Session Selection Process
Session selection is a large undertaking for DrupalCon. We regularly get more than 500+ session submissions for a mere 130 slots, and choosing a lineup is a huge undertaking! In fact, some topic tracks receive more than 130 sessions each, which makes it so that they cannot even select 10% of the submissions they receive.
While making selections is a huge project, it is a very straight-forward one. We choose all sessions through a process that reduces bias and creates transparency, and we are happy to share it with the community here.
Session selection for each track is performed by the track chairs, who are recommended to the Drupal Association or volunteer for the job, are interviewed, and are then appointed by the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator. Each Track (Coding & Development, Site Building, etc) has at least two track chairs. One of the two is deemed the Global Chair, as they have participated in the track chair capacity at a previous DrupalCon and know the processes, while the second person, or Local Track Chair, is always new to the track chair position and is normally from the local area where the Con is being held. Local Track Chairs come by way of community recommendations months before the Con, normally from the Global Chairs and Community Leaders. Once recommended, they participate in an interview process with the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator to ensure that they grasp the time commitment and responsibility associated with the position. The people that are selected always have experience with Drupal, have attended and/or volunteered at local Drupal events, are strong in the field of their track, and are able to commit to the entire program. If you’d like to read more about what they take on, you can read about it here. You can also see the list of current track chairs for DrupalCon Barcelona here.
Once the entire team is appointed, they work within their own tracks between the Local and Global chairs, as well as with the entire Track Team to define their respective tracks. At this time, they lay out what kind of themes will appear in the track and what types of information or talks they hope to have submitted. During the call for papers, Local and Global Track Chairs may reach out to speakers they have seen in the past or speakers that they know have presentations that could align with their track description. In these conversations, a spot is never guaranteed-- it is merely a request to submit a session. The Track Chairs also promote their tracks in the wider Drupal community to encourage people to submit sessions. This promotion happens via blogs on the DrupalCon blog, on company blogs, through personal Twitter accounts, and so on.
After the call for papers closes, the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator compiles all of the submitted sessions into a working document for the entire track team to have access to. The Track Chairs have access to the following information about each session from the node: Session Title, Description, Speakers, Speaker Experience and Desired Track.
Over the course of the following two weeks, the Track Chairs read every submission in their track. If they feel that the session does not belong in their track, they will reach out in a weekly meeting with the entire team to another Track Chair to pass the session to the more appropriate track. During this time, Track Chairs can also reach out to speakers for clarification about their session proposal.
Once all of the sessions have been read, the Track Chairs create a rating system for their track. Track teams are encouraged to determine their own rating system as long as they show their work and work together to rate with the same scale. Some Track teams use standard deviation rankings, some place talks in different categories and rate from there, and some use regular averages. At the onset, Track Chairs all disclose anything that could be seen as a conflict of interest: for example, if they proposed a session in any track including their own, or if a co-worker submitted a session and they know they will score with a bias, if they are co-presenters on any sessions, etc. These conflicts are handled by adding an additional Global Track Chair on for the rating process to provide a 3rd score for averages. If a tie happens, a past Global Track Chair will come in and provide feedback on all of the sessions in the track to provide a 3rd score for averaging as well.
After ranking, the Track Chairs use those rankings to select the top talks that they have an allotment for (13 is the normal amount each track has, but special tracks may have less) and a few alternates. Each Track Chair presents these ‘selected sessions’ to the entire Track Team (all other Locals and Globals) and Lead DrupalCon Coordinator. During this sharing time, the Team is looking out for the following:
No speaker is slated to have a solo session more than once (with the exception of our special tracks – Core Conversations, Drupal.org and Symfony)
One speaker does not have more than 3 co-presentations at the Con, as we only aim to schedule each person to present once per day
Talks are not overlapping the same content between multiple tracks
During this meeting, with feedback from the team, each Track Chair compiles the final selected sessions. Because of possible feedback related to the items listed above, it is possible that these final selections are different than the ones that the Track Chair originally presented and an alternate was chosen. Once that is established, the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator contacts the selected speakers via email with the good news. After all sessions are confirmed, the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator then reaches out to the remaining sessions to let them know that they were not selected.
After the DrupalCon, the Lead DrupalCon Coordinator reaches out to the exemplary Local Track Chairs to see if they would like to join the Global Track Chairs team and serve as a Global Chair in a future Con. Then the whole process starts all over again with new content, a new team, and a Con in a new city.