Mar 182009

I’ve never been to one of the really big conferences with thousands of people; I’ve heard the energy can be amazing, and there is always something interesting going on. I tend to find myself at smaller conferences where you have a chance to see people again whom you saw in the last talk, and can ask a question of a speaker in a quieter moment than the immediate post-talk rush.

Which is a way of reminding those interested in the finer details of markup technologies (XML, SGML, and other related technologies), that submissions for one of my favourite small conferences, Balisage, are due in a little over a month (April 24th, to be precise). I’ve signed up to be a peer reviewer, though I haven’t been active enough in markup research and technologies recently to submit a paper myself.

If you are writing a paper, I have some requests to make my life as a peer reviewer easier (and make it more likely that I recommend your talk be accepted). Please explain what it’s all about clearly, defining terms that may not be familiar to everyone, and above all, explain why it’s interesting! Too many papers I’ve seen assume that outsiders will magically understand what’s valuable; usually a poor assumption. Spell-check the whole paper, and get someone else to proof it looking for grammatical errors, sentences that ramble on for too long, and phrases that make no sense. The tone should be professional but not boring, as I will be making assumptions as to whether you can give a good talk based on the paper you submit (it’s a blind review, so I won’t know who you are when I review your paper). And do follow the guidelines; they’re there for good reasons.

And the most important thing, failure to observe which resulted in my recommending talks not be accepted last year despite potentially interesting topics: make sure the paper is long enough! A brief summary with details to be filled in later is not sufficient to let the peer reviewer know whether there is real substance that can stand up to 45 minutes of presentation and discussion.

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