Now that the submission / selection process for GDC 09 is coming to an end, here’s a few thoughts on the new process (CMP / Think Services substantially reformed the conference-submission process this year):
(if you haven’t been following, I periodically write something about ways we can improve the games industry conferences)
- About this time of year I would normally be thinking “I really need to start on the details of my talk now. Given how busy I am, I’ll need 3 weeks to practice it, and do one final re-write before the conf”. Instead? I’m thinking: “my talk is already written. I have nothing left to do!”. Cool! It’s great to have one less big thing to do…
- …except, of course, there is something left to do: I need to add all the graphics and do a run through to make sure it all makes sense and flows. I hope the new process hasn’t lulled me into a false sense of security.
- …AND: usually when I get to a conference, I only got the final polish on the presentation 1-3 weeks earlier (depends how busy I was; sometimes I get fed up with it the night before, and I do some big changes a mere 3 hours before the talk. Especially true if I’m jetlagged and I wake up on the morning of the talk at 4 am anyway) – so it’s all fresh in my mind; I know this is common for a lot of speakers (we’re all busy people, and we don’t get paid for this, so have to fit it in around our day jobs). I have a semi-photographic memory, so I can usually give a talk even if I lost all the slides. This gets offset by the jetlag from flying 6,000 miles to California, and the inevitable hangovers from the GDC parties. In the end it all works out as “OK”; I wonder if it’ll be harder this year? (I wrote the whole talk 6 months before the conference!)
- CMP’s organization didn’t quite work this year – they missed their own deadlines for reviewing talks and getting back to speakers by 1-2 months. I’ve asked around among friends who are speaking too, from really niche talks to keynoters, and although there is some variation by “importance” of talk (the bigger name, the sooner you heard back, *mostly*), everyone got their responses much later than we were told we would. Shrug. We’re used to this :) – and this is a new way of handling the organization, so I’m sure there were lots of teething problems and unexpected holdups. We’ll just have to see if it goes closer-to-schedule next year, when they’ve debugged it a bit.
- The accidents that lead to CMP exposing on their website the earliest talks as they were confirmed made for a really interesting lead-up (for other speakers, who could briefly see what was appearing). I’ve already had 3 or 4 mass emails from CMP this year “announcing” batches of new talks that were “just confirmed”. This is standard marketing practice (and they do it each year). But it’s so 1990.
- Howabout an RSS feed that shows each *individual* talk the moment it goes on the system? That would be awesome and … here’s a headsup to CMP: I would actually bother to read it!
- These mass-emails of hilighted talks bore the tits off me: with 300+ talks, and one of your marketing dept picking 5-10 they “think” we’d all be interested in, for me as an individual, they get it wrong nearly every time … with all 10 of their picks. It’s statistically practically guaranteed! Theirs is a hopeless task, one I don’t envy. Give us an RSS feed! :)
- BONUS: if you RSS feed it, you’ll *allow* the chance of news outlets picking up on each and every interesting talk as and when it’s announced. IMHO, you’d actually get overall more exposure. Since you wouldn’t need to “pick and choose”, you’d also be more likely to big-up the interesting talks by accident, since at the moment you just kill the news on them, instead of supporting it.
Also, this year I will once again be mobilizing every industry-insider I can to blog their own detailed writeups of every session they go to, via the Games Industry Conglomerate RSS Feed Of Awesomeness (feed will be updated nearer the time).
(FYI: we’re fed up of non-professionals reviewing conference talks, and either reporting what they’re told without realising when a developer is bullshitting them, or adding their own interesting but often uninformed opinions. We do love them for reporting it, and doing their best – but if you’ve never developed or published a game, there’s *so much* you can’t help but fail to appreciate about what you’re listening to. Sorry. This is not a marketing conference, its a development conference; we need developers reporting it (in addition to the journalists).
For a long period recently they didn’t even bother writing up transcripts of the sessions – so all the world was left with was a summary through the mind of someone who didn’t know what they were looking at. For some talks that’s fine, but at the world’s biggest game-conference for Professionals, with tons of detailed talks and subtle acts of brilliance, it’s just Not Enough.
No more! We transcript, and we comment, and some of us even like to bitch (and praise) quite openly about what’s being put out by the speaker.)