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Getting You Up to Speed

As the deadline draws near for proposals to this year's Alfresco Summit, I am getting a lot of questions about how exactly the presentations are evaluated. This is my attempt to write such a comprehensive blog post that you don't have any questions remaining.

This is our first conference to include the entire Alfresco community. I am looking forward to mixing with professionals of diverse backgrounds as we discuss Alfresco. The theme this year is "Put Your Content To Work", which we hope keeps us focused on the end goal of making our business content more accessible and useful to our organizations. We want Alfresco Summit to be a key enabler for success for anyone doing anything with Alfresco, so in order to cover all of the topics we added two extra rooms for break-out sessions and an extra day.

Though we are excited about the presentations that have already been submitted, this expanded conference has room for more presentations. The submission survey should have all the information you need to complete a good proposal, and this list of topics should spark some ideas. I also explain the submission process at the Alfresco Blog.

Alfresco Summit is an expansion of our previous annual developer conferences that we called DevCons. You can get an idea of how the conference runs, as well as get ideas for technical presentations, by reviewing last year's DevCon (including video for most sessions), or reviewing the presentation decks from previous years. Also, many of the technical presentations could be adapted for non-technical audiences pretty easily. Another good place for presentation ideas is the annual AIIM conference.

Alfresco Summit is a great place for you to educate others on the craft of content management and establish your reputation as an expert.

The rest of this post attempts to answer questions that might remain after reviewing all of those sources.

Lightning Talks

A lightning talk is a strictly short presentation. We expect to have eight presentations that are exactly five minutes long in each session of lightning talks. The short presentations allow the session attendees to hear about a lot of topics in a single session. Last year we had two sessions in each city, and you can watch them (Berlin 1, Berlin 2, San Jose 1, San Jose 2) to get a feel for what is involved.

Our plan for lightning talks hasn't changed since last year. If you have questions about Lightning Talks beyond the explanation given in the submission survey, then you should read that blog post and watch the YouTube video embedded in it. Last year we made the Ignite format optional, but most presenters chose to use it anyway. The Ignite format enforces auto-advancing slides, which is hard for the presenter but means that the audience will get to see each presentation all the way through. Feedback from last year was that the audience preferred Ignite format presentations. Though we strongly encourage Ignite style lightning talks, we will continue to keep it optional this year.

If you have an idea for a proposal, but don't think it will take a full session, then you should propose it as one or more lightning talks.

Submission Review Process

Our process for reviewing submissions is not very formal. It roughly follows these steps:

  1. We use the information you provide in the proposal to decide whether the submission will best fit in the DevCon-style technical track, or the new track targeted at business management and content professionals. These will be evaluated by different committees.
  2. We look at the submitted topics in more detail to group it with other related proposals.
  3. We compare the submissions against the list of topics we want to cover in order to make sure we have the most essential topics covered. You can see the list of topics here.
  4. Now we look at the quality of each submission and decide which are best for a given topic. We start sending out acceptance and elimination notices.
  5. Finally we look at scheduling in order to verify that we can put topics together without immediate conflicts. For example, we want to make it possible for a records manager to attend all the records management sessions. We might schedule a repeat session to manage a conflict, but some are unavoidable. It seems that every conference we find an unintentional conflict, but we do the best we can.
  6. If there are holes in our coverage, we will recruit someone to present on a topic. Sometimes we work with a presenter to adapt the presentation to the needs of the conference, pair presenters with similar topics, or provide other guidance. Frequently presenters evolve their presentations as they prepare and we work with them through that process.
  7. We repeat steps four through six until we have finalized the schedule.

Some of the questions we ask in step four include:

  • Does the presenter seem qualified to present on this topic?
  • What evidence do we have that the presenter is an engaging and effective presenter?
  • Does the presentation sound like a sales pitch, or will it share information that can be immediately applied?
  • Should we get additional clarification from the presenter before making a decision?

This is our first year having two teams review submissions. We divide the submissions in order to spread the work load and to make sure that there will be a choice of a few technical and non-technical sessions during each break-out.

DevCon or Business Track?

This year we have added additional topics that some refer to as "the business track". We group these topics together to make sure that the  first two days of the conference have a couple of presentations that will appeal to non-developers available in each break-out session. Not all attendees to these sessions will consider themselves "business people". We expect that these additional breakout sessions will include lots of non-developer topics ranging from industry analysis to library science to project management. If we get a submission for great content-centric UI design, I would be very excited!

We see the proposals as a spectrum of topics rather than rigid tracks. We expect that some developers will benefit from the business and information management track in order to deepen their understanding of the industry and knowledge domain of content management. We also hope that some non-developers will attend the technical sessions to learn about the possibilities enabled by Alfresco and get a sense for the skills necessary to get things done. We expect that a developer presentation will rate three or more on a five-point scale, and a presentation targeted at business management and content professionals will rate a one or a two.

You can submit more than one proposal. Most of the schedule is reserved for developer-oriented presentations, so that is where you have the highest chance of being accepted. You can share a single topic with broad appeal, or a couple presentations targeted at specific audiences and skill levels. It might make sense to submit both a business-oriented proposal and a developer-oriented proposal on the same topic.

Get Your Proposal Submitted

If you have still have questions or if you have suggestions about the submission process, leave a comment or email me.

We are accepting submissions until June 15, which is just two weeks away. I am excited to read your submission.

Submit your talk!


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  1. Richard Esplin

    Richard Esplin on #

    I have been asked what speakers will receive for participating.

    Full session speakers will receive a free pass to the conference. Presenters of lightning talks will not receive a free pass unless they are also giving a full session. Presenters of partial sessions, or participants in panels will probably not receive free passes.

    However, presenting is a great way to give back to the community, demonstrate your expertise, and receive feedback on your implementation. We hope you will participate.

  2. Richard Esplin

    Richard Esplin on #

    As I have been reviewing proposals, I have formulated these questions to help guide my thinking:
    * Who is presenting? We favor presentations given by the users of the system, not the implementors (though the implementor might be involved in the presentation).
    * Is the project in production? Knowing that the project is useful in the real world makes it a lot more compelling.
    * What is unique about the project? Has someone else recently presented on a closely related topic? We favor fresh content.
    * What is the take-away? Can attendees apply the knowledge they gain without a sales process? Teaching about an open source or free tool would pass this test, and in some cases an integration with a product that most attendees already have can pass (SalesForce, AWS, Microsoft Office, Oracle, SAP).
    * What makes the presenter uniquely qualified? If other people can do an equally good job, it makes it hard for me to explain accepting the presentation.

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