March 12, 2002
JavaOne Presentations (flame)

(Originally sent to jdom-interest February 10th. Reposted here since I hear it's been forwarded around amongst other JavaOne speakers.)

I just have to vent, and this crowd seems like a fine place to vent about this particular thing.

I'm presenting a talk on JDOM at JavaOne this year, and Oh My God!, the slide submittal process is horrid. Absolutely draconian. Unlike *every other conference* I've spoken at (dozens), at JavaOne there are people who critique your slides on various Rules. These Rules definitely are smart guidelines but at JavaOne they are literally *Rules*. If you don't pass each and every rule down the line, they don't let you give your talk.

One sample rule:

You need a graphic on at least one out of every 6 pages. Need it or not, appropriate or not, you need a graphic. It's supposed to keep your audience awake. Well, I guess I have to come up with a graphic for the section where I compare JDOM with DOM. Any ideas? I wonder if a picture from Anna Kournikova's new calendar would do. It'll keep people awake.

Another rule: You should have no more than six words per bullet point. Wait, did I say "should"? I mean MUST as in the W3C spec meaning of the word. Anything longer than six words is.

That last one really bugs me. I personally find JavaOne slides 100% useless after the talk because of this rule. I've downloaded slides in years past from talks I couldn't attend. Here's what you get:

* JVM Performance In Process
* Garbage Collection In Real Time

Oh yeah, I'm really learning now! They say this rule is to keep the point size up so you can read the slides during the show, but seems to me:

* If you're at the show you're listening, not reading
* If you're not at the show, you can only read

(Notice the effective use of 9 word bullets there.)

So with big point sizes you can read my outline during the show, but after I'm done talking, all the points are lost.

I was proud and stood my moral ground and flaunted the rules -- I used graphics only when I needed graphics and I tried to actually *say something* with each bullet point. But no. The people reviewing the talks actually counted my words and my graphic densities. I failed. I'm told I need to revise now.

What's really ironic is last year the same basic slide outline was accepted. I was just unlucky enough this year to get the Presentation Nazi. I can almost hear him yell: "No presentation for you, one year!"

Maybe you're thinking I should obligingly bow to the Rules and be tricky and bring my own slides in on a laptop on the presentation day. No can do! They're on to that! You can't bring your own laptop to present. Every other conference I've spoken at lets you. Why not at JavaOne? They say it's to keep things simpler to setup, but really how simple is it for me to load JDOM examples on their machine versus my own?? Here's my theory: if anyone ever tries to make The Training Alliance Nazis (tm) look bad (you know, someone in a bad mood -- try to picture it), they'll know beforehand and have some leverage to encourage you to change your slides.

I agree these guidelines make sense in general, but can we give the speakers no credit? The best talks I've ever attended have slides that don't in any way follow the JavaOne Rules. And some of the worst talks I've ever attended have been at JavaOne. Maybe they're trying to raise up the quality of these poor talks by rigidly enforcing these rules. I think it's more likely they're creating poor talks by enforcing these rules.

Ah well. At least I can still say what I want on stage. Um, probably. I'll let you know if they actually let me speak live on stage or if it's a tape recording.


P.S. Sun speakers suffer from this just as much as outside people, if not more. This is another reason why no one at Sun looks very happy the month before JavaOne.

Posted by Jason Hunter at March 12, 2002 12:19 AM
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