Because I'm all about the "good enough."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Things I've learned about CFPs.

Here are some great tips in this article on how to submit to calls for papers (CFPs). I'd like to add a few more, based on my own experience:

  • Don't be afraid to reveal the plot. Some people think that they need to submit something very high-level and save the good stuff for the actual talk. As it turns out, this isn't true. You have to show a little leg (or a lot) so that the reviewers know enough about what the conference will be getting. 
  • Here are some things that I personally find less enticing as topics: presos about reports (why can't I just read the original report, not sit for an hour listening to someone talk about it?); talks about surveys (unless they promise really surprising or controversial results); talks about historical topics (the only person I've known to do this well is Schuyler Towne); and meta-talks that aren't about security themselves, but are about 'X in security.' (Analysts in security, women in security, beards in security, ear-candling in security, whatever.)
  • If you're submitting a talk on how bad things are in security, join the club of about 1,000,000 members. If you're submitting a talk on how you fixed something in security, you have a much better chance of standing out from the crowd.
  • They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but the cover IS part of the book, and that's all the reviewers are going to see. Make sure the title and the dust jacket blurb are really compelling. Really - go look at some best-selling books for examples. When it comes time for the conference, people are going to choose to attend your talk or not in about half a second when they're reading the schedule. You'll need to grab them right then and there.
  • If you're not accepted, ask for feedback. Most conference committees will give you feedback if you ask nicely. This will help you fix your submission for next time. Sometimes it's a matter of "We got 20 submissions on this topic, and sorry, yours wasn't the strongest." Sometimes it's "Are you kidding? Why did you ever think this was an appropriate submission?" I've seen a case where someone submitted the same (appalling) talk abstract over and over again, year after year. Maybe they thought the conference review was a lottery, and they'd win it some day. But if only they'd asked for feedback, it could have saved them the trouble of submitting every year, because it was NEVER going to be accepted.
 Good luck to all, and may the odds be ever in your favor.