what we blog

Hip but flawed: CFPs on Github

CFPs as pull requests on Github are the new hotness in town, at least when organizing a Ruby conference. Euruko 2012 did it, Sapporo RubyKaigi did it and RubyConf Australia and RuPy are following suit. My tweet today that I don't like the approach at all was met by a fair amount of reactions and I was asked to elaborate, so I'd like to do this here. I organized eurucamp this year and we consciously decided against it for various reasons, but these reasons are solely my own.

It is a kludge

That may be one of my weakest points to make, so I put it first. Github is not and was never meant to be a discussion forum about general topics. Depending on how you set the whole thing up, you basically end up with something as good as a set of issue discussions on a bugtracker. The end result is hard to be organized beyond a file level and possibly not fitting the structure you intended to. Also, not everyone has a github account or is used to how PRs work. Its an abuse of a tool thats geared towards other uses.

Public #1: Community votes can be problematic

Maybe it is because I am erring towards the phk-camp, but I strongly believe that its the organizers job to show good taste and select speakers. I don't like the bazaar approach here. The problem of community votes and involvement is that they can introduce a lot of bias. This is hard to support with strong numbers, but how can you decide for a speaker that obviously is very popular at your audience? In that setup, some people can get a slot with whatever topic. Also: it is the organizers job to allow interesting newbies on stage. Keeping everything in the open can make it hard to argue for some people.

Public #2: Speakers won't tell you all

With my speakers hat on, I have to say that I don't want to have my proposals in open. I am currently rewriting my proposal for RubyConf Argentina for the open format of RubyConf Australia. Why? Because I always try to make sure that the organizers get a very sharp view of whats the talk going to be like, right down to the current outline or any surprises to expect. Those are things that I only want to reveal to the general public right when I am speaking and I will erase them from my proposal.

It also makes me uneasy to be forced to put my stuff into public. For me, organizers are a trusted group that will either reject me or even tell me whats bad about my proposal. I don't want others to peek into my working drafts. Its a personal thing, but I am sure I am not the only one.


If time is the issue, there are better options. If you don't want to take the time to build a CFP website, use things like BusyConf. They are a bit rough around the corner, being in beta and all, but the CFP process works well and gives you a public site to use and manage. They also give you far more insight into that data as well as thought-out communication features to get the whole speaker planning over with. In the long-run, you will most likely save more time using it.

In the end…

… it is up to you. I am not telling you how you should organize your conference. It is your event and doing things differently then others is what builds the character. But don't forget that CFPs are an old process and are an interaction between you and the potential speaker - some might shy away from the prospect of having a three-way discussion instead.