We are a week out from the Call for Papers (abstracts really) for the 2018 edition of CodeMash. Each year those of us on the speaker/content team review what went well last year, what we want to change, and look for ways to optimize the process for all involved. Because we are making some significant changes this year, we wanted to get the word out a bit early so you can begin thinking about the changes as you prepare your abstracts.
Session Submission Limit
Each year the number of submissions we receive for CodeMash grows. Last year it was well over 1,300 for a total of 235 slots. Many of those session submissions were great, making the task of picking the best ones rather challenging. Due to the fact that each of our reviewers reviews at least two categories (each category is reviewed by at least two people), this places a heavy burden on our volunteer staff as some had nearly 400 session abstracts to review. Some speakers – generally those who speak at many conferences – simply dump all 10 or 15 sessions that they have queued up for the year into the submission system and figure it increases their odds. This year, we are going to limit the number of talks you can submit to a total of four. We want folks to take a critical look at the CFP, the topic interest survey results, as well as the talks that they either have or are developing, and choose their best. The majority of speakers won’t be affected by this change as most speakers only submit two or three talks but we want everyone to be able to plan accordingly.
As our conference has grown over the years, so have the benefits we have been able to offer our speakers. We are not a big commercial conference – we are 100% volunteer run and each year’s budget is cash-in/cash-out (no residuals beyond emergency/rainy-day funds). Over the past few years, we have consistently offered our speakers a ticket to the conference, a hotel room, speaker thank-you gift, and shuttle to/from the airport for those who need it. This year, we are going to accept applications for travel grants to help cover plane tickets and other travel costs for those speakers who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise. These will take the form of reimbursements of up to $500 each. We are doing this in an effort to reach a broader pool of speakers that might not normally be able to speak at CodeMash because of out of pocket travel expenses. The need for a travel grant will not impact, in any way, the session selection process. Please understand that this we only have a limited number of these and the leadership team will evaluate each application and make the appropriate decision. After talks have been selected, we will give all of the speakers an opportunity to apply and will provide a decision shortly thereafter. It is our hope these grants will encourage more speakers to apply.
As CodeMash has grown, so has the diversity of speakers and attendees. Some of the speakers are regulars on the conference circuit, others may be well-known within their geographic area but not much beyond, others you may never have heard of before. Speaking at any conference can be nerve-wracking and CodeMash is no different. This year, we are going to encourage those more experienced speakers to volunteer to be mentors to less-experienced speakers. During the CFP, each prospective speaker will be given the opportunity to indicate that they are either willing to mentor a new speaker or that they would be interested in being mentored (both are optional). We will then pair up individuals after speaker selections have been made. The general goal would be for the mentors to review the mentee’s talk and provide constructive feedback, to help the new-to-CodeMash speaker understand the conference and culture better, and any other related skills the prospective speaker needs help with. We expect the specific details to be different between each pairing.
If you need mentoring BEFORE you submit your abstract, please reach out to the speaker team (see the CFP page for info) or on twitter to get paired up with someone.
New Speakers Track
We have regularly sought out new speakers for CodeMash and each year we have a large percentage of new-to-CodeMash speakers. This year, we are being intentional about including at least 13 talks from speakers who are new-to- CodeMash. This means that in each session slot throughout the conference, there will be at least one session that is presented by a speaker who has never spoken at CodeMash before (or possibly ever). We will be encouraging folks to attend these sessions and hope that it will drive diversity of thought and develop new talent within our community. In order to be eligible for this track, a speaker must not have spoken at CodeMash previously and must agree to participate in the mentorship program described above.
As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions as we work to make CodeMash the best it can be. If at any time you have questions or ideas, please feel free to send them our way: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Gillen and Chris Judd
Coordinators – CodeMash Content Team