In 2010, I went to OSCON. GREAT conference, very few women. For the GREAT, I wanted to go back. To help grow the set of women speakers, I needed to go back.
In 2011, I proposed a topic: W3C widgets and OpenAjax. (Don’t look them up..) Technical topic, in which I had great interest at the time, and which showed promise for a R&D effort. No dice.
In 2012, I proposed a topic: OWF, GOSS(?), FOSS?!.. The idea was to go to the biggest open-source conference, talking about a forthcoming open-source project out of one of the country’s less open government agencies. Not accepted.
In 2013, I decided to get a bit smarter. 3 proposals went in to better my odds. One on the now open-source OWF and how it got there (hey, who doesn’t want the in’s on what’s going on in a previously government-internal project?), one giving a tutorial on OWF itself, and one on how we were intending to extend the use of or patterns of use of OSGi to provide dynamic client modules. All good, in-depth geek topics. Not accepted. Geek in-depth just wasn’t getting me in.
By this point, I was more than a bit discouraged. However, discouragement != giving up. The end goals were still of value – I just needed to figure out how to be more viable as a presenter.
Cut to the chase: 2014, I _finally_ got the success. Decided to look at my topics from the catch-your-eye perspective. One topic compared open source communities to sharks – both need to keep moving to survive. Promised many Jaws and Nemo references. Technical topic, audience appealing-spin. One topic made folks aware of government’s efforts in the open-source world, with the intent of encouraging participation. Drier topic, but hits OSCON’s sweet spots. Last topic, and of course the ringer that got accepted, was the crazy what the heck idea – daughter’s Furby is annoying, where would annoying be useful – hey, hooking it up to a build system turns annoying bad into annoying good. Meaning, wanting to fix something quick to shut off the thing is a great use of an otherwise inane annoyance. Not only was the topic, “Arduino + Furby Broken Build Notification – Oh, You’ll Want to Fix it Quick!” accepted, it’s scheduled for the Main Stage (“There are some talks that are just too interesting to limit the audience. Join us in the Main Stage for a collection of jaw dropping talks across all topics”). That it’s scheduled as the last session of the full conference is both an honor (wow, closing out the conference) and a humbling note – folks start petering out by the last day…
Takeaway: marketing appeal matters.
Now to write a kick-tail presentation. By the way, we’ll preflight Furby + software with my company’s Women In Computing Day in June. The kids (young women from 9-14) won’t be seeing a Furby hooked up to a Jenkins server, but we’ll make use of Furby and its audio protocol to help show them robotics in action…