Saturday, August 6, 2016

360|AnDev: CFP process

One of the reasons why I decided to run 360|AnDev is that I want a inclusive place for Android developers to learn from each other. Inclusivity has many dimensions: identities, financial status, level of experience, to name a few. We want everyone to feel welcome, and we know that the speakers will set a tone for the whole conference, so we were very careful in our CFP process.

Core track

I know from experience that conferences are great to forge connections that help you in your career, but a lot of beginners fear that they do not have enough background to participate. To address that, we dedicated one room one day to cover fundamental topics, to let beginners know that there is something for them.

The rest of the conference has more advanced topics so that we take of experienced developers as well.

Clear, specific guideline

When I reach out and ask people to speak, they often ask, why would anyone listen to me, and what would I talk about? We address those two questions specifically on the Call For Papers page.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be an expert to teach. In fact, for fundamental classes it is often best to hear from someone who has just learned it. They know the pain points, and highlight details which may seem obvious to experts.

After that, we offer some topics to get people started. It is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a flavor of what we are looking for, which is much more useful than, "Everything is good, just submit!"

Cover travel cost

We want everyone to be able to come and speak, regardless of their financial situation. It costs quite a bit extra to cover 2 nights of hotel plus flight for each speaker, but we care about inclusivity enough to do so. This way, people don't shy away from submitting because they are between jobs, they work for themselves, their companies have murky policies about conference reimbursements etc.

Q&A hangout

Even with a detailed CFP page, we know we cannot anticipate all the questions. We hosted a Q&A hangout for potential speakers to chat with us directly. Yes, we answered questions, but the most powerful part about the hangout is to put a human face behind the conference, to have a chance to tell everyone that, yes, we want you. We have a few talks that resulted directly from the hangout.

Anonymous voting

With all that effort, we hope to have a variety of talk proposals from speakers with different background. Next step is to make sure that the selection process preserves that, rather than just pick out the famous people.

Our talk selection has two rounds. In the first round, we removed all personally identifiable information from titles and abstracts, and send them out to members of the Android community for voting. Here is the voting guideline:

  • 5: OMG I'll drop everything to see this talk (Please do not give this score to more than 20 talks).
  • 4: I'd like to see this talk.
  • 3: Neutral. I'll probably see this talk, but skip if there is another talk at the same time.
  • 2: I'd rather be in the hallway than see this talk.
  • 1: Offensive/Too commercial/Inappropriate.
  • 0: Abstain.

In the second round, Dave and I look at proposals from each track, from the highest-scoring one down. For the most part we just take the ones ranked highest by the voters, but sometimes there are multiple proposals on the same topic, and their scores are too close to use as a differentiator.

In that case, we compare the titles and abstracts to see what will be covered. We also look into the speaker to try to get a sense of how well the material will be delivered. This is why this round is no longer anonymous.

Final program

While there are still many ways to improve, we are very proud of what we managed to achieve for the first year of our conference. Here is our final speaker roster:

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