Jan 102005

This is not going to be a XML 2004 Conference wrap-up, for several reasons. Mostly because other people have written about the conference and the sessions they went to, partly because I didn’t manage to make it to very many sessions myself, and partly because it’s really far too late. The lead-up to the conference is always very intense, the week itself is even more so, and it takes some time before I can collect my thoughts sufficiently to write a posting. I have a few ideas stacked up; this one made it to the top first.

A few people asked me questions about the conference so I figured I may as well answer them here, for posterity, or for general interest. Hence the OAQ. Frequently Asked Questions are answered on the conference web site; Occasionally Asked Questions can be answered on the chair’s blog. By the way, the answers may or may not apply to the XML Conference in any year that I wasn’t or won’t be chair, i.e., any past or future chair may have different ideas on how things should work.

Do you sell keynote slots?
Some conferences do sell keynote slots (usually by guaranteeing a keynote slot to any company that sponsors the conference) but the XML Conference (at least while I’m chairing) doesn’t. Companies that do get keynotes sometimes decide to sponsor the conference, but that’s their decision.
So how do you pick keynote speakers?
There are two categories of keynote speakers – interesting people, preferably with a new or fresh perspective, and people who represent companies where the Planning Committee thinks that conference attendees will be interested in the vision that company has for some part of the XML industry. Sometimes we’re lucky and a speaker falls into both categories!
What guaranteed speaking slots do sponsor companies get?
Sponsor companies up until XML 2004 were guaranteed a product presentation slot where they could talk about their products. For all other talks, they need to go through the same procedure as everybody else and be judged on the quality of the abstract, how well it fits into the program, and how good the speaker is.
“up until XML 2004”? What does that mean?
There’s always the possibility that so many companies will offer to sponsor in any given year that guaranteeing a product presentation slot will no longer be possible. I still have no intention of guaranteeing any company, whether sponsor or not, a speaking slot that isn’t a product presentation slot. Everyone has to earn their slot!
What is a product presentation slot anyway?
A product presentation slot is a 45-minute talk that is freed from the constraint of not talking about products that all other talks need to follow. The idea is that often people really do want to know about products and features in a presentation setting, where someone has time to go through important features. Product presentations are selected differently to other talks; exhibitors on the show floor have preference, talks that showcase products from more than one vendor working together have preference, and products that are based on standards have preference. The product talks are in a special track, so attendees know what they’ll be getting.
Some people do show products in the other talks, what’s with that?
Technical work is often best illustrated by showing a demo. As long as the demo concentrates on the technical aspects of what’s being talked about, and not about whatever cool features the product has, it still qualifies as a non-product talk. This is a fine line that some people manage well and others don’t, which is why session chairs are prepared to stop any talk that goes too far into product demonstration territory when it isn’t meant to.
I’ve noticed lots of product tutorials though – what about those?
The Planning Committee discussed this one quite a lot. We decided that there is room for tutorials on how to use products as long as the products are reasonably popular, and the tutorial is clearly labelled as being about product X from Company Y. This ensures that potential attendees know what they are paying for. If they don’t want a product tutorial, they don’t go to it.

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