NOTE: The Call for Speakers will be open through August 31, 2016 at 11:51 pm Eastern Time. You can submit talks through our submission tool, found at https://speakers.codemash.org/.
The content team recently mastered the art of yodeling, which took place on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro during the annual Safari. All of this in preparation for the Call for Speakers! After much debate, and the minor incident with the Pygmy elephants (apparently, they really ARE afraid of mice), we decided to post the speaker announcement. So here we are: we’re officially opening the Call for Speakers!
The submission window will be open from 8/15/2016 and close on 8/31/2016, at 11:51 pm Eastern Time zone. Speaker selection will be announced at the end of September, just before tickets go on sale.
We have thousands of submissions every year, and a small army is employed to review the submissions (not including the Lemurs). The army sometimes gets hungry, in which case we throw them strips of bacon. If things aren’t done just right, the Lemurs come out and smack us silly- they make us follow the rules. In fact, this is why Kalahari has a beverage named the “Jittery Monkey”. You should check it out sometime.
We break submissions into ‘tracks’, which are just collections of submissions with similar topics. This year we are reinforcing the polyglot spirit of CodeMash and have adjusted the tracks to be generally topic-focused rather than specific to any given technology. For example, all of the hardware talks, or all of the software process talks. Each track is co-owned by a couple of track owner (hence the name, clever, huh?). Those folks are given a time slot budget to fill with the best talks they can find. We try to bring in the best regional speakers we can (hey, we have great talent in our backyards), and mix in some national/international talent. We also try to mix well known, experienced CodeMash speakers with some unknowns. We want to keep the field fresh that way. The Lemurs appreciate this.
The track owners will submit their findings to the Content Commandos (Rob and Chris). They will evaluate the selections, verify we have a well-balanced and exciting set of content for our attendees. Then they will start to notify speakers if they have been selected or not.
Expectations and Limits
For CodeMash 2017, the maximum number of general session talks (Thursday and Friday) is 195. This does not include sponsor sessions or After Dark sessions. For the pre-compilers (Tuesday and Wednesday), we have limited it to a total of 10 concurrent sessions, or 40 total sessions. We are doing this in recognition of the fact that precompilers take an extraordinary amount of time to prepare and we want to avoid having sessions where only a few can attend due to competing content. As always, we know that we will get far more talks submitted than we have room for. Last year we received over 1,100 abstract submissions which left us with an acceptance rate of around 18%. Believe us when we say it is incredibly hard to select sessions when so many great ones are submitted. We truly are grateful for all of the time it takes a speaker to submit a quality abstract.
A Comment on Diversity
Content Categories (tracks)
During the submission of each session, you will need to select one “category” into which your session most appropriately fits. You will, as in years past, be able to “tag” it with various technology-specific categories as you would like, though we would advise that selecting all of them hurts more than it helps. The following is the list of categories for this year and a general description of each. Please note that if you don’t see one that exactly fits your topic, choose the one that is closest and provide an explanation or concern in the “notes for the reviewer” section of the submission. As you consider your submissions, you might consider the results of our content interest survey.
Programming Principles – A return to the basics. Topics on Object Oriented programming, Procedural, Functional, etc. How to do it right, rather than just do it. Good for both new programmers and seasoned professionals alike.
Security – Ways to help ensure your application doesn’t end up on the front page of CNN with the sub-title “46 million passwords leaked” and related topics.
Design (UI/UX) – How to make your great, amazing, best-in-the-world piece of software actually usable by real humans. Not just “make it pretty”, but functionally appropriate design.
Hardware – The place for low-level tinkering. For those of you fortunate enough to work at this level, more tools and better approaches to hardware applications. For the rest of us, an opportunity to affect atoms with bits.
Project Leadership/Soft Skills – Beyond bits, there are people (or so we’ve been told). We’ve all known that person who was amazing behind the keyboard but had the personality of a Brillo pad. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you are leading a team of those people. How do you help your team cross the finish line without them hating you and everyone around you.
Data (big/small/otherwise) – Every application needs/uses/generates data. Some use a lot; some use a little. All need to be intelligent about how they do it.
Software Quality – Beyond (but still including) testing… What can you do to ensure that your application works, the way it is supposed to, all the time. Without, of course, costing as much as the GDP of some small nation.
Enterprise/Large-Shop Development – For those folks who make the world go ’round. The world is rarely “green field”, especially in the enterprise. Some technology stacks/approaches apply better in large shops than small. Others, that work well for the single dev, fall over in large dev environments. How do you make your code play well with others?
Architecture – Box arrow box arrow cylinder. The Art of designing your application’s inner workings. How to plan for scale, how to not over-engineer your 1-user-per-day website. Where does iterative design fit?
DevOps – how to avoid the “it works on my machine!” syndrome. Thinking about deployment and support from day one.
Mobile – Thinking about your application in the context of smaller screen devices. Making the most of the platforms available… not just making you software available on mobile devices because you can, but doing so in such a way that convinces folks that you should.
Each credentialed pre-compiler or general session speaker will receive the following benefits in thanks for their time, effort, and expertise at CodeMash. Please be aware that while we allow you to have anyone help you in your session that you would like, we can recognize/bestow benefits on only one speaker per accepted session. Some precompiler sessions can have secondary speakers – if you are submitting a precompiler session that requires a secondary speaker, you must provide an explanation in the “Notes for the reviewer section”. Thank you for making CodeMash great.
- A hotel room reservation, on campus, at the Kalahari. Will likely be at least one mile from the conference center, bring good shoes. No fighting with the Mongol Horde to get a room on campus. These reservations will be made for you after speaker selections have been made. You will have the opportunity, at your expense, to upgrade the room depending on availability. If you choose to do this, you will be responsible for any cost increase.
- A four-day pass to CodeMash. See Horde comment above.
- During speaker registration, which is how you commit to speaking at CodeMash once you are selected, you will be able to pick a special speaker gift. They are all roughly the same value. Gifts from last year include a nice speaker shirt, a food basket, an Arduino kit, a giant USB battery for your phone, and many more.
- All attendee benefits as well. I guess speakers inherit from the attendee base class. (this includes the famous, and usually really needed, CodeMash HoodieTM).
- Unlimited access to a secret speaker bunker, loaded with snacks, drinks, and jet fuel. Red Bull may replace jet fuel based on market prices. This room also includes a large table with comfy chairs so you can get work done.
- Drink tickets for the Speaker Reception. And there’s food there too, prepared by the Lemurs.
- PRECOMPILERS ONLY: In recognition of the amount of time and effort that is required to deliver a successful precompiler session, we are offering a $250 honorarium per 4-hour workshop. This is available only to the primary speaker.
How to write a good submission
We get a LOT of submissions. They are almost all good, but we still have to sift through to find the cream of the crop, the best cuts of bacon, etc. Here are some things that we are looking for. They are numbered in order of importance.
- Make your title and abstract sizzle. Really sell the talk.
- Unique and unusual is always good.
- Session content should fill the entire time-slot assigned, with 5-10 minutes remaining for Q&A.
- Use present tense in the abstract. Do not use first person (I, our, we).
- Do not include proprietary or confidential information.
- Submitter should secure necessary permissions before submitting.
- If you are selected, we will use your Gravatar as your headshot. Please take time to ensure you have an image associated with your email address at https://gravatar.com. The more entertaining the better. No photos taken with a potato please.
- The speaker’s bio and sessions abstracts will be printed on dead trees, the website, and many mobile apps. It could potentially be written by a giant flock of seagulls in the sky.
- Submit more than one talk. Each speaker costs the conference and organizing committee a certain amount of time, energy, and funds. As such, when possible, we lean towards a single speaker who can deliver two awesome sessions than two speakers who can each only deliver one session each. This doesn’t mean we won’t have single-session speakers, it just helps.
- Avoid submitting 200 talks. This is the converse to the previous point. If you simply submit every topic/submission you’ve considered delivering over the past 43 years of your life, the committee has very little idea what you are truly passionate about. We would much rather have you submit 2 or 3 talks that you really care about.
- No product pitches. If you want that, become a sponsor, and pick a sponsored session slot. Then pitch all you want.
- Avoid vendor-technology-specific talks. “An Introduction to Windows Azure Queues” will likely not get selected, regardless of how stellar the talk is. Something more along the lines of “Using Durable Messaging to make your application composable, reliable, and scalable” that then utilizes Azure Queues with comments about the similarity or not to Amazon SQS and RabbitMQ is a much better talk and will be applicable to a broader audience. The key here is to think less about the specific technology and more about the problem or concept that the technology is designed to address. Then, talk to the solution and use relevant technology-specific examples.
- The broader the audience, the better. A talk on C# is limited to just the C# audience. A talk on abstract architecture for strongly typed languages will appeal to more people.
- Use the notes to the content team field to explain any relevant background you have, or any other color commentary about it. Perhaps this session was featured elsewhere? Perhaps the content led to a Nobel prize. Tell us what we should know. This will only be used during selection, and not shared with attendees.
- Put your best foot forward by submitting an abstract and bio which follows “the three C’s”: it should be complete, cutting-edge and coherent.
- Avoid overly-broad sessions. “Introduction to .NET 3.5” or “Testing is Great!” might be interesting, but generally speaking they’re way too broad to get much value out of in a 60-minute session. Draw the focus down to some specific items. Instead of a broad testing talk, narrow it to some tools, like Selenium, or mock or unit test frameworks. Speak to something specific in those.
- Titles matter. Really. Cool titles like “I am MOSS Tester! And You Can Too!” sound nifty, but they’re often going to lose the selection committees and attendees. Sure, make your title catchy, but make sure it showcases what your session’s about.
- Explain what attendees will get out of the session. Make it clear what your attendees will learn during your session. “You’ll leave this session with a handle on ways to smooth out your project’s environment” or “This session will show you a great system for boosting customer collaboration and increasing your code’s quality” are good examples.
- Give examples of what is discussed. Let attendees know what you’ll be talking about. “This highly interactive session will show you three specific tips: improve your estimation, use a daily standup to keep a close focus on your progress, and work in retrospectives.” This helps the selection committee understand if the content fits in, and it helps potential attendees see they should be skipping that bogus session on Drag and Drop Driven Development to attend your presentation.
- Show some prior feedback on the session. Have you given this talk before? If so, try and collect some feedback on the presentation. Twitters can give you some awesome blurbage you can reference in your abstracts, or notes to the selectorers. “I think I’ve learned more about Fitnesse from Jim than anyone else. It was a great talk — standing room only.” – Michael Eaton. Items like that, particularly ones you can hit via live URLs, give you immense credibility.
- Write a concise abstract. The one paragraph of your abstract is like the one spoon tasters get at a chili competition. This is hard to do. You need to work really hard on making the one paragraph highly impactful. Fall right back to your elementary school fundamentals: introduction, body, conclusion. Set a hook with a great opening: “Bugs. Crashes. Malfunctions. Complete meltdowns. We run into difficulties in our work each and every day.” Follow that on with the value propositions to attendees and examples of what’s covered. Finish up with a great closer that will make your attendees’ mouths water, figuratively, at least.
- Write a coherent abstract. We are always amazed at the handful of unreadable, muddled, flat out awful submissions we get. Spend time to make sure your submission is clear. Don’t bother submitting if you won’t take this step. Tough love, but it’s true: incoherent submissions are nearly always immediately dropped from consideration.
- Edit, re-edit, then get it reviewed. Write the draft, step away from it, come back and edit it later. Several times. Get the abstract out to your colleagues and friends for their feedback. Iterate through this several times.
- Your speaker bio is every bit as important as your abstract, particularly if you’re not well-known by the content selection committee. While not required by the system, adding your twitter handle, blog link and other social media links is always helpful.
We will be accepting submissions for all types of sessions this year, with details below. For some sessions that we know will be popular, we might ask you to do deliver the session more than once.
PreCompiler Session – These are four or eight hour long workshops featured on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are about half as many attendees around, and it makes for a more intimate experience. These are meant to be very hands on, and very skill centric (not product). We will allow up to two speakers for a PreCompiler session, however only one will receive full speaker benefits. We expect the primary speaker to submit the abstract and that speaker should indicate who the secondary is within the comments as well as indicate the role that individual will fill.
General Session – The session format you know and love. One hour with your closest friends. These are held on Thursday and Friday. There are 195 of these session slots available. General sessions can have only one speaker.
KidzMash Session – This is a one-hour session geared for the Kidz at CodeMash. Last year there were over 1,000 kidz present. We will have about 15-20 sessions of this type. They must be fun, and geared for 5-12 year-olds. These sessions are scheduled on Tuesday through Friday. They do not have to be ABOUT technology, as long as they are interesting to kidz. Just a few reminders and hopefully helpful tips about KidzMash submissions:
- CodeMash 2016 over 1,000 kids registered to attend KidzMash, a majority of attendees are age 6 and under.
- We need submissions for all ages – we want to cater to the diversity.
- Previous sessions have included everything from First Aid to How a Computer Counts.
- Please provide an age range in your submission.
- KidzMash runs all four days of CodeMash.
- Sessions run one hour.
- KidzMash is a volunteer driven program and we couldn’t do this without you.
- KidzMash speakers are fully credentialed speakers, in accordance with the above section titled “Speaker Benefits and the Communist Way.”
If you are looking for After Dark or Lightning talk submissions, keep an eye on Twitter and the Google groups. Those are handled separately from our main call for speakers and will be announced later this fall.