Please allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Julia, dodger and erdgeist, the 31C3’s “meta content team”. Our mission is to coordinate the five so called “track teams” introduced for the 30C3 conference. We would like to give you a better idea of how the 31C3 Fahrplan is orchestrated, for what reasons lectures are accepted and rejected and how we strive to make the conference program even more interesting.
From the introduction you might have noticed that there is not a single entity deciding what you see at the conference and there is not a benevolent dictator judging by personal preferences, but rather five very different committees working through all your submissions and reviews. This concept was conceived after learning some scalability issues the hard way:
After a stressful content organizing session for 29C3 we understood that the amount of work to cope with 300+ submissions was killing the mood. We also faced the danger of not committing an appropriate amount of time on each submission. The content team met for three whole weekends but we had only two minutes to discuss each submission between the 23 members before making a decision. (Do the math!) In the end we had to acknowledge that we were actually left with enough work for five hacker conferences at once.
The growing scope of what we consider our community now also meant that a monolithic team of content coordinators would require a broad overview over a range of topics and – to be honest – not everyone in one huge content team was predestined to judge each submission from every weird corner of the hacker’s universe.
So we decided to split the review and talk invitation process between five different content coordination teams, called “track team” for the tracks “Science”, “Art & Culture”, “Security & Hacking” 1, “Hardware & Making” and “Ethics, Politics & Society” 2; each completely independent in how they select team members, reviewers and how they incorporate the reviews in their decisions. The teams were boot strapped by appointing experts in the field – this year the team leads in three of five track teams are not even members of CCC.
Knowing that each track gets its fair share of attention gave us confidence to guarantee time slots for invitations, when in previous years an invitation stood a chance to be voted off the schedule by the commission. With that freedom the track teams could actively look for cool lectures waiting to be submitted, define interesting topics and find suitable coordinators in those track teams with differing world views (to put it mildly).
All that’s now left to do for the meta content team is to brew coffee, dedicate time slots to each track team, (leaving time for CCCs very own content), solving differences when submissions do not precisely fit a track’s description and when teams require more time for cool lectures.
For the track teams however the real work usually starts exactly at the last day before submission deadline ;). Around 400 submissions arrived 2014 at our cool conference planning tool frab. Some submitters come every year, some prepared a spontanous lecture, some were invited by track teams and friends.
Reviewers – some coming from our ranks, some volunteering for years now – are then asked to commit themselves to one of the tracks and help our track teams by adding meaningful reviews about how important they feel the topic is, how well the speaker seems to understand the topic, whether they’ve seen the submitter giving lectures before and so on. These reviews are an important tool to judge which submissions are then put on the top of the list – remember that for each accepted submission, three have to be rejected.
While each track team is independent in how they chose their content, some basic rules apply for all of them. It’s important to understand what the congress is not: a platform to advertise for your product or tell heart warming stories of how your project came to be. Another thing that we try to avoid are boring, uncontroversial panels staffed with people who more or less agree on the topic – we’ve all seen too many of those. Neither do we strive to be a scientific conference where you can present your underlings’ work to get academic publishing credits. We want see and hear the people who actually do the work.
And before you start an online Fahrplan petition – we know that some controversial lectures were accepted at every congress, while others were rejected that appear to be clear keepers in your peer group – it’s important to remember that the congress is not a place to practise grass root democracy. It’s a conference organized by CCC, after all and we do have a strong impulse to not only entertain but also to educate.
After a busy month of heart breaking rejection decisions, desperate negotiations between the track teams and joint meetings to also fit an overreaching thematic arch over the conference, the submitters get a first round of acceptance or rejection notices. Lots of work still need to be done until the first version of the Fahrplan will be published: many questions of the speakers need to be answered, itineraries need to be synchronized, hotels and flights booked and the best lecture hall and time slot for each talk needs to be found. But in the end we’re proud to present what we strongly feel to be the best Fahrplan ever and look forward to see you in Hamburg.