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Agile 2010 – Team Room Agile Selection Process

This evening we sent our stacked ranked list to our Theme producer for the Agile 2010 conference. Our stage, Team-Room Agile, was one of 5 stages in the Technical theme of the conference. According to our working document, we had a total of 330 submissions for a total of 55 slots. Our stage was the second busiest with 87 submissions for 11 slots.

The process is really eye opening, but a lot of work. Corey Haines, my co-producer, our reviewing team and me have been working over the past 8-12 weeks filtering in sessions, making sure they are on the right stage, and commenting and reviewing them to make them have the best content we can deliver. Each producer had his or her own guidelines, and I thought it would be insightful to talk a bit about our process.

The first thing to note again is the ratio. With 87 submissions for 11 slots, 7 out of every 8 submissions aren’t going to make it. This means we had to make some hard decisions. The second item was that Corey and I wanted to push up interactive sessions. I don’t mean, “We let the audience ask us questions”, but true interactivity and engagement from the attendees. With that in mind, we had the following rough guidelines:

  1. Any sales pitchy stuff was out
  2. Any product specific sessions were out
  3. Any talks had a really high bar set before them
  4. Any outrageous claims (“We’ve invented a new way to do Agile!”) was vetted heavily and needed to either be backed by data / references or be a recognizable name

One other thing we had a challenge with was that we ended up with very high profile sessions – Martin Fowler, Jeff Sutherland, Brian Marick, Alistair Cockburn. We also had a wide range of topics. In our final spreadsheet, we ended up with between 15 and 20 distinct categories – from Pairing to User Stories, Lean to Metrics. We wanted as broad of a representation as possible.

In the end, we managed to filter 87 sessions to 46 “possibles”, down to 25 “maybes” then to 20 “ranked” and finally 11 “probably going to be there”. The final list won’t be available until after the theme leaders do the mass reconciliation this weekend (I don’t envy them), but official word should come soon.

If you were a submitter, we did our very best to explain why your session didn’t make it. Once the list is finalized, I’ll update all 87 sessions with a final comment from me about why it ended up where it did. It was truly heartbreaking at times making decisions, because I know that it can really mean a lot to a submitter to be accepted at the conference. Since this is my first year doing this (meaning I’m a sucker), I will be more than happy to answer questions about any individual session that was on our stage (look for “Team-Room Agile” near the title of your talk). Of course, I’m not answering anything until the finalized list comes out. :)

I want to give a very sincere thank you to my reviewing team: John Stoneham, Ted Young, Will Green, Mike Bria, Rashina Hoda, Enrique Comba Riepenhausen and Kevin Taylor. And, of course, to my infallible partner in crime Corey Haines who kept me sane through all of this and Brian Button for herding in a group of world-traveling cats (“Oh, I think Josh is in Japan, and Rachel is in Switzerland and Corey is in London, so we’ll wait a few minutes”)

But especially to the submitters. You stuck your sessions out there, you came up with some wonderfully thought-provoking topics. And while I don’t want all of you at the conference, there are many I would have liked to have seen. Thank you for taking the time to submit.

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