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Why Do You (Not) Submit to Conferences?

September 28th, 2006 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

Holy crap. I didn’t even notice until today that we’ve hit 3 years of OK/Cancel! Hope you guys are still having fun here.

I wanted to write something last week about annual reviews but that’ll have to wait. Continuing on the conference theme of conversations, I’d like to find out what people look at when they choose where to submit their stuff to.

Conference submission deadlines are coming up, mostly in October. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who’s helping with the CHI programming and he thinks it’s a catch-22 where the quality of the conference can’t branch from the academic papers if practitioners don’t submit quality papers to it. He brings up a good point but I brought up a number of reasons I didn’t particularly like CHI as a whole, and the submission guidelines still seemed rather academic like.

What conferences do you submit to and why? Are the submission requirements unreasonable? Does the exotic location have anything to do with it? Are there ones you submit to every year? How do you feel about the review process of any given conference?

And if you’ve never submitted, why not?

14 Responses to “Why Do You (Not) Submit to Conferences?”
Rooster wrote:

As someone working on a CHI Note at this very moment I’m wondering why you don’t like CHI as a whole.

Tom wrote:

I too would be interested to hear more about why you don’t like “CHI as a whole.” I understand not caring for the academic part, but CHI is making real efforts (with, I think, reasonable success) to broaden the conference. I think the design community (chaired by folks who actually come out of design programs) is developing nicely, and the experience reports offer a venue for reporting interesting work without the necessity of referencing “the literature.” If these things aren’t working for you, what suggestions do you (or others) have?

seele wrote:

If the recent comic is any indication, I think his impression is that CHI is too academic.According to his friend, CHI is having a hard time branching out to the industry community because they just arn’t getting the quality papers usually expected from such a venue.

Perhaps this is related to the comic comment of the UPA conference being too beginner. If you compare the quality of case studies from the UPA compared to more academic venues, the quality isn’t there and often have scientific logic holes (”what were your independent variables again?”). That is not to say there arn’t any good papers in the UPA, just not many.

Personally I am working on a submission for the IA summit and will probably submit my latest research project in the CHI student research competition. The only requirement I usually find unreasonable is the submission date — especially if they want camera ready papers. For CHI maybe it makes sense because academia moves so slow, but the UPA submission date has come and gone with 9 months to spare before the conference. A lot can happen in 9 design industry months.

Dave wrote:

If it is about submission requirements. I like IA Summit the best. They are pretty informal and the Summit is a great conference for UX practitioners from researchers to designers and everything in between. There is even a separate academic research track that are reviewed by academic standards.

So long as you expect academic standards from practitioners you will not ever break the academic/practitioner barrier at CHI (to address Rooster).

Also, not all practitioners are the same. I would not want the same guidelines or structure for a designer as I would for a researcher. Both are practitioners, but there are cultural differentiations.

I also think there is another issue with conferences. That too few people can just be attendees anymore. It seems that everyone needs to speak at a conference in order to justify their attending. Maybe this is when you hit a certain level of seniority or something, but it seems that everyone I know at a conference these days is speaking or actively participating in some way with their attendance. Does anyone just attend anymore? The reaons I mention this is that I think while money is an issue for everyone, TIME is a big issue for participation by practitioners. How many practitioners can say with confidence (or get confirmation from their supervisors with equal confidence) that they will be available to travel out of the office for a week to attend and speak at a conference? I know very few. Academic folks have a bit more time control than their industrial counter parts.

Louise wrote:

Personally, I don’t submit because I assume I have nothing interesting to say.

Could I be the only usability professional with this view?

Or have I just blown my own comment by adding to this list?

Trevor wrote:

As both an academic and a practitioner, I submit to conferences where the requested topics match my areas of interest and study. It’s always a struggle to know what the appropriate level is to focus your presentation, whether at the academic level or on a more focused, practical level.

The academics always seem to be too big picture in focus, while the practitioners are so focused on tools and methods that they wind up excluding a large portion of their audience who lacks the background to adequately understand, critique or judge the efficacy of the work they’re presenting.

A tool without the experience and understanding necessary to use it effectively is an accident waiting to happen. Think of giving a chainsaw to someone with no experience using it and asking them to go cut down trees. Even if they manage to keep all their fingers intact, the tree will still likely fall on them. ;)

Mary Beth wrote:

I’m not surprised if CHI has a reputation as an overly-academic conference — remember we’ve spent the past 25 years working to establish HCI as a research discipline and it takes a sustained effort to go up against the academic establishment in computer science, psychology, etc.

With respect to broadening, the move we started last year to invite more participation from designers is paying off (thanks partly to Jon & Bill, our very engergetic Co-Chairs in this area!). This year our submissions from that community are way up — in the form of design research papers, experience reports, and interactive demos. What I do not see is increased submissions from usability professionals - why?

And like other posts, I’d love to hear what folks DO NOT like (plus suggestions) about the ways we have been changing CHI.

— from the CHI 2007 Conference Chair

Dan Saffer wrote:

My suggestion would be to have two submissions tracks: one for academics who seemingly need the rigor of peer-review and a standardized format, another for practitioners, most of whom blanche at the thought of having to write a 10 page paper that may or may not be accepted. Unlike academics, practitioners don’t always need to have published papers to advance their careers, so a difficult submissions process will continue to keep us from submitting (and attending) in droves.

Mary Beth wrote:

Back to Dan - CHI has recently focused attention on Experience Reports and similar practice-oriented submissions (what we call “Contemporary Trends”) just for this reason. They are NOT expected to be 10-page academic papers designed to advance a research career. Though these shorter submissions are still peer-reviewed and do appear in the Extended Abstracts proceedings, they are reviewed BY practitioners FOR practitioners. It seems to be working (so far) for designers but less so for other communities (e.g. usability or software engineers, educators, managers). But we’ll keep trying! (Note there is still a late-breaking submission deadline in January, this will include Work-in-Progress and SIGs).

Luckluster wrote:

Questions regarding todays comic (http://www.ok-cancel.com/comic/163.html)

1. Why is Dawn’s shirt changed between panels? Does that implies that days have passed?
2. Can you set me a date with her?

Thanks!

Georgia Sam wrote:

W. Edwards Deming believed that annual reviews are a terrible idea. See his book, “Out of the Crisis.” Not that it will change the minds of any managers . . .

Scott Abel wrote:

Conferences can definitely improve the usability of their submission processes. I’m working with several organizers this year to help them get a handle on submission and user experience issues.

Documentation and Training: The User Experience (coming to Vancouver April 18-21, 2007) — www.doctrain.com — is working to build a submission site that will allow presenters to contribute their own information (just the basics - presentation name, abstract, bio, headshot, contact info). This approach is being implemented to also make reusing this content easier. Once a presentation is approved, it can be published to the website, and subsequently, to the printed mailer and conference program. Our end goal: Write it once, use it often.

I think conferences that focus on the user experience should try to improve the experience for all involved, if for no other reason than to have some lessons learned so they can improve each and every time they hold an event.

Hope to see you in Vancouver at Documentation and Training: The User Experience. To get on the conference mailing list visit: www.doctrain.com

Scott Abel

David Scott Lewis wrote:

Have demo and poster session tracks just for practitioners. This is one solution.

Let’s face it, didn’t the Microsoft Surface team come up with some of their best ideas from the likes of SIGCHI and related venues and publications? So there’s definitely value — a lot of value — in academic research. Just depends on what one is doing.

If someone is really focused on web design, a conference on Sun vs. Microsoft vs. Adobe (or a user conference on any of their specific development platforms) might be a lot more valuable than SIGCHI. For most web designers, UXD means Flash more than it means usability testing.

There’s the Ryan Stewart crowd — and it’s an important crowd. And then there’s the SIGCHI crowd, an equally if not more important crowd. But the Ryan Stewart crowd has a more immediate, tactical impact on all things web design related, whereas the SIGCHI crowd is more likely to have a strategic, long(er)-term impact on all things web design related. Both are important, both are essential. AJAX is cool and in the now; telepresence will have a greater impact after everyone has forgotten what AJAX means.

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?



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