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Archive for the ‘Conference’ Category

Program Committee’s Expectation from a Talk Proposal when Selecting It

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Over the recent conferences, I’ve had several people ask me the follow:

I would like to better understand the expectations from the organising committee on the talk proposals. In particular, I would like your feedback on my talk submission so that I can work on improving the same.

I think, this is a very valid question:

What is the selection criteria for the talks?

I’ve been organising conferences for a decade now and following is my perspective:

In terms of the overarching themes or values, we look at the following during selection:

  • Diversity  – As a conference, we want to be more inclusive (different approaches, different programming languages, gender, countries, back-ground etc.)
  • Balance – We want to strike a good balance between different types of presentations (expert talks, experience reports, tutorials, workshops, etc.) and different types of experience the speakers bring to the conference.
  • Equality – We encourage more students and women speakers. We won’t select a stupid proposal just because it came from a student or a female speaker. But given we have to pick 1 out of 2 equal proposal, we’ll pick the one, which was proposed by a student or a female speaker.
  • Practicality – People come to a conference to learn, network, have an experience and leave motivated. Proposals which directly help this are always preferred. While a little bit of theory is good, but if the proposal lacks practical application, it does not really help the participants. Also people learn more by doing rather than listening. If proposals has an element of “learn by doing” it wins over other proposals. Take people on a learning journey.
  • Opportunity – While we want to ensure the conference has at least 2/3 rock solid speakers, we also want to give an opportunity to new speakers, who have real potential
  • Originality – Original ideas wins hands-on from copied one. People always prefer listing to an idea from its creator rather than second or third person. However, you might have taken an idea and tweaked it in your context. You would have gained an insight by doing so. And certainly all of us want to hear your first-hand experience, even though you were not the creator of the original idea. We are looking for Thought-Leadership.
  • Radical Ideas – We really respect people, who want to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo. We have a soft-corner for unconventional ideas and will try our best to support them and bring awareness to their work.
  • DemandVotes on a proposal and buzz on social media gives us an idea of how many people are really interested in the topic. (We fully understand votes can be gamed, but we’ve a system that can eliminate some bogus votes and use different types of patterns to give us a decent sense of the real demand.)

Once the proposal fits into our value system, here are some basic/obvious stuff we expect when we look at the proposal in the submission system:

  • Is the Title matching the Abstract?
  • Under the Outline/Structure of the Session, will the time break-up for each sub-topic will do justice to the topic?
  • Is there a logical sequencing/progression of the topics?
  • Has the speaker selected the right session type and duration for the topic? For Ex: 60 mins talk might be very boring.
  • Has the speaker selected the best matching Theme/Topic/Category for the proposal?
  • Is the Target Audience specific and correct? Also does it match with the Session Level?
  • Is the Learning Outcome clearly articulated? Ideally 3-5 points, one of each line.
  • Based on the Outline/Structure, will the speaker be able to achieve the Learning Outcomes?
  • Based on the presentation link, does the speaker have good quality content and good way to present it?
  • Based on the video link, does the speaker have a good presentation (edutainment) skills? Will the speaker be able to hold the attention of a large audience?
  • Based on the additional links, does the speaker have subject matter expertise and thought leadership on the proposed topic?
  • Are the Labels/Tags meaningful?

Proposal stands the best chance to be selected, if it’s unique, fully flushed, ready-to-go. Speaker please ensure to provide links to your:

  • previous conference or user group presentations
  • open source project contributions
  • slides & videos of (present/past) presentations (other conferences or local user group or in-office)
  • blog posts or articles on this topic
  • and so on…

When selecting a proposal, we pay attention not only to the quality of the proposal, but also quality of the speaker, .i.e. whether the speaker will be able to effectively present/share their knowledge with others. Hence past speaking experience (videos & slides) are extremely important. If you don’t have a video from past conference presentation, that’s fine. Try to setup google hangout in one of your upcoming local user group meeting or internal office meeting, where you are presenting and share that link. This will give the committee a feel for your presentation skills and subject matter expertise.

While this might look very demanding, it is extremely important to ensure we put together a program which is top-notch.

Selenium Conference 2014 Proposal Data Visualisation

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Selenium Conf 2014 Registration Data (as of Aug 15th)

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Important Conference Updates [SeConf, FunctionalConf, AgilePune, AgileDC…]

Monday, July 28th, 2014

A quick update on upcoming conferences:

  1. Selenium Conf 2014 – 4th Annual Selenium Conference. Draft program schedule is now available at http://seleniumconf.org/#program. Also you’ll notice that the registration for the 4-pre-conference workshops are also open now. We’ve limited seats, grab them now at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/selenium-conf-2014
  2. Functional Conf 2014 – 1st Functional Programming Conference in India. Draft program schedule is now available at http://functionalconf.com/#program. Last few smart registration seats are left. Grab them at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/functional-conf-2014
  3. Agile Pune 2014 – July 31st is the last day to submit your proposal for the conference. We have already received 27 proposal. You can view them at http://confengine.com/agile-pune-2014.  Also last few seats are left for the Early-Bird registration. Book your seats at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-pune-2014
  4. Agile DC 2014 is accepting proposal till Aug 15th. So far, we have 33 great proposals submitted. Check them out at http://confengine.com/agiledc

Blast from the past: All the video from Agile India 2014 Conference are now publicly available here: http://confengine.com/agile-india-2014/schedule.

Presenting Agile Pune 2014 Conference – Nov 21st and 22nd at Hyatt Regency, Pune

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

We are delighted to present Linda Rising and Joshua Kerievsky, as our keynote speakers for the upcoming Agile Pune 2014 Conference. The conference will be hosted at Hyatt Regency, Pune on Nov 21st and 22nd.

The Agile Pune 2014 is a volunteer-run, non-profit event organised by the Agile Software Community of India (ASCI). The goal of the conference is to bring together Agile enthusiasts from around the world to share ideas, socialise, and work together on advancing the state of Agile/Lean Software development.

Simplicity, quick feedback cycles, systems thinking, mistake proofing, transformational leadership, building quality in, relentless improvement via inspect and adapt, evolutionary design, cross-functional collaboration, sustainable pace, self-organisation and safe-fail experimentation are some of the core tenants of the Agile and Lean mindset. They help teams embrace uncertainty and make them more change resilient. This conference is dedicated to deep-dive on these topics.

Agile Pune 2014 is a two-day conference, starting on Nov 21st (Friday), where experts and practitioners from around the world will share their experience on topics related to our theme, “Action Precedes Clarity”. The conference will host 3 parallel tracks. We also plan to host pre-conference workshops to help you get world-class training directly from our international experts at affordable rates.

If you are interested in presenting at the Agile Pune 2014 conf, please submit your proposals at http://confengine.com/agile-pune-2014

Super early bird registrations starts today. Register now at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-pune-2014

To know more about the conference, please visit http://pune.agileindia.org

Presenting Functional Conf 2014, Asia’s Premier and First Conference on Functional Programming

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

We are delighted to announce the first Functional Programming conference in Asia. Functional Conf will be hosted in Bangalore, India on Oct 9-11th. This is your golden opportunity to meet the Functional Programming community.

For over 35 years, functional programming has been a hot research topic. However in the last 5 years, driven by the need to build massively concurrent systems and to handle big-data, we’ve experienced a rapid adoption of functional programming concepts by diverse companies, ranging from tech start-ups to financial institutes.

These days, functional programming is at the heart of every, new generation programming technologies. Companies are employing functional programming to enable more effective, robust, and flexible software development. This has given birth to a very vibrant community of functional programmers, who are constantly exploring ways to bring functional programming concepts to the world of enterprise software development.

Functional Conf is designed to bring the growing community of functional programmers together under one roof. At Functional Conf:

  • participants can understand the fundamentals concepts behind functional programming,
  • they can learn how others are using functional programming to solve real world problems,
  • practitioners can meet peers and exchange their experience,
  • experts can share their expertise on practical usage and gotchas in functional programming concepts.

If you are interested in presenting at the Functional Conf, please submit your proposals at http://confengine.com/functional-conf-2014

Registrations have already started. Register now at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/functional-conf-2014

To know more about the conference, please visithttp://functionalconf.com

Presenting SeConf 2014, the official Selenium Conference in Bangalore on Sep 5th and 6th

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

We are delighted to announce that this year we’ll be hosting the 4th annual (official) Selenium Conference in Bangalore, India. This is your golden opportunity to meet the selenium and test automation community in general.

The goal of the conference is to bring together Selenium developers & enthusiasts from around the world to share ideas, socialise, and work together on advancing the present and future success of the project.

If you are interested in presenting at the Selenium Conf, please submit your proposals at http://confengine.com/selenium-conf-2014

Registrations have already started. Register now at http://booking.agilefaqs.com/selenium-conf-2014

To know more about the conference, please visit http://seleniumconf.org

Open Submission System VS. Closed/Blind Selection of Conference Talks

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Recently, we announced the Selenium Conf 2014 to be held in Bangalore India. Based on my past experience running others international conferences for the last 10 years, I put together the following review process:

Interested speakers are requested to submit their proposals directly on our proposal submission system. All proposals will be public. Registered user of the submission system will be able to comment on your proposal. Submitters may also post comments on reviews or public comments of their own proposals to provide clarifications, explain revisions and respond to questions. Comments by public users are information that can be utilised by both the submitter and the review team. Ultimately the decision to accept a session resides with the program team, the program chair, and the conference chair.

Your proposal stands the best chance to be selected, if it’s unique, fully flushed, ready-to-go. Ensure you provide links to:

  • previous conference or user group presentations
  • open source project contributions
  • slides & videos of your (present/past) presentations
  • your blog posts or articles on this topic
  • and so on.

Following is my rationale behind this review process for conferences:

  • Fact: Writing a good proposal is one thing and Presenting on stage is a completely different thing. One could write really good proposal, but might be a poor speaker on stage. The conference attendees don’t care how good the speaker’s proposal was, they care how good was the delivery of the talk. Hence selecting proposals based on their ability to present rather than JUST their proposal becomes extremely important. I understand we want diversity and we want to give new speakers an opportunity. But do we really want a speaker on stage who has never presented anything ever? Hopefully they have presented at a local conference or a local user group or even within their company. If noting, they can do a short 5 mins screencast or video on the talk and upload that video. We want them to contribute to open source projects and write at least a blog or an article about it. My thinking is: what is the harm is asking speakers to provide us this info, so the community and the review team can make a better, more informed decision?
  • Also along with this, using an open submission & review system, has the following advantages:
    • The most important element it brings is the transparency. (Being an open community, I’m sure we all appreciate that element.)
    • It really helps create a buzz for the conference. Which in-turn helps us get really good proposals and opportunity to get sponsorship.
    • When I as a speaker, look at other proposals, I get encouraged to submit a proposal myself.
    • Also in my experience the overall quality of the proposals increase because of the open eco-system and public feedback mechanism.
    • With the help of public voting, the review team gets a good sense of which topics people are most interested. (Public voting can be gamed, but there are ways to limit it. Also we might not pick the exact proposal with the highest votes, but certainly select similar topic.)
  • In the end, if the team still wants to do a blind selection, we can certainly export the proposals into a format they want and give them just the info they need. The approach we take is more open and allows us to achieve both options.

Would love to hear your experience.

Agile India 2014 Conference Video DVD are ready!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Grab 72 hours of HD quality videos from Agile India 2014 Conference burnt on 16 DVDs (62 GB.) Visit http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014#dvd to order the DVD set online to be hand-delivered at your door-step (anywhere in the world.)

Agile India 2014 Recap – My Impressions

Monday, March 10th, 2014

tl;dr: Thank you for making Agile India 2014 (AI14) a grand success.

Slides: Several speakers have already uploaded their slides. They are available via http://present.agileindia.org/schedule/agile-india-2014. Rest will upload their slides in the coming days.

Videos: If you like to get a copy of all the videos from the conference, you can purchase the entire DVD set here: http://booking.agilefaqs.com/agile-india-2014

Feedback: Anyone who attended the conference would have noticed that the conference doesn’t provide any feedback forms. How bizarre is that for an agile conference? Let me tell you something, asking attendees to fill out feedback forms at the conference when there is so much going on is very ineffective. Have you ever wondered why after filling all those feedback forms or taking customer surveys things hardly change?

At Agile India, we take feedback very seriously and hence we believe in talking directly with you. If possible, we try and implement your suggestion right-away instead of waiting till the next conference. I’ve personally collected face-to-face feedback from over 300 attendees. However we were not able to talk to everyone and as a fall back option, we would encourage you to visit http://bit.ly/1nrjpVn and submit your valuable suggestions. The top 3 suggestions, selected by our program committee, will stand a chance to win an iPad mini or a free pass to next year’s conference. However please read the entire email, before you jump off.

Long Version:

As we are wrapping up the last few tasks from AI14, I would like to take a few minutes and share my reflections on conference and the growth of agile community in India since we started in 2004 (10 years ago.)

First of all, thank you for participating in our largest conference ever! We were happy to host 1236 Attendees from 28 different countries. We had attendees playing 342 different roles from 226 different companies: http://blog.agileindia.org/2014/03/04/agile-india-2014-conference-final-attendees-profile/

For 10 years we’ve been running these conferences and every year the community-feeling keeps getting better. This year, finally one could sense the true spirit of large scale community at the conference. It was not a one person show anymore. Also, it was amazing to see how well folks were networking and learning from each other (peer-to-peer learning.)

This year we got tremendous support from a diverse set of companies sponsoring the event. Many people appreciated that the conference was not only supported by Agile tools & consulting companies, but was also supported by companies like JP Morgan and Siemens. This clearly shows that the industry believes in the agile movement and wants to invest in nurturing our budding community. I greatly appreciate the support from our partners.

Another thing the participants really appreciated was, how inclusive the conference program was. In the early days of Agile India, we were very heavily influenced by eXtreme Programming. But over the years, we’ve tried our best to be more inclusive of other methods (Scrum, Kanban, Lean Startup, DSDM, etc.) and frameworks (SAFe, DAD, etc.) We strongly believe that our job is to create an equal platform for everyone, get the best in the industry and let people decide what makes most sense to them, in their context.

As you might know, the entire conference program was put together by a committee of volunteers (http://2014.agileindia.org/organizers/), who are selected via a nomination process. Also anyone is allowed to put in a proposal via our open submission system (http://present.agileindia.org). We got 263 proposals for talk, out of which 64 proposals were selected.

You might not be aware, how much blood and sweat goes into putting together a conference of this scale. Every single person, who helped us with the conference is a volunteer. People who have regular day time jobs, just like you. Our team has spent many sleepless nights starting from June 2013 to Feb 2014 (9 months.) It is a big commitment. I sincerely want to thank every volunteer who made this possible.

We encourage you to participate in this process as well. There are 3 level in which you can participate:

  1. Join the Program committee (chairs, core members and reviewers)
  2. Share your experience by putting in proposals for talks you would like to present at the conference
  3. Give constructive feedback via votes and comments to other proposals, to refine them.

Please follow @agileindia on twitter to get updates. We’ll have a call for all of these (May time-frame.)

Quick note to presenters: If you would like to present at the next year’s conference, start now. Start by presenting inside your company. Then at a local user group. Then at one of the regional conferences. Agile India runs many regional events every year: http://agileindia.org/events Also consider pairing with an experience speaker. There are no shortcuts to presenting at our annual, international conference.

Dave Thomas Keynote:

After signing the Agile Manifesto, this was the first Agile conference in 13 years that Dave Thomas was attending. I think this is special. Many attendees told us that Dave’s keynote was the highlight of the conference. Dave can tell you, how much I pestered him to accept our invite. We always strive to bring you the best.

Paid Workshops:
=============

Unlike last year, this year we got a really good response for the paid workshops. Just the workshops attracted over 300 people and the feedback from the workshops was very promising. The paid workshops not only gives you an opportunity to spend quality time with an expert, but it also helps us to cover some of the speaker expenses and attract more experts to the conference. If you were to attend the same speaker’s training outside the conference, it would cost you at least 3 times more. The conference, massively subsidies the cost for the greater good of the community.

Food:
====

Overall the feedback on quality & taste of the food was very positive. Many attendees commented that they hate hotel food, esp. since it creates a burning sensation after eating. But they were surprised they did not have any such problems. Nor did the food make them sleepy. We know that food is a big part of the conference experience. And hence I had personally tasted and selected the entire menu. So if you did not like something, blame me.

Some tweets from the conference:
==========================

#AgileIndia2014 – an awesome conference and one to consider adding to your must-attend events.

As world conf traveler, I can say #AgileIndia2014 is 1 of world’s top Agile confs;

Leaving #agileindia2014 – what an amazing time! Thanks to @nashjain and everyone else who made it happen 🙂

It’s great to hear “understand the problem you are trying to solve” as a common theme from many #agileindia2014 speakers.

Our team had a wonderful learning experience at #AgileIndia2014. Congratulations for organizing such a brilliant event.

Few other things worth highlighting:
============================

First Registration Slab was sold out in flat 7 mins. This was even before the conference program was available. Trust me, this is unheard of in India. There are at least 200 people who’ve been attending Agile India conferences for more than 3 years and they mostly pay out of their pocket to attend. To encourage such passionate folks, we kept a super-early-bird registration slab. We believe they are a key part of our community.

Experience Reports and Case Studies:
==============================

As you know, this year we’ve focused a lot on getting as many case studies and experience reports at the conference. To further maximize your learning from these sessions, we’ve published all these reports here: http://2014.agileindia.org/program/reports/ These reports will continue to be freely available for anyone interested in learning.

Lightning Talks:
============

Lightning talks were very well received. Many people having great ideas to share. Next year we plan to structure them little better and make them more visible.

Not everything was perfect at the conference, however the attendees did a great job in cooperating with us. It was amazing to see them take ownership of the conference and work patiently with us.

A few unexpected things worth highlighting:
==================================

Different floors: Original plan was to have all the 3 parallel tracks on the same floor, but only 3 days before the conference the hotel told us that the divider in the grand ballroom, which is used to split the grand ballroom into 2 halls is not working. We had to shift one of the tracks to Sigma hall (which was 2 levels above) and move the paid workshops elsewhere. I could see the frustration in people trying to find Sigma hall and move between floors. But hardly anyone complained. They gave us the benefit of doubt. Thank you!

Speaker Dropouts: We had a few speakers (including a keynote speaker) dropout last minute. We tried our best to cover up the slots with something equally interesting. IMHO this is true agility in action.

Cramped Hallways: The hallways were quite cramped esp. during the breaks. We had not expected such a great response from sponsors, when we originally planned the conference. Other than the hallway, we could not find an alternative, central location for the title sponsor stalls. The stalls certainly added to the space constraint in the hallway. But it was also fun to have some ongoing action in the hallway.

Registration process on the first day is always challenging. We had so many last minute changes (attendees swapping names and days) which makes it extremely hard to streamline the process. As far as I’m aware, we embraced it and accommodated all the changes. Our team of volunteers did their best to make it as smooth as possible. Next year we are planning to revamp the whole registration process by using RFIDs and other technology solutions.

Wifi Connection: Internet Wifi connection is still extremely expensive (~ 10 Lakh Rs.) for conferences. So we get it sponsored from Airtel. But there is only so much we can demand when we get something sponsored. Having said that, compared to last year, this year the wifi connection was much better. We had 5 routers and few of them were constantly overloaded. With over 200 people trying to connect to each router, there were moments when new connections could not be established. Whenever we noticed something like this, we tried to reset the route, but all of this took time and I could see some people unhappy about it.

Few things we tried for the first time:

Agile Art!
=======

During all the three evening receptions, the participants created a visual art piece together with the help of Richard Kasperowski and the team from McAfee. This helped the participants to create new connections and build/reinforce the community of Agilists in India and around the world. On the fourth day, we displayed our art, which was a big hit. I saw many people posing in front of the art piece for pictures. Finally, we invited attendees to take pieces of the art as gifts as reminders of our potential to create greatness together.

Book Signing and Book Store
=======================

Every year Agile India attracts top speakers from around the world. Most of these speakers have a track record of writing very influential books. To enable the fan/follower of these authors, we set up a book store at the conference and had book signing events where attendees were able to get a personal autographed book by the authors. Many folks appreciated this initiative. And we plan to make it even stronger next year.

Agile India Webinar Series
=====================

We invited many speakers to the Agile India 2014 Conference. However due to travel constraints or other conflicts, they were not able to make it. However few of them agreed to do an exclusive webinar (Google Hangout) with us. The recordings of their webinar is available at: http://2014.agileindia.org/program/webinars/

Agile India Job Fair
===============

Agile India was happy to host the world’s first job fair dedicated for hiring Agile practitioners. The goal of the Agile Job Fair was to create a platform dedicated for the Agile practitioners to meet their potential Agile employers and for companies to find Agile practitioners to enable their journey to Agile adoption and excellence. We had over 200 people who applied to participate in the job fair. Also we had a total of 6 companies who participated as employers. On the day of the event, we had only 40 odd people show up. This was disappointing. However the 40+ who showed up, really appreciated the initiative. Next year we plan to host the job fair, during the conference itself.

P.S: Every week, I get at least 10 emails from people asking me about Agile India membership. I don’t get it! Why do you want to give me your hard-earned money for no good reasons? The current membership program has no real benefits and hence we’ve closed it. I’m currently working on a new membership model for Agile India, which will provide real membership benefits. At that point you can justify spending money on membership. If you have ideas on how we should structure the membership program, please drop me a note. Good ideas win free membership. Stay tuned for more…

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