Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's up with the program committee?

"What's up with my PyCon proposal?"

That's the question I've gotten pretty much since the day the call for proposals closed for PyCon 2012. Since the program committee does most of its work in private, it can try anyone's patience waiting to find out how their proposal fared. Well, starting with this post I'll do my best to keep you informed of where we are.

As Jesse announced last month, we had record-breaking levels of talk submissions this year -- about 380 talk proposals. And it's not just quantity: the quality has been breathtaking. Sadly, we have just over 100 spots on the schedule. Selecting the best proposals is quite a challenge.

Let me tell you a bit about how our review process works:

First, the committee reads through proposals and scores them (using a system based on the Identify the Champion system). The goal here is to identify "champions" -- a committee member who feels strongly that the proposals should be placed on the schedule.

Next, we meet in real time (on IRC) to discuss each proposals. Champions advocate, we debate, and ultimately vote. At this point, we're considering each proposals in isolation, judging it strictly on its merits. Typically we vote to accept about 75% of proposals at this point.

Of course, this leaves us with far too many talks for the schedule. So the final step is to make the hard decisions and cull this list of (excellent) proposals down to the final schedule. We do this by grouping overlapping or similar proposals and looking at the balance of talks at the conference as a whole. We gather for a final round of meetings, debating and voting on which talks are the strongest in each area.

So where are we now?

Well, we've completed the first part -- each talk's been reviewed by a number of reviewers (at least three, at usually five or more) -- and we've started holding our first round of IRC meetings. We've discussed about a third of the talks so far. Extrapolating from our current rate tells me we should have the first round finished shortly after Thanksgiving. Based on our timeline last year, this means we should likely have the final selection of talks done by Christmas.

Ultimately, this means that if you've proposed a talk you should hear back from us right around the new year. I know it's a long time to wait, but I know it means we'll have an incredible program this year.

No comments: