Devoxx CfP - the art of tricking yourself

1 minute read

I noticed that the Devoxx France call for paper (CfP) application was influencing my votes. Sneaky one!

Jeff Atwood’s tweet made me rethink about something I noticed

When we designed Stack Overflow I intentionally put author at bottom: you should read the actual content before “deciding” credibility

In the CfP, you review a proposal, you first see:

  • the title and type of proposal (conference, Tools in Action etc)
  • then the abstract
  • then the private message to the committee

At this stage, you will have to scroll down to see more, especially if you are reviewing on a tablet like I do. Your brain will make a pre-judgement based on the title and abstract like any attendee. It will later absorb the private message but things are already too late (kind of).

It’s only after scrolling that you will see who the person is and what qualification he or she has.

I don’t know if Nicolas did it on purpose but it has brilliant side effects:

  • You will value good titles and good abstracts over good back channel info
  • You will alter your judgment based on the person qualification and fame last. Congnitive research seems to indicate that your reptilian judgement favors the first data much more.
  • This is a nice trick to favor subjects over rock stars

What’s even more brilliant is that even if I’m concious of this, the trick still works :)

A good presentation is a mix of good subject, good content and good presenter. I do think good presenters are key but besides fame or first hand experience, it is the hardest to judge. What I love about the way the CfP app does it, is that it is a harder process for me to either:

  • overcome a just ok proposal from a famous speaker
  • overcome a good proposal from a unknown quantity speaker

I still do alter my note of course based on who proposes: that’s part of the magic equation. But certainly less than if the name was first.

Now I get how Devoxx France “encourages” new speakers.