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."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bring Lawrence Back

Generally speaking, the Eclipsezilla submission process has been pretty boring this year. Comments from the EclipseCon committee have been pretty minimal, if any. I see the odd "Please fix up the html tags in your abstract" comments; but other than that, not much.

By comparison, the process was pretty vibrant last year.

How do we solve this problem? Let's bring Lawrence Mandel back to the committee.

Lawrence, who served on the EclipseCon 2006 committee, was an Eclipsezilla ninja. He commented on submissions, asked for clarifications, provide thoughtful suggestions on how to improve the content and abstract of submissions, suggested merging of similar submissions and encouraged co-operation between submitters.

He did it all with the utmost tact and professionalism and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Under the 'Better Late than Never' category, I thank Lawrence for all his hard work on EclipseCon2006 and I hope he gets asked to reprise his role in the future.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Questions, Not Complaints

I had the audacity to ask a couple of questions in hopes of getting clarifications that would help me better understand the (seemingly controversial) EclipseCon selection process.

I got a detailed and informative response from Bjorn giving us a behind-the-scenes look on how to produce a good conference schedule. Comments from community members and EclipseCon chairs were also appreciated.

It was very unfortunate though that Bjorn's response had a very defensive tone and that my questions were characterized as 'complaints'.

My comments were not complaints. They were questions. They were good questions. They were fair questions that were on other people's minds. And I am glad I asked them. It brought the discussion out in the open; and the selection process and role of chairs were clarified.

Neil's response (comment #8) is spot on. The point Neil makes about how the allocation matrix may intimidate and/or discourage potential submitters is exactly the reason why I started the dialogue in the first place.

So what is one suggestion to make the EclipseCon process better? Get rid of the matrix.

a. It sends the wrong message about fairness of the selection process and the role of chairs.

b. It is meaningless, since the actual selection process is promised to be a lot more flexible anyway.

c. It is confusing. We had a hard time trying to figure out the appropriate track for our Introduction to Plug-in Development tutorial.
Does it fall under Java? RCP? Then a miracle happened and a Fundamentals track was created, which we presumed was the best fit.

Sidebar:
Why do we have a Java track anyway? not like we have .NET and Pascal tracks...
Aren't all development tutorials (with the exception of the cool CDT track) conducted using the Java programming language anyway?

I have two more installments in my EclipseCon series, so I hope that the EclipseCon committee is less defensive in reaction to future questions and comments.

Finally, I do stand by my claim that the EclipseCon 2007 is controversial. Some of its aspects have provoked a healthy debate, and that is the dictionary definition of controversy.

As a result, the community is a lot more informed about the process than they were two days ago, and in the words of ex-con Martha Stewart: "It's a good thing."

Monday, November 06, 2006

EclipseCon2007 is (Unnecessarily) Controversial

I really liked the EclipseCon2006 process. I wish they did not change it this year.

A controversial aspect of the EclipseCon2007 program is that, for the most part, a single person (i.e. chair) selects the content of each track. Given that the program committee is pretty distinguished, this seems like a good idea. So why is it controversial?

It's controversial because a chair is allowed to make a submission in their own track. Conflict of Interest, anyone?

How can the chair ever convince the community that the selection process will be fair and balanced? It's virtually impossible. Case in point: submission 3676. As the plot thickens, said submission was made past the Nov 1 deadline. Do deadlines matter? These are all fair questions.

I am going to tivo this one to see how it plays out :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where Are They Now?

I am looking forward to the Toronto edition of the Eclipse 5th birthday party. In fact, I am planning my whole week around it. I got a haircut. I am buying new clothes this weekend and I am getting my car washed on Tuesday.

As for party entertainment, I originally was hoping that Arthur would hire a ventriloquist. But after I saw the list of people who will be in attendance, I think we will have enough entertainment without the need for talking wooden puppets.

It seems that all past and present Install/Update committers will be in attendance. It will be fun to sit around to see what they are up to now and reminisce about the evolution of that component through the ages. Too bad Chris won't be there to ambush them :)

True dat, peeps!