CodeMash 2016 Speaker Selection

We’ve just announced the selected speakers and sessions for CodeMash 2016! As it is every year, it was a huge challenge to pick so few sessions from such a deep, and rich pile of submissions. The content team (which is firewalled from the rest of the committee) did a great job, and now they can rest on their laurels.

Rob, on the board of CodeMash, and leader of the content team, sent us some notes on the selection process. If you want to see the speakers/topics, check out the menu items: Accepted Session List, Speakers, and Schedule (which is not a real schedule yet. That will be done in December).

It seems that each time we dive into the morass of selecting speakers and sessions for CodeMash, things are in some way unique. This year, the sheer quantity of submissions frankly blew us away. One thousand, one hundred, and seventy-six abstracts, to fill a total of 235 session slots. This represents an increase from last year of over 250 submissions.


What is slightly humorous is that during the first 2/3rds of the call this year, I was quite concerned about the submission rate as it was far lower than I was hoping for.  To make the point, the following is a plot of the total submissions by day.



As you can see, the last few days saw a significant uptick (meaning many of you are procrastinators). In many ways this doesn’t matter, as we don’t start reviewing the abstracts until the call closes. The volume, however, does mean that the content team (our group of volunteer reviewers) each had a significantly larger number of sessions to work through during the first two weeks of September. I’d like to thank each one of them for their work and, if you enjoy the sessions at CodeMash this year, please make a point of thanking them for their efforts.


Now, to the numbers that matter… Not long after the CFP closed, someone was joking on Twitter that getting accepted to speak at CodeMash was harder than getting into Harvard. Well, it isn’t. For those who care, Harvard’s acceptance rate is 5.9% (yes, I looked it up).


Our acceptance rate this year was right about 20%. One out of every five sessions submitted made it through.


What might be more interesting is our speaker numbers. 43% of the speakers that applied had at least one of their sessions accepted (213 out of 488 speakers). This year, we made a concerted effort to have a large number of speakers while still maintaining good content. As such, we have a reduction in the number of sessions delivered by the average speaker. In fact, 160 of our speakers only have a single session.


Another interesting statistic that we monitor is the “new speaker” percentage. This doesn’t mean that the individual is actually a new speaker, but that they haven’t spoken at CodeMash for the last two years. For reference, last year, our new speaker percentage was around 36%. This year, our new speaker percentage is 64%. This could come as a double-edged sword. Sometimes, a high percentage of unknown speakers could introduce uncertainty regarding the quality of the content. Alternatively (and this is the case I believe we are in this year), it can be an indication that we are broadening our scope and bringing in new and varied experts. I am excited about the breadth of speakers this year.


Finally, we are always asked about gender and race diversity questions. We do not solicit diversity information during our CFP, but we did go through and review last year’s data as well as the selections for this year and were able to glean gender information based on names, photos, and the provided bios (no race information is available). This year, 13.3% of our speakers are female. This is up from 10.7% last year. We do not choose speakers based on gender or race, but rather on their technical competence. We review the diversity data after the selections have been made and, while things can always improved, I’m pleased with the direction.


I am incredibly proud of the work of the content committee think this will be one of the best conferences yet.