Sunday, October 7, 2012

Saying "No" Nicely

EclipseCon Europe 2012 starts in about two weeks, and lots of attendees are figuring out which talks to add to their personal ECE schedules. There are lots of great talks, so it's not easy. But it's one of those "good problems" to have.

Another good problem the ECE program committee had back in July was deciding which talks to accept from among so many excellent submissions. Accepting talks is the most obvious task of a program committee. Declining talks -- carefully and thoughtfully -- is less obvious, but even more important.

Anyone who's had a talk declined knows it's disappointing, and that can't be avoided. But declining talks well can prevent a disappointed submitter from turning into a demoralized submitter who won't try again.

This year's ECE program committee left comments on every declined submission, explaining why it was not accepted. They answered a lot of follow-up questions to provide more detail. This task was considered essential, and the accept/decline emails didn't go out until all the comments were added.

The expectation -- and hope -- is that by declining talks well, we encourage new submitters to try again, and keep our EclipseCon content fresh and interesting.


  1. Anne,

    yes, it is disappointing having a talk declined. Unfortunately there _are_ talks being declined without any comment from the program committee :(


    Thomas E.-E.

  2. Anne,

    Your post is really interesting as the comment I received in the e-mail declining my talk seemed to make fun of me. I am absolutely fine with my talk being declined, but a meaningless comment from a committee member who has several own talks accepted made me feel suspicious about the seriousness of the event and ultimatedly I decided not to attend.



    1. Hi Christoph (Zwicker)

      after your talk was rejected you asked us (the program committee) why your talk was rejected. You pointed at 2 other talks that you thought were less valuable than your own submission. (a pretty unique approach).

      I spent 30 minutes and wrote you a long mail collecting all the information from our internal feedback system why you talk was rejected and how you could do better in the future.

      You thought that this email was meaningless. Fine. I spent the equivalent of 4 weeks work time to help create a good EclipseCon Program Schedule. We have a total of 8 program committee members with a broad range of companies and technologies represented.

      Nobody has to agree with us on our decisions but assuming we are biased is unfair. We all invest a lot of time and needless to say that NO programm committee member has a vote on his own talks.

      Rather than pointing at others (other sessions or the program committee) you should try submit something better next time. We accepted roughly 100 sessions that were able do and I am sure you can do that toooo.

      christian campo
      program chair eclipsecon europe

  3. Hi Christian,

    Thank you for your elaborate response. Unfortunately there seems to be a mistake in names.
    All I ever received from you was a comment that I should re-submit my talk in 4 years. I hope you can understand that such feedback is not very satisfying, even if it was meant to be funny and it left a strange impression.
    As I wrote in my earlier post, I have absolutely no issue with my declined talk, but without any indication about what could be improved, I actually felt not being taken serious. I was surprised about this but decided not to follow-up with this. Later I read Anne's post and thought it would be worth commenting.


    Christoph Czernohous