. It is s a two-step process: it consists of an anonymous phase, in which all proposals are rated without speaker information. In a second phase, we de-anonymize the proposals and rate them again. After that, we try to fit them into a coherent program. This might mean that good proposals will be thrown out because they do not fit this years program.
No process is unbiased, but we feel that the JSConf process shifts bias towards a good program above all.
This leaves one problem unsolved: we cannot rate unsubmitted talks. This is why we have to employ methods of encouragement: speaker coaching and resources. Once again this is adopted from JSConf EU. We provide an open ear for those who want to submit but are not sure of whether they can pull a talk together. Along with that, after the CFP closes we will provide slidedecks for those who feel they need some extra support building a presentation.
Ruled-out CFP styles
CFP via pull requests have become rather popular lately. We are very outspoken against them. We believe that this form of CFP (or any form of public voting) disencourages speakers who are might be unsure of their abilities and biases towards seasoned speakers or popular community members. While this group shouldn't be left out, they will likely submit anyways.
Another move we see lately is to have a CFP for a very limited number of slots, with all other slots filled by invited speakers. The extreme form is no CFP at all (sometimes called "cherry-picking"). We think that the promised value of this attempts - a more controlled talk list of seasoned veterans - is a treacherous one: it completely eliminates surprises, as all speakers are usually well known.