Monday, November 13, 2006

The Elephant in the Room

In the last installment of my EclipseCon2007 series, I would like to discuss the elephant in the room.

Let me start by quoting Jeff McAffer, a member of the EclipseCon2007 program committee:
"The job of the PC is to put together a program that attracts and informs the attendees. Lots of submissions in an area indicates a lot of interest in presenting on a particular topic, not necessarily in hearing about a particular topic.... Bu seriously, it is about the attendees, not the presenters." Very well articulated comment.

Now let's check the facts on the ground (i.e. the allocation matrix) to see how we are doing on the "let's give the people what they want" front.

The matrix seems to be very fairly distributed across tracks, suggesting that the program committee believes that the attendees are going to be equally interested in all Eclipse projects. Do the organizers really think that all tracks have the same appeal or are they trying to be politically correct about the allocations? Perhaps the answer is in point #1 in Bjorn's response, i.e. egos and politics play a part. The fact that the track chairs are project PMC's probably does not help when it comes to objectivity on how popular a track really is.

An objective decider, who has the task of coming up with an allocation matrix, should take a look at the EclipseCon2006 numbers to get a realistic and unbiased perspective on what sells and what does not, and use that information as a guide for the 2007 allocations.

In 2006, RCP/Platform sold well. WTP's numbers were very low. Modeling and GEF did well. CDT and DTP tutorials had a relatively low turnout, etc. etc.

Given last year's numbers, it is therefore incomprehensible to me why, for example, WTP and RCP should have the same allocations this year, or why the number of DTP tutorial slots was tripled.

Whichever subject matter did not sell well last year should have its tutorial slots decreased. If something sold well, let's have more of it. To the victor go the spoils.

I know those Santa Clara ballrooms fit up to 113 people, but let's not push it to the limit. It is better to have two tutorials of reasonable size on a popular subject, instead of trying to squeeze as many as we can into one.

If the RCP, Fundamentals or modeling tracks end up having many more tutorials than another technical track with this approach, such is life (as Bjorn would say). It's all about filling those tutorial seats and giving the attendees what they want. It's not about a politically correct "allocation matrix of fairness."


Doug Schaefer said...

Wassim, make sure you are getting your facts straight. The CDT did not have a tutorial last year. QNX received a sponsored tutorial and did it on using the CDT. The CDT community has decided that it would be much better to spend this time on an ISV tutorial which, given that I had 40 people from ISVs attend the CDT summit in Ottawa, will do much better at EclipseCon.

Donald Smith said...

I don't think it makes sense to entirely base decisions on last year demand, otherwise we are always going to be 1 year behind in what's important. The trick is to be able to predict the future, and I don't think anyone is claiming to be perfect at that just yet ;)

- Don

Bjorn Freeman-Benson said...

Thanks for the post, Wassim, and thanks for the thoughtful ideas about EclipseCon - in spite of my (earlier) defensiveness, I appreciate it.

John Graham said...

Following Doug's line about getting the facts right, let's note that DTP's 2006 tutorial was 3.5 hours, whereas the so-called "tripled" number this year is for 2 hour slots each. You are not making a valid comparison.

I really don't think this is as much about politics and back-room deals as you'd like to make it. A lot of factors go into forming a conference program -- feedback from previous attempts, current traffic on downloads/newsgroups/community adoption etc. -- and I think that Rich & co. are making a reasonable and best-faith effort to run a conference. In the end, not everyone who wants to is able to present at any conference. Not everyone who wants to gets to go, either. I'd be very interested in a perfect world were everyone is happy all the time. Suggestions?

Bjorn Freeman-Benson said...

Wassim, I'm looking forward to the third of the series...