Dissatisfied with Agile 20XX Conference Submission Process – Yet Again
It is that time of year again – waiting to see if your submission has been accepted to Agile 2010. This year, it seems that stage producers are bit-by-bit releasing proposals that were accepted. Since I did not get my magic email I can only presume that my submission was one of the ones left in the rubbish bin. So, in effect I have been given a de fecto rejection letter because I am hearing about all the other people that are being accepted.
I am bringing this up because from my perspective parts of the process still needs to be worked out – especially how people are notified. It is disrespectful to have different timing for proposals that are accepted versus proposals that were rejected. The producers care enough to send acceptance notice, but not a rejection notice. Is that the message the Agile Alliance wanted to send? The only reason why I am complaining about this topic is that I care. I care about transparency, respect for the individual and that the process adheres to its vision. In my opinion, the process and the way its implemented doesn’t represent the values I tend to think of as Agile.
What burns me the most, when I tried to provide feedback to some participants of the review process, some reviewers got defensive and challenged me to do better. Hold on there – I’m a stakeholder in your process and I’m dissatisfied with the execution. It is not my responsibility to fix your process, that is the job of the Team. Stakeholders just provide feedback and guidance on what our expectations are. Don’t hand me a squirrel burger and tell me it’s a Big Mac – I’m not going to buy it no matter how great you tell me it tastes. I am not sure if I had the expectation of getting a Big Mac, but I am not pleased that I am being told this squirrel burger is all I get.
Update: Eating a bit of humble pie served to me from a number of my peers. I apologize for my words since they may have come of for being disrespectful of the time and commitment many volunteers put into building these stages. That was not the intention, but I was offering feedback in the spirit of continuous improvement and inspect-and-adapt.
First, full disclosure, I am ass’t producer of the Testing Stage.
The reason accepts go out first is that not everyone who was accepted will accept back – they might have decided they can’t attend, or whatever. Then the producers have to look at what proposal was next in line and ‘accept’ that one instead. That’s the rationale.
Maybe it would be better to go ahead and send the rejects with a caveat, “At this time we can’t accept your proposal, but we reserve the right to change our minds and will let you know within 2 weeks if that is the case”. Then you know you probably aren’t accepted, but there is still a chance you will have a pleasant surprise.
I produced the testing stage last year, and put in four solid weeks of work NOT counting the time I was at the conference reviewing proposals, accepting, sending each rejected proposal a personal email why theirs was rejected, shepherding, fighting for wireless microphones for our stage presenters (a fight I lost), begging for more timeslots so we could get in more awesome proposals. It’s a terrible job and I hope never to do it again. But I’m glad someone always does (Bob Galen did a great job with the testing stage this year IMO).
So that’s why you get defensive replies from the people who worked on the review process.
I salute you for providing feedback and I feel bad your feedback has not been welcomed. I hope the program committee will provide some forum to get feedback. I know personally that Jim Newkirk and others on the committee worked hard to get feedback from 2009 and incorporate that into how they are handling 2010. I have seen lots of improvements.
As I said in my tweet, you are jumping to bad conclusions. The whole process is manual, and necessary. We can’t reject sessions until everyone has agreed to come whose sessions we accepted at first. Secondly, stage producers are sending out the session submittals over a several day period – we just got notification of which ones were the definites.
I’d love to hear your improvements, but sadly, you are dead wrong about the acceptance process. As I said in my tweet to you earlier, my email address was on my profile, and send me any questions and I’ll be happy to look into them.
I agree there are areas for improvement. And I want to hear them, and I’m sure Jim and the theme owners (Brian, Pollyanna, Lowell) want to as well.
Just don’t jump to conclusions on the acceptance process. Things are still in-flight.
I hate to give a set of improvements when I don’t understand the whole system – as you have rightly pointed out. Here are some questions I would want to know before jumping in with ideas for improvement:
– What is the vision for the submittal and review system?
– What metrics are you using to know if the system is working?
– How do you know if the system is working for the reviewers? The submitters?
Mitch Lacey just posted a series of articles outlining the entire review process: http://mitchlacey.com/Blog/Agile-Conference-A-Stage-Producers-Story-Part-1.html. We get feedback from blog posts like yours, Twitter comments, and the conference retrospectives. Since I saw your session indeed got accepted, I encourage you to come be a part of that.