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Our talk selection process


The interest in speaking at Nordic Ruby has been overwhelming this year. We received 113 proposal, more than twice as many as last year. I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what our process looks like for selecting the 12 talks that get accepted.

In the last two years, we’ve used a Ruby script that generates a PDF with each proposal on its own page. We’ve then printed that PDF and taped up all the pages on a big wall, and let everyone at Elabs and some friends write their names on the ones they like. With more than 100 proposals this year, we’d probably run out of but tape and wall space pretty quickly, so we decided to try something different.

This year, we’re using Trello as our virtual wall board. Each proposal is a card in Trello, and everyone in the team can log in, add comments, and vote on the ones they like. It works great.

Speaker selection in Trello

Another thing we’re doing differently this year is that we’re starting out with anonymous proposals. Each card in Trello just shows the proposal’s title and description. No information about the speaker. We do this to avoid bias in the first stages.

We use the archive feature to remove the proposals with the least votes. We’ve narrowed it down to 34 now. We’re doing another round of voting to get it down to about 25, and then we’ll add the speaker information.

Ultimately, the way a talk is presented is just as important as the topic, so selecting speakers that we think will do a good job and do their topic justice is something we think is important. At a bigger conference, with several tracks and with more talks crammed in each day, you can afford to take more chances on speakers. With only 12 slots available at Nordic Ruby, we don’t have that luxury.

That said, we still try to take some risks, and select some speakers that aren’t very well known. At Nordic Ruby 2010, Keavy McMinn presented her second conference talk ever, with great success. She went on to become a very popular speaker, speaking at many, many conferences since then. At Nordic Ruby 2011, Joshua Wehner gave one of his first talks at a Ruby conference, and it was one of the most popular talks that year.

We’re very excited about the proposals we’ve received this year. There’s some great stuff there, and we can’t wait to announce it next week.

/ CJ


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