Judging Talk Proposals for Conferences [en]

[fr] Très difficile d'évaluer la qualité d'une proposition de conférence basé sur un résumé textuel (ce que je suis en train de faire à présent pour la conférence BlogTalk 2009 qui aura lieu à Jeju, en Corée du Sud). Il faudrait que les candidats donnent non seulement un descriptif écrit de leur proposition, mais aussi un court extrait vidéo (2-3 minutes), soit d'une conférence qu'ils ont déjà donnée, soit d'un "pitch" pour le sujet qu'ils proposent.

Just a passing thought, as I’m spending some time reviewing submissions for the upcoming BlogTalk 2009 conference in Jeju, South Korea.

Just as my proposal was reviewed (and rejected) last year, I am now on the other side of the fence, looking at proposal abstracts and trying to determine if they would make good presentations for the conference.

BlogTalk is an interesting conference, because it tries to bridge the academic and practitioner worlds. The submission process resulting from that led to some interesting discussions last year (academics are used to submitting papers all over the place and are paid for that, practitioners on the conference circuit are more used to being asked to come and talk) and as a result the process was modified somewhat for this year. Practitioners and academics alike submit a short abstract of their talk/paper/research, and people like me (the programme committee) review them.

What I am realizing, doing this, is that it is very hard to imagine if the proposals will produce good talks. I mean, I can judge if their content is interesting or not. I don’t know the people sending in the proposals, so I keep going from “ah, this could be really good if the speaker is competent” to “ew, if the speaker isn’t good this could be a nightmare”.

Already in my long-gone university days, I had understood that content is only half of the deal. Take great content but a crap speaker, you’ll lose half your audience (and I’m being nice).

In 2007 and 2008, I gave a fair amount of talks all over the place and organized my own conference. All this time on the “conference circuit” and amongst regular speakers led me to view it as something quite close to the entertainment business.

So, setting up a conference that will be successful means finding engaging speakers who will be able to talk about interesting topics. When I organized Going Solo (clearly a very different type of conference than BlogTalk, of course), I picked speakers I was familiar with and that I had already seen “in action”.

Back to screening proposals for conferences — of course, if you want an open process, you’re not going to know all the speakers. But how about asking candidates, alongside the written abstract, for a 2-3 minute video excerpt of them giving a talk, or pitching their proposal?

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A Few Words About Google Wave [en]

I wanted to write this post yesterday, to keep up with my good resolutions, but time caught up with me and I had to leave my computer to go and enjoy some time on the lake (we finished 13th, and I had a good windy sailing lesson before that — thanks Dad).

So, as for most of you I guess, Google Wave came up on my Twitter radar these last days. I thought I’d take a quick peek, without spending the whole day on it, so I looked at part of the demo video (the first part, where the actual demo is), and read a few articles (CNET, Mashable and ReadWriteWeb — there are tons of others, but I’m on purpose trying not to be exhaustive in my research… fight that perfectionism!)

In one word? Cool.

I remember many years ago, how taking collaborative notes in SubEthaEdit during the BlogTalk conference in Vienna would every now and then drift into us chatting in the document. (By the way: I’m on the Programme Committee for BlogTalk 2009 which will take place in Jeju, South Korea, on September 1-2. Send in your proposals now!)

I also remember, how many years before that, ICQ introduced “real-time chat” (or whatever they called it), where you could actually see people type when you chatted with them.

And I remember the many many days I’ve spent in endless wiki conversations — I think one of the best ways I can describe Google Wave is to say it’s a very accelerated wiki page with bells and a touch of Facebook.

Google Wave is marrying e-mail and IM, and it’s a good thing. It’s recording the process of the conversation, which makes it easier for outsiders to jump in. It has private, it has public, it has text, it has rich media, it has profiles.

People say it’s a bit hard to get at first, and that, in my opinion, is another indication that it is something really new.

I can’t wait to try it. I get all excited when I think of it. These are my totally uninformed first impressions. Over the years, I’ve come to trust those — Google Wave is going to change things.

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