Drupalcon Voting is a waste of time & resources

7 November 2011 mortendk

Now we have it again in the Drupalsphere and for the next couple of weeks there will be an endless promotion of drupalcon session from the speakers or their companies to enhance their chances for getting a spot as a speaker at DrupalCon.
when we finally get the session selection, there will be an outcry of angry, pisssed of & sad people in our community.
Its been the same song & dance now for the last 4 DrupalCon. I think its about time we change the ways this session selection is done, and propose another way to do this, so the noise ratio can get back to picking colors on that bike shed.

the big disclaimer

This is NOT an attack on the current process in Denver or those that went before or on track chairs etc. If you wanna get drama go another place ok? this is based on the observations i have done during the ton of drupal events i have attended over the years since my first DrupalCon Brussels 2005.

Im a "regular speaker" on DrupalCon both in europe & the US. normally on various Theming aspects (think its the lest 7 con's) Ive been track chair in Paris, London & Copenhagen, was the lead for DrupalCon Copenhagen 2010 & been the lead organizer for 3 of the 4 DrupalCamp Copenhagen + active in getting Frontend Developers (Themers) & Designers "organized" co-organized 2 Design Camps in Europe (Prague & Berlin) + the upcoming in Amsterdam in 2012… phew

I know how 400 people will feel in about a month, when that session is rejected & probably I will be one of them again - which is perfectly okay i might add.

To keep it short: I know how the sausages are made

We must stop making the same mistake we have done over & over again - get a better selection policy with at least some kind of transparency.

Voting doesn't do what we hope it could do.

In the good old days when a drupalcon was around 2-700 people.
The voting was working "kinda ok" with about 25 proposed session in a 10 session track it was manageable to figure out which one you would see & which one looked good.
This was turning into a problem around DrupalCon DC, where the con was suddenly 1400 attendees

Today theres 5-600+ sessions proposed for DrupalCon Denver (about 400+ in London) & the voting process is causing the usual amount of noise & pissed of Drupalistas.

Are we really expecting the potential attendees to read through all 500+ session & vote on them ? with a clear & open mind ?
- its hard even getting through the sessions for each track chair, not to mention that the conference is in 5 months (after xmas, superbowl, new year etc) SO i guess we can define the 3 kind of people thats gonna vote now:

  1. you are heavy into the community.
  2. you were told to go vote on a session (twitter is wonderful for that)
  3. wanna see you friend speak at drupalcon.
  • Pro-tip*: if you can mobilise around 100 people then theres a good chance you will have a top voted position.

Hang with the popular kids

Voting will turn into a popularity contest & that is not a vote/rating number we can use for anything -unless we wanna figure out who can rally votes.
Theres been concern that the "big companies" can use their sheer size to vote all their sessions in, and crush the "little guy" & use the DrupalCon as a advertisement platform for their product, let us be honest, the stage at a Drupalcon is a really good spot for you or your product, no matter if youre a small design & theming shop from copenhagen or your are making you own web browser.

what are the votes used for?

It isn't clear what the voting actually means in the selection phase & it never really have - it used to be the only way sessions was selected, now its at best a "guideline", is the 3 most voted getting in? is it 10 etc. Nobody really knows!
Its been up to the track chairs to figure out how to read or use these numbers, some have used them others havent.
This is not ideal, but that is how it is today.

All the drupalcon's I have been involved with had the same focus around the voting: "yeah yeah let 'em vote, now can we focus on getting this con on the road - we have more importent things on the agenda" - the general idea have been that its just a "part of the whole picture" of how the sessions is selected. But its just a guideline.

reality check for submitted sessions

Do I really wanna take the chance that the track chairs is not gonna do a quick "lets start by removing alle the sessions with less than X votes" hell NO I wont - im gonna promote the it hard. Remember im just me & my assistent here in copenhagen
I dont have 50 coworkers, that all can herd votes, so if i wanna make sure i get a fair chance, then im forced to promote.

I dont submit unless I really wants to talk about a subject & knowing that I can deliver a 45-60 minutes speak thats gonna blow the attendees away "wow that xxx was interesting stuff" if not at least 5 people have told me afterwards, dude that was the best presentation I have seen at DrupalCon - then im disappointed. I expect the rest of the 498 sessions to be as dedicated!

Off course everyone is gonna vote their own session up as much as possible, thats just the rules of the game.

But it doesn't give us/ drupalcon anything that can be used, besides of a lot of noise & that afterwards Drupalcon can then wash their hands and do the "we had a vote" - even that we know its BS. To have a Voting without consequences is not usable for anything.

what should we do then?

okay so what now - no "democracy", just let the DA & its henchmen take over the drupalcon & sell it all to sponsors …
[note to self : fill in more conspiracy plans just for the fun of it]

The sessions & presentations should be the very best we can find, that will push our community & the Drupal Project forward simple as that.

The Drupalcon is not the place where we use should use sessions for unexperienced speakers, its not amateur hour! - its the goddamn DrupalCon,the leading gathering in the Drupaluniverse.
If a speaker wanna train skills theres a ton of DrupalCamps that are screaming for sessions & inputs.(To see that 30% of the sessions this year will be for "new" speakers is absurd imho)

a New Rule set.

We need to get the numbers of sessions down, right now anyone and their grandmother submits sessions, theres been more than one session from people that are "very new" in the community (guess thats the political correct term for those dropping in & want a quick piece of the Drop fame)

I am suggesting that we in the future set up some simple gateways, that everyone can relate to

  • The speaker have at least spoken at 2 Drupal Events
    We wanna have speakers that can present, & are active in the community + have proven their worth - going to a session where theres stage fright because theres 200 in the room, can be fixed easy if the presenter had given a couple of more sessions at local drupalcamps / events.
  • The proposal is more than a 2 paragraph outline with warm air about foo / bar.
    Look at the session proposals , how many of them are actually placeholders, just to have a session in, if that other session isn't gonna be selected.
  • 1 speaker = 1.Session proposal.
    We have so many talented people - why not force us all to focus on what the individual are really really good at, today its just a part of the game to submit as many sessions as possible to up you chances for getting a session in.

More pre selected sessions.

The Drupalcon (or track chairs or DA) reach out & get speakers in the community or outside and fill around 50-75% of the program, with a good spread from noob to advanced sessions & topics.
The last 2 DrupalCons have had an absurd amount of noob sessions, we should aim a little higher. im going to be inspired not learn how to add a field to a node.

Yes im expecting the Drupalcon to know whats going on in our community !

Submitted sessions

The last 25-50% of the sessions are selected by the submitted sessions & still selected by the drupalcon.
If a session is not accepted there will be an explanation why a session wasn't selected, its the last thing we can do for people that have used a couple of hours to do a session proposal (if you dont use a couple of hours well then dont submit).

what can we then vote for ?

We need the vote to figure out what rooms the sessions should be in, so lets have a vote in a month before the drupalcon. Theres nothing worse than speaking to a empty room, because somebody else put @dries, @webchick, @heyrocker & other rockstars in the same time slot as you.

Keeping this phony vote for sessions process year after year is not only a big waste of everybody's time, the amount of noise is even worse - Its hurting the community, those that used tons of time preparing & motivating for their session(s) will get a huge morale hit (take a look at the twitter stream)

Nothing good comes out of it, besides a Drupalcon can at any given time wash their hands "well we voted for the sessions" which is done every year because no one really wanna argue with pissed of presenters that didnt get their sessions in.

oooh But Vote for me!

So after all this ranting should you now go and vote for my sessions - I did state that voting is BS ? Yes you should! the DrupalCon uses the votes for something right & I dont wanna take the chance of getting ruled out because of a technicality or a track chair decides, that all sessions less than X % is out - just because im taking the high stand.

I can off course just start a campaign against the big companies, the "suits", those that dont want to ban swearing and F-boms in session, those that wanna turn DrupalCon into a business conference and not a gigantic nerdfest for the Drupal Developers (& builders, designers, themers, business owners, project mamanger & users)... That would offcouese be complete FUD and have nothing to do with reality... right? ;) (But man it sounds good for a rant) Besides I claimed the best dressed speaker at Drupalcon Chicago!

2 proposed sessions:

I sincerely hope we change the way sessions are selected, the way were doing it today is only causing pissed of people & loads of noise, that are not giving anything to the drupal community.

Interesting views on new speakers

I am in support of ditching public voting on the sessions, for all the reasons you mention above. We have enough quality in the community to ensure that decent sessions are selected.

Here's an interesting point though: If you HAD to choose between a load of super-high quality sessions, all on the same or similar subjects, or a diverse line-up of unproven speakers of unknown quality, which would you rather? I realise nothing is ever as black-and-white as this, but it does raise my next point...

I don't think unknown speakers are as much of a problem as you might appear to make them in your post. I think that if the proper checks are in place, so people have to submit a proper session plan, and whatever other means are decided upon, it won't be an issue.

I think that we wouldn't (or shouldn't!) refuse a solid core patch written by an unknown contributor just because she hadn't submitted any patches before, so I think we should be open to all speakers who are able to submit proper proposals.


Chris Cohen 7 November, 2011 - 12:05

its offcourse not all black & white

This is rough guidelines that i have put out, i think that we should actually look outside of the drupalsphere for new inputs.
To be unknown in the Drupalsphere can be in some way a plus - that you can come in with a fresh perspective etc But that perspective might be better to be put out in blockpost etc. instead of filling up a room with people and maybe waste their time ;)

To answer the Question i would rather have the proven speaker where I know the quality is top notch. Just because youre a kick ass programmer & have written X % of all modules /core dont make you a good speaker.

To refuse a good session by a quialified person with a proven trackrecord, would be flat out Dumb. If that happens then we have also failed in making the best experience we can for the attendees & for Drupal.

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Anonymous 27 August, 2014 - 14:42

You wrote : "...we can define

You wrote :

"...we can define the 3 kind of people thats gonna vote now:
- you are heavy into the community.
- you were told to go vote on a session (twitter is wonderful for that)
- wanna see you friend speak at drupalcon."

Were are all of us simply reading the applications and vote for the sessions we want / need?

vincent-b 7 November, 2011 - 13:40

sorry missed the x%.

I dont belive in the hordes of people not deeply into Drupal is gonna use their time now, 5 months ahead of a drupalcon, to sit down and read through & vote on all the sessions - sorry i dont.
Normally a high rated session (like a dries keynote) have 'bout 100+ votes - thats the number I remember, i dont have the exact documentation, but its in that ballpark.

Offcourse theres gonna be exceptions - but the majority that now have a drupalcon on their radar is people that are deep into drupal. they all go in under the rough catagory of "you are heavy into the community."

mortendk 7 November, 2011 - 14:22

Also remember that we limit

Also remember that we limit voting to people who have already registered, and voting ends almost 4 months before the conference. At this point we have at BEST 1/3 of the attendees pre-registered. So this means you're really polling a very limited subset of attendees. However I do think its really important to get the sessions in place this early, as it helps with marketing and gives speakers sufficient time to plan their talks and make arrangements with their places of employment.

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Anonymous 2 September, 2014 - 18:48

too many noob sessions!

I like the sound of:

  1. One session proposal per person (to stop the spamming of session proposals)
  2. Fewer noob sessions / more advanced material

I am very new to programming / PHP but the vast majority of the sessions at Drupalcon London did not stretch me (I'm talking about the programming/site-builder sessions, not the community and other sessions which were great). There were of course some great programming sessions too.

I am not so sure about:

  1. Preventing new speakers from talking at Drupalcon.

While the quality of these speakers might not in general be so high as the Crell/Morten/Haug/Webchick/etc mould, I don't think it is great if the only people who have a chance to speak come from 3 or 4 big shops (albeit with a few individual exceptions). In the short term relying on these people is great (because they are really good), but in the long term the community will suffer as we won't be actively encouraging and cultivating new talent.

I think this is already a problem - most of the people working on core initiatives come from a very small group of top Drupal shops, and while there is no intention of a clique, it can be difficult to merely keep up if you aren't working with other core developers/experts yourself on a daily basis. For example, I work in a small team and have no one to discuss Drupal core with in my day to day. Obviously, for the future, I wan't to find that, but for newbies like me that isn't an option.

nicl 7 November, 2011 - 16:03

...voting for rooms

Oh and also, just noticed this point, but I like what you said about:

  • using voting to allocate rooms (work out room sizes and also avoid popular sessions clashing - specifically sessions which appeal to the same constituencies)

Certainly at Drupalcon London some of the larger venues were empty while smaller rooms got packed out. I remember in particular a session by Nathan Haug on a new Form Builder thing which was in a tiny room. Lots of people had to stand outside because they couldn't get in. I personally ended up going to another session because I couldn't get in.

In general, the programming sessions, at least at DC London tended to be the most popular / most oversubscribed for the room sizes given. I appreciate that this is part of a conscious effort to give more space to non-programming concerns. Nevertheless, most people at DCs are still developers right?!

nicl 7 November, 2011 - 17:35

It seems that the only design

It seems that the only design and creative would have any true representation is to have an all-day BoF. It's a sad state of affairs in the Drupal community.

modulist 7 November, 2011 - 17:02

Some additional thoughts

As someone who was a speaker at the first drupalcon they ever attended (which was also my first drupal event) I'm not entirely sure I support preventing first time speakers from speaking. Perhaps giving them a better idea of what they're about to get themselves into might be helpful. Pictures from the front stage of a packed session for example ;-)

I totally support a more significant proposal. I even wrote a blog explaining my proposals this year: http://bit.ly/sksMNK I've been tweaking old proposals that I have sessions already done and ready to go for and re-proposing them because it is all still relevant, so this process doesn't have to be from scratch each time, it just needs to be kept up to date, and reflect the needs of the community in some way.

Which brings me to point number 3. As I said, I have quite a few sessions that I keep up to date and ready to go for camps and cons. Presenting more than one solo session is really no big deal in these circumstances and I'm honestly a little miffed by the prevention of multiple solo sessions for an individual speaker because some members of our community have lots of great stuff to share that are wildly unrelated and limiting them to a single session seems a loss. Yes there are definitely implications from NOT limiting them, but to some extent it seems odd to me that you wouldn't want to hear everything that a crell, merlin or eaton might have to say (just to name a few). The 1 solo per presenter thing limits the work track chair have to do... that's a GOOD thing considering what their job entails, so I understand that, but if the rule were one solo session per track, that would probably not significantly increase their workload any. Also one proposal per track might help in this regard as well (As opposed to just one proposal period).

Finally, I'm a little uncomfortable with 50%+ of sessions being preselected. That seems like a political nightmare in the long term, and I, for one, think the outcry from the community would be absurd. Preselecting 1 or 2 sessions per track is one thing, but preselecting half or more of all tracks would inevitably lead to some seriously bad mojo in the community.

To be perfectly honest, Drupalcon can't keep up with the things that are most current in the community, and they shouldn't have to. I hate shilling for votes too, and would support the removal of it entirely, however its replacement needs to be something that's genuine and transparent. Session proposals need to be generated, not for the voting public, but for the session chairs. Some sort of interview process might be helpful here as well, but now I just increased the work of session chairs by 10 fold so... screwed if you do, screwed if you don't.

EclipseGc 7 November, 2011 - 17:49

well my point is that the

well my point is that the whole voting thing is of no use atm.
If we keep it there need to be some kind of consequence for sessions that gets a ton of votes or get none - Right now its just a "well we use if for something, as a one of many pointers blah blah" that aint transparent.

The con has changed a lot since we both popped the cherry back in boston (800 attendees - thats the size of a big camp)

My interest is only in getting better sessions in, if that means cutting into the pseudo democracy we think we have now, well so be it, else there need to be other consequences based on the voting.

mortendk 8 November, 2011 - 21:02

Another view from the trenches

Here's my perspective as a frequent DrupalCon presenter, a track chair at several DrupalCons going back to Szeged in 2008, and the co-chair of DrupalCon Chicago, where I also was one of the folks who oversaw the session selection process:

One of the key values of the Drupal community is open participation; that there's an opportunity for everyone's voice to be heard in the process. For me, removing the ability to for people to cast some kind of vote or rating on proposed sessions not only deprives the organizing teams of a potential tool to use in the session selection process, but it undermines one of our key values of community participation.

Even if users are still able to comment on session proposals, comments that are tied to usernames will discourage people from providing negative feedback on proposals, which is often far more valuable than positive feedback.

That's why I favor having either a five-star, multiple choice, or thumbs-up/down rating system with the results hidden from public view, in combination with public comments (which is what Denver is doing).

This kind of system enables people to promote their session proposals and encourage people to vote on them (which has the benefit of driving traffic to the site and giving people an opportunity to register), but would alleviate some of the criticism we've seen in the past (e.g., "Why didn't my high-ranked session get selected?"). Other conferences like SXSW Interactive have settled on this kind of system in recent years to great success.

I'm definitely aware that the folks who vote on session proposals represent only a small (and not always representative) percentage of overall attendees, but I think that's okay as long as that fact is also highlighted for the track committees when they're making their session selections. No one should be under the illusion that voting totals are an accurate predictor of a particular session's quality or attendance.

What community votes or ratings do is provide one perspective that can be combined with the track committee's experience, knowledge of the community, and other qualitative criteria (e.g., session diversity) to generate a decision-making rubric. One way that several of the Chicago track chairs found voting results helpful was as a way to weed out sessions that had received a high number of low ratings, thus allowing them to focus on a smaller number of proposals that were more likely to be successful. Another potential use is to help provide a tie-breaker if a track committee is having difficulty decide between two similar session proposals of equal quality.

In any case, track chairs should be directed that while they can use voting results as a tool in the session selection process if they choose, they are not bound to do so. In all cases, they should be looking for the best possible sessions for their tracks.

George DeMet 7 November, 2011 - 18:08

Hard to find quality

I agree that voting doesn't help find the good sessions because you can't tell from the pitch. And analysis by greggles has shown that voting has not been a good predictor of quality sessions.

I think over the years the average quality of DrupalCon sessions has gone down. What we've been doing over the years really isn't working, isn't serving our needs over time. I don't think this perception is a matter of my simply expecting more, I think it's more a matter of our community changing, growing, becoming more professional, with more marketing, more pitching, more chest thumping to go along with the teaching, the sharing, the instructing. I think there's a very sketchy mix of sessions, and a bit too much depending upon the rock stars of the past. "Oh, Joe is smart, he did that great presentation on FormsAPI, let's pick his session on jello molds, it has a clever title."

I've seen great sessions and I've seen craptastic sessions, often by very well known people -- even people who had presented very well previously. One presentation is out of the park, another is a flat bizarro pointless attempt at cuteness. I think that comes with the territory. It takes more than some presentation skill, it takes interest, energy, focus, insight, preparation. We can't always be "on" when we're really doing presentations as a sideshow to our real work. So unless we're talking people who talk for a living, and thus will ALWAYS be VERY prepared, you can't really count on someone hitting a home run every time. Past performance is no proof of future performance.

One thing that might help is, in the proposal, having the presenters explain why they want to present. Not WHAT, but WHY. What's your motivation? To teach? To show off? To impress your friends? To buff up your resume? Because it's expected? The why could reveal a lot, and it might help the presenter sharpen his or her focus. And it may help quality, because whenever I saw an historically good presenter give a crappy presentation, it was usually (among other things) unfocused. Prompting, sifting and sorting for focus might help.

It may also help to focus on instructional and educational presentations during DrupalCon. Maybe the training days have drawn resources away from presentations? I have no idea. I wonder if it wouldn't make sense to put the training days at the end of DrupalCon. This way intro sessions can set up more in-depth training, intermediate sessions can set up code sprints, advanced sessions can lead to core conversations.

Laura 8 November, 2011 - 02:48

the why should be a mandatory

the why should be a mandatory field in the future! it would be wonderful to hear why a presenter wanna do a talk, i must admit that i die after trying to read throgh the ton of warm air that all sessions (including my own) are containg a simple why would be a pretty good answer to get.

mortendk 8 November, 2011 - 21:08

Another relevant discussion

A similar discussion which mirrors a lot of this is at On popular voting and merit-based selection of sessions.

A couple of places I disagree with you are:

a) Ditching newbie sessions. Not everyone at DrupalCon is a seasoned veteran (and thanks to the Drupal learning curve, there are always going to be more of them than there are of you). We need to make sure that there's material there for all experience levels.

b) Move voting to < 30 days in advance. A lot of people need that final schedule months ahead of time in order to justify to their bosses to let them attend DrupalCon. If we don't get a final schedule out until < 30 days prior, that leaves a lot of people out.

c) I know you're joking (or at least I think I hope I know you're joking) about the DA & track chairs limiting pre-selecting sessions to sponsors, but that kind of conspiracy theory stuff really disparages good work that individuals running DrupalCon are doing to make sure that this does NOT happen, and that our DrupalCon speaker offerings remain diverse and interesting.

Otherwise though, I share a lot of the same concerns as you about the voting process and hope we can move to something that both upholds consistent quality of the event, doesn't put an enormous strain on our community, but still allows the community to have input into DrupalCon's program.

webchick 8 November, 2011 - 18:34

no conspiracys

No worries i am joking, i dont belive that the DA / speakers etc are corrupt i used it as an example of how i could make enough noise to drag attention to my own session(s) so i could get a higher vote ;)
I do think though that the "were doing our sessions about this product aka a product presentation" should not be in the normal program, unless its very clear that it is a paid for presentation (as it was done in cph) - The day scene is great for that btw, its a good addition to the con.

A.im not saying that we should skip the newbee sessions. but look at the London & chicago schedule - unless you wanted to dig into the Core conversations it was hard to find sessions that were not basic noob sessions - a complain i have heard a ton of times. It seems like we forget that a conference should also inspire the shit outta people that are not totally newbees -
I saw CHX go nutter in brussels when he did the "i think i have a better idea for the menu system" talk with live hand code writing in on whiteboard session -im still shocked of the dedication ;)
we need a better spread of the sessions.

Im totally in for getting more time in advance - im one of those that use 40+ hours to plan a session (yes putting that many dirty jokes in between the lines takes time) and would love to have even more time.
But by having a session vote 5 month ahead im stating that those thats gonna vote are for 80-90% harden drupal veterans or them thats herded to voting.

mortendk 8 November, 2011 - 21:21

re: more advanced material

Just to reiterate again the point about too many newby sessions. Of course we need sessions for new people, but I would agree with Morten that the balance needs to shift back towards more advanced material.

Despite being a relatively novice PHP programmer/drupaler I spent quite a lot of time sitting in on the core conversations (all of the Wednesday and Thursday almost) because it quickly became clear that this was the best way to maximise my learning (even though I certainly can't call myself a core developer quite yet!). Most of the regular sessions I attended were not code oriented - for example, Jeff Eaton's great talk on Product vs Framework, and heyrocker and webchick's session on growing the community to note a few.

The problem is, if everyone goes to core conversations, then core conversations can no longer be 'conversations' but become defacto presentations/sessions. Maybe this is ok though - but we should be more explicit about it. For example, I have noticed that heyrocker and crell have proposed a joint talk at Denver about their initiatives - I think this is a great idea - and we should have more of this deep level stuff in presentations - rather than just pitches about a particular module, for example.

nicl 9 November, 2011 - 16:43

2 prior events

So I've been (unsuccesfully ) been trying to get into a couple of DrupalCons,
Im not a full time Drupal guy, Im an Open Source guy with a lot of Drupal deployment baggage hanging around ... The Drupal community doesn't really know me .. yes they know my lastname .. but most them don't know me.. but I do have an important message to tell / teach the Drupal community, stuff that I learned both from working with Drupal people and other technologies (It's about devops if you care)

Getting voted in is pretty impossible in the current way
So when I read your proposal I was pretty exited .. till I read the 2 required talks , my toughts were how do you get people from other disciplines involved if they have to do 2 prior Drupal event talks that's going to be difficult.
(Realized quickly that I already spoke in the DrupalDevroom at Fosdem and at DrupalDevdays so I pass for that requirement :))
The argument you make about speaking experience is relevant , I`m not sure if it should be Drupal events however.)

Anyhow .. still figuring out if I should try submitting another Drupal and Devops talk for next years Drupalcons :)

Kris Buytaert 8 November, 2011 - 19:57

the reason im putting in a

the reason im putting in a "you should have at least done 2 sessions at local events" law is simply to have some kind of gate . Offcourse an experienced speaker should still have the possibility to get a session in (im not a total rigid drupalfacist ;) - but by setting a rule like this, we weed out the total newbees, and set some kind of base for what we expect from a speaker.

hey see you got you credentials in order ... im pretty sure i saw you speak about some sql optimization stuff, i didnt understand anything about ;)

Offcourse you should submit!

mortendk 8 November, 2011 - 21:32


I have two thoughts here.

1) I think setting a filter based on the Certified to Rock score might be a great thing to at least limit the amount of sessions to select from. Perhaps even just allow voters the ability to filter out sessions submitted by those with CTR < N

2) I wholeheartedly agree that it's a popularity contest, and that's not a good thing to dictate the bulk of your content at a con. However, it's also important to keep your finger on the pulse of the community. Perhaps a one-day only track of "Community Choice" sessions would be a good idea?


Justin Ellison 8 November, 2011 - 23:07

No CTR please

There is no way Certifeid to Rock should be used. It was developed by people who have refused to disclose the algorithm, and now they all work for Acquia. Secret scoring systems controlled by certain companies or individuals should not be part of an open source community's official activities IMHO.

Anonymous 8 November, 2011 - 23:19

CTR is certainly no worse than open unweighted voting

Let's face it, Acquia is big enough that if they told all their employees to vote for certain sessions, they're getting in.

Seriously, if you have a CTR of 1 or 2, there is just no way you should be presenting. Use a low CTR as a barrier to entering your session into the selection pool. Don't use a high CTR to get favoritism.


Justin Ellison 8 November, 2011 - 23:23

CTR measures how much time a

CTR measures how much time a person spends on Drupal.org, it in no way determines how effective or interesting a presenter may be.

CTR is also an unofficial metric, and Drupalcon is an official event. The closest thing we have on Drupal.org is whether or not the person is a vetted maintainer, and I'm confident people wouldn't be happy using that as a baseline either.

Mark Ferree 9 November, 2011 - 01:40

okay anonymous could we keep

okay anonymous
could we keep the paranoia level down - were adults here, and dries is not the evil dictator.

The CTR is NOT owned by acquia, and is not used for secret world domination: http://certifiedtorock.com/blog/certified-to-rock-groupies

mortendk 9 November, 2011 - 00:51

I am against CTR because

CTR may have value to people who are hiring or just wanting to get a peek at the Drupal involvement of a person with whom they're not familiar, but I think not for weeding out presenters at DrupalCons. While I would not necessarily call it "smoke and mirrors", it is a closed source widget with secret algorithms that make evaluating it possible only through evaluation by anecdote. (E.g., "Joe Blogg's score is about right, so CTR must be accurate!") It's like a DIebold voting machine, opaque to the public. (Drubold?) I've written about CTR before and don't need to get into it any more here.

But here we have a situation where people are asking for more transparency in the process of selection. Using CTR would add opacity, imho. It doesn't take tinfoil hats to note that there's a lot of skepticism [edited to add:] in the global Drupal community [/edit] about the influence of large shops on DrupalCons. Using CTR could add to that concern.

What's more, using CTR is a way to mainstream and weed out new voices, outside thinking, imho. Some of the worst sessions (and, yes, some of the best) I've seen were presented by people with very high CTR scores. I seriously doubt it would be a predictor of quality sessions.

Sure, you want Drupal API experts presenting on coding with Drupal. But when it comes to Design, Project Management, Business, and more meta discussions, a CTR score is really beside the point, yes? Perhaps even an unwanted filter?

Laura Scott 9 November, 2011 - 17:21

I certainly seem to be in the

I certainly seem to be in the minority here. I agree with everyone that CTR isn't a guage of how "good" a Drupal person is. What it can tell you is cases where someone isn't really involved with the community. You can be the most elite Drupal dev in the world, but if you're not committing, sharing, posting, helping, etc on D.O, your CTR score will be horrible. What CTR guages is the involvement on D.O, or the level of involvement with the community. If I have a CTR score 1 or 2, that probably means that I'm not in touch with the community. Do you really want me to present to that very same community?

And if the CTR black box starts going whacko due to changes in the algorithm? Simply stop using it.

Justin Ellison 9 November, 2011 - 17:26

I'm a fan of the voting. I

I'm a fan of the voting.

I don't view votes as an end-all indicator of what should or should not appear as content in a Drupalcon. Working with votes is great for getting some type of a sense behind what other people outside of the organizing committees think. I've used votes like that to give a second consideration to sessions that I would normally completely discount based on what I want to see. It's like a second set of eyes but should never serve as a definitive metric for session selection ... afaik this has always been the case with the votes.

My viewpoint of how the data should be utilized negates any correlation between vote numbers and how they are used so I question anyone that says they aren't effective because the numbers don't support it. I can respect the effort but I don't think your comparing apples to apples.

I think that doing anything to limit conference contributions from technologists outside of Drupal is a significant shortcoming for any event we do. This includes requiring previous Drupal talks or relying on some wonky bit of smoke and mirrors like CTR. I like the new concept of adding speaker training into the mix for people that are new to speaking or would simply like to take it, but I firmly disagree that you should require previous experience to speak ... if you take this path the only thing that happens is the equivalent of gene pool dilution.

Another point about community "rock stars" is that there are a lot of people in this community that perform well at certain things. But simply relying on that person to perform based on who they are has been a significant source of the increase in nag emails I've had to send out to get stuff done ... I think it's a huge dis-service to attendees to rely on "previous people" to make the show great ... if your only coming to talk/hang out with your friends, there are many bars available during a Drupalcon. There are newer and fresher people that are motivated to go above and beyond vs the personality that feels everything should be marshmallows and rainbows because they've been vocal in the community for years and years ... I've seen both sides of this argument in fully glory.

Drupalcon uses COD ... The entire session selection process is a mangled mix of site data, community perceptions, group conversations and google docs. There is no formalized process to work with others. I'm of the opinion that every tool necessary to do the session selection should be in the same realm as the session submission ... I'd also like to see that become a transparent data set so that others can see why a session was accepted or not. Getting a better process in COD is going to help out more than anything to really impact the overall selection process and quality of the shows.

cyberswat 9 November, 2011 - 00:05

the votes need a mandate

One of my (many) points is that the DrupalCon should be the geek olympics, where the best sessions are selected- This is the place where we push the community for the next 6 months.
Thats not a place for a unproven speaker to be - im sorry to be an elitist asshole, but somebody gotta say this out loud.
Its not a place where unproven speakers are gonna have fun trying to talk about "foo and the wonders of bar" - if you dont have any experience, well go to a camp or 2 and get some training - We have a shit ton of camps where you can prove to the local community that you have proven yourself worthy to take up 3-800 peoples 45 minutes.

Voting is only relevant if the votes have a mandate

If were having a vote to secure the democratic procedure in the session selection, then there must be a mandate added to the X top voted sessions.
Without a mandate to force those top voted session in - then its back to basically be the Trackchairs that have absolute power over a session that is selected which imho is how its done today.

If the votes are used in "combination with other factors" well then there need to be a ruleset for these factors - if not were back to whatever trackchairs - DA - drupalcon wishes to get in gets in Which is practically the way it goes anyway (yup thats how the sausages are made)

Voting on session only have a relevance if it comes with some kinda mandate, else its just BS that we enforced on ourself in a hopeless dream that it would keep the selection process under community control.

mortendk 9 November, 2011 - 00:40

Agree with so many points here!

Yes there are definitely too many sessions proposed for it to be possible for anyone to vote objectively.

Of all the good points made here I think two stand out:

1) One session per person. Don't let people use a scatter-gun approach to see what sticks. FInd a topic you are really passionate about and stick to it.

2) Experience necessary! Bad presentations can be avoided. DrupalCamps are getting so big now, it should be a pre-requisite that a speaker has presented at one or more camps as their apprenticeship before speaking at DrupalCon.

I also really like the idea of voting once the sessions have been chosen by the track chairs to determine the schedule.

Thanks for opening up the discussion Morten!


Richard Jones 9 November, 2011 - 00:46

okay so how about this solution

a problem now is the 600+ sessions (which will take at least 10 hours to read through)
so im thinking about a solution that goes something like this:

If we have a scenario : the con is with multiple tracks which each holds 10 sessions (for that sake of the argument)

  1. Everybody sends in their trillion of sessions
    a session have the following data:
    Description, 5 questions its gonna answer, the users previous experience, and the Why this session should be at drupalcon as laura asked for.
  2. Trackchairs are selecting are pre selecting 30 sessions that fills up the predefined criterias from the conference. at this time 5 sessions/track are selected as essential sessions for the conference.
  3. then the voting popularity amok run takes its normal tour - twitter storm and crap...
  4. trackchairs do their job again - the 2 top voted sessions/track are getting in the program. they select the rest 3 based on "different criterias" - and the different criterias are transparent.
mortendk 9 November, 2011 - 17:35

Great suggestion!

Hi Morten,

I really like this suggestion. Especially that sessions can get in judged by the charis, then automatically via popularity contest, and then based on a combination of both.

Also makes the whole process much more manageable.

Very nice suggestion!

Fabian 9 November, 2011 - 23:16

Same old, same old

The proposal selection is over, and the same people are talking again... There seems to be huge entry barrier for newcomers that are not known in the community, even if their topics would make sense. None of my voted sessions got through, as I wanted to hear something fresh from someone else than the usual suspects.

Also, there are more than one session accepted from a single person -- I understood that mortendk got two sessions through, congrats! If there is space for around 90 sessions with 600 submissions, what is the point of selecting the same guy speaking twice?

For me, DrupalCon selection seems to be mostly navel-gazing experience, and it typically (in my previous experience with both open source and early social media communities) indicates that the community and the product will have hardships later when it should go to mainstream / enterprise.

I personally find it hard, based on my experiences with DrupalCon Chicago, London and Denver call for papers, to a) submit any proposals anymore and b) vote on anything.

JF 18 November, 2011 - 08:30

It cant hardly be a surprise

It cant hardly be a surprise that its gonna be a lot of the veterans - those have shaped a lot of the building blocks that we all working with, that are gonna do a lot of the sessions - the whole oooh you been speaking before at a conference somebody else must present now, is misunderstood treehuggin hippy bs.

I for one would be very surprised if lets say a dude like Ryan who was the lead developer of übercart & now is spearheading the drupal Commerce project didnt do a presentation at a Drupal conference like Denver. As i have stated before and will again, I dont Think that Drupalcon sessions should be done by inexperience speakers.
Every session should be ground shaking for the attendees. nothing less!
Denver decided to have a 30% "new speakers" quote on the sessions, that is a lot if you ask me (especially when you have 20 sessions preselected)
a quick calculation gives me this for those of us who dont fit into any of these categories.

91 slots:
17 sessions preselected
3 keynotes
27 for new speakers
= 44 free sessions slots.

For that theres about 600 sessions that somebody needs to take a stand on.

So to be honest would you of those last 44 slots take of battle proven experienced sessions that you know that would kick ass - just to fill en even more "new speakers"

My point is that the system we have now is flawed & the whole voting thing, is bs - that only cause pissed off people & not really gives us anything.
I Would like to se a very hard preselection of sessions & after that maybe (maybe) some kind of vote to see how many / what cause the most of interest.
The meaning with the conference is 3 days where we get together get inspired and push forward.

I havent heard anything from the DrupalCon about my 2 sessions proposal, If both were selected, I should withdraw one of them, even that I have the ego the size of new york & an illusion of my opinions are able to push us forward to a shining new tomorrow coughs. its simply to much work to prepare those 2 sessions

Beter check that out now before i go oooh mighty & holy

**4 minuts later edit*
The session: "HTML4 S While were waiting for the Revolution" http://denver2012.drupal.org/program/sessions/html-4-s-while-were-waitin...
was selected between the first 80%, now theres 20% left thats not selected yet.

better begin to work on the slides before the fuckers change more in the html5 spec's & my understanding is that with that many sessions i better step the fuck up & deliver a Revolutionary talk

mortendk 18 November, 2011 - 11:33

Yep, reading through your

Yep, reading through your session description makes me really confident on the level of sessions. If that abstract would have been written by a no-name, it would never been selected. The Drupal community should grow up a bit, these "funny" sessions and abstracts are actually doing damage to the reputation outside open source community.

I understand the point of the veterans speaking, but most of the sessions in Chicago and London seemed to be rehashing the same topics. I learned nothing new, because most of the sessions were actually introductions to the topic and some of the sessions were plainly bad (like that one with five guys talking about tools of trade -- poorly organised, a lot of navel-gazing (yeah, we did that system by ourselves on top of Drupal), and generally not movable outside of that company).

Anyhow, the problem with selecting just people that are known "to kick ass" is that you don't find the next superstars, but are stuck with the old ones only. That seem to skim on the topic and rely on their prior reputation.

I've seen a lot better presentations in local DrupalCamps than in DrupalCons. Isn't that a bit alarming?

Maybe preselected BOFs (á la JavaOne) could be a solution to widen the range of topics and presenters.

JF 18 November, 2011 - 22:23

i dont expect you yo love me

Fair enough that you dont like my presentation style or my topic - i would be doing something wrong if it was any different - but claiming that its just a "funny session" is BS! You dont belive in using humor to get a message through, well thats just a shame i would not waste my time on a conference with boring sessions, where laughing were banned.
btw which other sessions in the frontend track would then have been selected, im actually curious now you went down the personal track and slammed my session.

I think that we 2 work in very different parts of the industry - im talking to a more "creative crowd" - and a bunch of devs. that wanna learn how designer-themers-css-markup-junkies think (and why i yell at em) i base this on the javaOne mentioning, so i could be completely wrong.
I make websites - my life is simply to short for conferences where i dont laugh & have a good time a place where im getting inspiration for the next 6 months & a place to meet those i will have heated discussion with in the issueques.
If you ask why people comes to drupalcons in both the EU & US my guess is because we actually like it here & the tone that we have.

If were doing so much damage outside the opensource community why are the suits coming to Drupal & not a "serious" platform / serious community?

Its not alarming that you have encountered better presentations, than you have attended at a drupalcon, if there wasn't better sessions a camp or a smaller venue -then where should the next "rockstars" come from ? I would be alarmed if there wasn't new talent & people with fresh ideas coming.

Saying that theres not new speakers is simply not true 30% are new speakers thats a lot of new speakers - and yes im actually coming to hear what our drupal "leaders" (eaton, gabor etc) have to say and where they are thinking we should go with the platform - lets face it were not sitting in a circle voting 13.000 developers about how were gonna do our css,

Actually try to sit down and try for the fun of it and make your own selection of sessions that should be on the program -its a rather fun exercise that gives a good perspective to the problems with 550 sessions and 460 that needs to be cut out.

If you heard a session that were so kick ass that the rest of the world should now it
why on earth didn't you promote it - pushed for it & made it happen. This is our community not "theirs" - and belive me its not because tracks chairs are evil or dumb (well last time in london it was because my session wasnt selected ;) ) ITs a shit ton of work of going through every session & yes some sessions is gonna be killed, but ever never because its an unknown speaker!

The problem with people not delivering is a whole other topic, that imho is the big problem. and its a scandal when people are not prepared - yes i mean scandale & I'm personally offended when i see that . and scared to shit when i see a really kick ass session,

Panel discussions are ...well i have ahem.. never been at a conference where a panel was just remotly interesting, so i dont even know why they are there but some one myst like em?

I think you should contact the Denver people @drupalcon about the bof idea's
We in the frontend world had great succes a couple of years ago by using the bofs.

So step up and deliver some alternatives - just jumping on the "its always the same speakers" when its not even is true, is not the way we move forward

mortendk 19 November, 2011 - 01:56

Fair enough

Thank you for thorough and long reply, I really appreciate you spending time with a random Internet hack like me. You have good points, and I agree to most of them. My question still remains: taking a hard look at your submission proposal, would it be selected if it was not from you? I doubt.

I've spoken about those improvements that I've discussed here with DrupalCon organisers (London most recently), Drupal Association, and a lot of people in the companies sponsoring the event. The response has been sort of following: yep, sounds like nice idea -- and then no follow-up whatsoever. And that's probably because who I am, not because the ideas are bad (although they might as well be that).

This and the sessions coming from the same guys are, in my mind, the facet of the same thing. In the Drupal community, it matters most who you are, and not whether you actually have good points to bring on the discussion. I understand that there is a lot of people like me with (good) ideas, so the chances of getting something through are slim. But on the other hand, I've had really good discussions with people on topics that they agree with me and have somewhat power to do something about it, but nothing happens. It's like talking to a wall at the end.

Anyhow, getting back to the topic. Maybe DrupalCon should have more simultaneous tracks, as most people nowadays seem to be working on Drupal shops employing several people, so you could (and have to, as Drupal ecosystem is so large already) split the learning responsibilities among several people. I'll propose that when I next time discuss with people organising the cons.

And lastly, one comment regarding camps and cons. My issue is that I get more out of camp sessions than con sessions. And I don't mean that there's one excellent session, but in general camp sessions beat con sessions. If cons collect the best individuals to speak (as they should), then why camps seem to have better presentations overall? This doesn't make sense, and there are few possible reasons: a) my local camps are closer to my day-to-day work than cons, b) my tastes are different than most of the community (somewhat related to a), or c) the selection process for cons is flawed. I frankly don't know the answer, but I'm worried about this.

JF 19 November, 2011 - 14:15

One clarification

When re-reading my own text, I found need for one clarification. I'm not saying that your session would be bad, but merely imply that based on the abstract it would not be selected if it would be someone else's session. My concern here is that the session proposal is based on the presenter's popularity, awesomeness or something else, and not on the session content per se.

Maybe we should have all sessions without presenter information when voting, i.e. blind voting?

JF 19 November, 2011 - 14:53

Dieta na mase

Nice to read !
Struktury nie są niskie, natomiast w perspektywie kilkunastu latek, inwestycja taka z pewnością wyrazi się o wiele niezwyklej skuteczna niż wspierani dieta na mase e armii pośredników. Na potwierdzenie słuszności tych słowy wolno znaleźć mnogie przykłady – na polskim gruncie często można zapisać efekt przyciągania poprzez kolosalnego produkcyjnego najemce składzików mniejszych najemców – wszystkiego typu dostawców a fabrykantów części natomiast opakowań, którzy wynajmują bądź budują krajowe magazyny w bezpośredniej bliskości dieta na mase naczelnego podmiotu. Jednostki te trenowanie oczywiście lokują swe operacje w pobliżu warsztatu centralnego fabrykanta, by zminimalizować okres obsługi natomiast dostawy. Zaoszczędzony czas wyzwala oczywiście oszczędności pieniężne, które wprawdzie na początku nie będą imponujące, jednak po kilkunastu lat

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