Setting the Hyperledger Global Forum 2020 Agenda: The Speaker Selection Process

Can you feel the Hyperledger Global Forum 2020 buzz? We sure can! We are finalizing the fine details of the agenda, and today we wanted to give you a peek behind the scenes on how the process worked. Similar to our inaugural forum, this year we decided to open the program agenda to the full community issuing an open call for talk submissions via our formal Call For Proposal (CFP) process. And, as expected, building up on the 2018 momentum, we sure got a lot of submissions!

More than 300 submissions competing for 66 session slots, coming from every corner of the world and touching on a variety of topics flooded our CFP portal from June 7 to October 4th.

At Hyperledger, we believe that all good things in life are free (to participate in) and open (source), and everyone should have the opportunity to participate and contribute. To ensure the process of selecting talks that would shape the agenda of the event was as community-driven as possible, we put out an open call for a Program Committee (PC) on August 22nd. Unlike 2018, Hyperledger staff was excluded from participating in scoring and selection this year. Eleven experienced community members stepped up, led by program chairs Tracy Kuhrt and Hart Montgomery,  two members of Technical Steering Committee and contributors to Hyperledger codebases. 

Given the number of submissions and the diversity of topics, the Program Committee decided to split responsibilities, according to their expertise: some reviewed the business proposals, some took on the technical ones, a few looked at both. The committee did a blind review (no speaker names or company name) of the talks, rating them on a scale of 1-5. The ratings were then averaged to come up with a score by which the talks were ranked. To make sure that we were all on the same page guidelines on general CFP scoring guidelines and best practices had been published as part of the CFP progress. 

Additionally the Program Committee added some of their own criteria:

  • No product pitches allowed. In the CFP proposal how to’s, it clearly suggested that speakers should “Avoid sales or marketing pitches and discussing unlicensed or potentially closed-source technologies when preparing your proposal; these talks are almost always rejected due to the fact that they take away from the integrity of our events, and are rarely well-received by conference attendees.” 
  • Make sure we are talking about real implementations and research that is relevant to the community. “No Hype, in Hyperledger.”
  • Hyperledger Global Forum differs from Hyperledger Member Summit. Every year we organize an event where we bring our members together to network, discuss ideas, challenges and solutions under Chatham house rules. Hyperledger Global Forum, on the other hand, is an open event inclusive of everyone. This means that everyone had to have an equal chance of getting accepted. Member affiliation didn’t matter – the content was what drove the choice. 
  • We heard the feedback from HGF18 loud and clear. Prioritize talks over panels. During various conferences we attend and our own events, there is a tendency to cram in many speakers into a panel. The Program Committee decided to change it. Yes, it means fewer speakers, but hopefully there will be more valuable content.

The Program Committee had one month to evaluate the submissions on their own. Then, they met as a committee over two 3-hour long calls to discuss the borderlines and outliers. It was not easy. Many talks were great, but overlapped in topics. This was the tricky part: choosing talks that were scored highest, came from new or under-represented voices in our community and represented all the projects within the Hyperledger Greenhouse. The process was blind until those last stages. 

We hope that you will join us at Hyperledger Global Forum 2020 and will find the agenda as exciting as we do. None of it would be possible without our great events team, lead by Shannon Jessee, and the Program Committee: 

  • Hart Montgomery, Fujitsu [Program Chair]
  • Tracy Kuhrt, Accenture  [Program Chair]
  • Grace Hartley, ConsenSys, PegaSys Team
  • Jon Geater, Jitsuin
  • Nathan George, Sovrin Foundation
  • Bobbi Muscara, Ledger Academy
  • Mark Wagner, Red Hat
  • Fernando Cezar Herédia Marino, CPQD
  • Todd Taylor, GenBloq
  • Morgan Bauer, IBM
  • Arun S M, Walmart Labs (formerly with Intel)

We will be publishing the agenda soon. Stay tuned!