An Open Letter to Last Friday

Well what a shit storm that was. Almost entirely all of my own making, I’ll admit. This post is to clear a few things up and re-iterate my apology.

I absolutely don’t want to start another internet rumble with this post, so I’ll just say, if my previous post offended you, I’m sorry. My intent wasn’t to offend or be sexist, or in any way belittle anyone, male or female. My post was meant to be inflammatory and instigate some discussion. To that end, mission accomplished :)

To Anne and Jane, I’m sorry you got vilified, for no reason and accidentally. My intent was never to point you out as the bad guys in my post, and really I shoulda not even mentioned you guys. So for the public record on this blog, I can’t apologize enough to you guys, and if we’re ever in the same place i owe you a drink or sandwich or something of your choice :)

Daniel Jalkut suggested I should go into more detail on the selection process we use for 360|Conferences events, since it was a footnote in the last post. I agree completely.

We do a call for papers, we don’t invite. We sometimes solicit submissions but those are still evaluated with all submissions. That’s how we do it, and how we’ll keep doing it. I know there’s debate on whether that further institutionalizes the problems women in tech face, but that’s a discussion for another time, I don’t feel that’s “the” solution. Here’s how we do it for the record.

We make 2 sometimes 3 passes over our submission spreadsheet. The first pass we scroll over so the name, email and twitter ID of the submitter can’t be seen. We read each title and session description, and place a check mark next to it. The checkmark is simply a “this sounds interesting” indicator.

Then we do a second pass a few hours later with names visible. Sometimes one that didn’t sound interesting alone, becomes interesting because of the presenter. IE “Ok, he or she can rock that topic and deliver it really well”. It can also lead to, “You know he or she might not be the best to present this topic”. Another column, checkmarks indicate interest. No one loses a checkmark, that’s why there’s another column. They may not get a second one though.

This only happens sometimes, but on occasion we’ll ask people who’s opinion we respect beyond measure to help. Each will get a column, and will do the same process as step 2. They can add notes, or simply go through and place checkmarks.

The last pass we look at those sessions with 2 (or more) checks. Those are most likely to get on the schedule. Then we move down to the 1 check sessions. A check in either column gets further review, and could end up on the schedule.

The idea was to keep ourselves honest. One of our main complaints with some events is how narrow their speaker line up is. Either from a single publisher or a very clear “Friends and family” type line up. By making the first pass anonymous our hope is to keep us from accidentally filling the line up with names we know and love, or even just recognize. Part of what we like about our events is we give new members of the community an opportunity to share. Sometimes that means bigger names don’t get to present, but it’s important we continue exposing new blood to the community and encourage participation. When we get an email after a conference with “I loved X event, i can’t wait until next year, I want to submit something so I can give back” it makes everything we go through worth it and then some.

So that’s our process.

Another awesome suggestion that came out of last week was that should have a clear code of conduct for the conferences. I’ll be honest that’s one of those things I took as a given, and so far so has everyone else at our events, but I see the importance of making it clear to all. So all the conference sites have a link to the overall Code of Conduct page. My hope is that this also helps to assuage any fears that anyone has about speaking, or attending the conference. If it does, then that’s awesome.

That last thing I wanted to clear up was three fold. The first version of my post had a lot of “I” which was bad. The company is co-owned by my wife, and I should have spoken as the company, since that’s what I ended up doing. So I edited the “I” to be “we”. Those “I’s” also made the post sound super douchy which I got called out for too. So there’s that. There were a few “you should just take the post down” suggestions. I didn’t and am not taking it down. I don’t do that. That’s not honest. Yeah the post isn’t awesome, depending on how it’s read I’m a complete arse, but that’s me. Those are my (ill chosen in some places) words. Transparency and honesty mean a lot to me and pretending I didn’t write it is as bad as anything else that happened last Friday.

Also, to be clear on how we thank our speakers for speaking. We cover 3 nights hotel (4 if they’re doing a sunday hands on session), we’ve been doing that for a few years now. Starting this year for 360|iDev, we’re offering an honorarium. That’s been a long time coming, we’ve wanted to do as much for our speakers as we could, and we’re not done, but the next step as far as our budget goes is this honorarium. We’d love to cover more, and I really hope we get there, but by keeping the conference affordable we’ve had to take things slow, since this isn’t a hobby, it’s our job and pays our bills.

 

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Last Friday

  1. Pingback: An open Letter to Women in Tech (Updated) | johnwilker.com

  2. Spokker

    What’s with these panels anyway? Do people skip work just to go to these things? I never really understood them.

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