Why was my abstract (not) accepted?

December 20, 2014

conferences, oracle, ougn, social

You know, this is my blog, but I am aware of my role in our user group. The opinions here are mine; I haven’t stolen them. Selecting abstracts for our conference is done by many in our board, but I wanted to clarify how I look at the task, what speakers I look for to our conference.

Thursday this week we sent out emails to 71 people who will present on our next conference that starts March 12. Another group received a more disappointing email. Some have questioned why they did not make it (again).

As a user group I think we have some community duties. These came to my mind now:

  • Be there for our members, independent from any vendor, but still cooperating with Oracle and others.
  • Enlighten and show new stuff to our members.
  • Help them finding solutions to problems they may have at work - share experiences.
  • Networking; remind DBAs and other professionals that may be alone in their day job that they are not alone in the community.
  • Also network related: There are a lot of experts inside and outside Oracle worldwide that believe in what they are doing, and are willing to help. The community needs to know about them.
  • Assist in recruiting new people into our fields of technology; more members and new colleagues. 
  • Help new speakers into giving presentations, develop the community with even more good speakers.

This post is mostly about that last bullet point.

I have my heroes among the speakers. First I discovered Tom Kyte, and when he started blogging I discovered the Oaktable Network. From that group I can mention Cary Millsap, Jonathan Lewis, Christian Antognini, Kellyn Pot’Vin-Gorman and Douglas Burns, to name a few.  They always attract a lot of people. And I really enjoy the company of these, really smart, yet levels with you every time. The community is even more than the Oaktable, there are plenty of people who just love what they are doing without carrying any reward for it.

Many of these speakers have been rewarded for their community contributions through the Oracle Ace Program.  OUGN could never have staged such a good conference without the support from Oracle through the ACE program,  we have several ACEs every year and the ACE program covers a substantial amount of expenses. So if someone from OTN is reading this: Thank you!

In this program the best (according to some metric) are rewarded with status ACE Director (ACED). Before they got that far some started as ACE, this year the new entry level is ACE Associate. Now, according to someone’s logic we should go through the list of submitted abstracts and pick all the ACEDs first, right?

Not according to mine. I think we have a duty in helping new speakers to the stage. One of the most uplifting experience I have in the community is to discover (new) people that spend time on becoming good at what they are doing through hard work, lots of lab testing, and blogging. The presentations that gave me most came from people who really care about what they talk about (call it passion, if you insist), not from a very slick and polished presentation.

This is one way we in OUGN can give back to the ACE program and the rest of the community: help the not so famous or people who aspire to become an ACE to get better at presenting their stuff. 

I like to think that some of those new ACEs became an ACE because they presented at our conference. One of our Norwegian members came to me after a conference was finished and said one certain presentation made the whole conference for him. It was delivered by one I invited to speak, he was not an ACE then, but is now. It is a lot of work to become an ACE, more then one conference experience, of course, but still I think we can contribute to it.

In addition to this group of speakers who I personally care much about, here is a list of others I look for:

  • Product managers and others in Oracle who shares and cares about the community. PMs for SQL Developer, APEX, among others, are the best ambassadors for Oracle.
  • People who are in the front with new trends and technologies.
  • Famous people who attract attendees, because we need them.
  • Really hard-core nerds that may not appeal to many, but makes the conference for the ones that go to the deep-dive session.

So, if your abstract did not make it, it means among other things:

  • We were blessed with lots of submitted abstracts (over 250 this year, not counting people who said they was going to submit, but forgot about it.)
  • We have to choose from different groups of speakers.
  • Something else happened. (This is the miscellaneous bucket including faults on our side.) 

If you made it, it means that we literally want you on board and that you will succeed. You may have the best experience after your presentation from introverts who want  to know more about what you are doing. And the last night while sailing back to Oslo and you will have no presentation to worry about, you will understand why quite a few want to come back to the OUGN Spring Seminar, aka The Boat Conference :-)

By the way, the worst thing about abstract selections is not to say no to the pros (ACEDs), they can handle it, I assume, but there are some less experienced people that deserves to be speaking, but we couldn’t find slots for them.

Cheers to everybody.