Suggest a Session is a Hit

Less than a week since we deployed it, the Suggest a Session for OpenWorld 2008 offer made by the Events team on Mix has been a big hit.

Traffic was up over 250% over the weekend, and the voting page is already among the top pages on Mix in terms of pageviews over the past 30 days. That’s compared to a full month of traffic for other pages and only four days of traffic for the session page.

Suggest a Session and Vote Early and Often

This is good news and I think, something of a surprise to the people running the event. While they expected participation, this is more than anticipated. And we want to sustain the momentum.

I need your help (again). Paul immediately identified a problem when he checked out the sessions. We need a way to filter the list effectively. The two tabs on the voting page, “Latest” and “Greatest“, tend to neglect the middle, i.e. not highly voted or recent ideas. As the list grows, people are less likely to page through all the sessions (there are already 39), which hurts the suggestions in the middle. This is another manifestation of the Google effect, i.e. people are unlikely to page beyond the first set of results.

We could append high-level product families (e.g. database, middleware, apps) to the session ideas, but not all ideas fit a product neatly. A tag cloud was suggested, since most of the session ideas have been nicely tagged. Tag clouds tend to focus the user on the largest tags, though, introducing a new problem.

How do you think we should solve this problem? This problem has been around for a while, and no one has solved it completely. So, I think maybe some good old crowdsourcing is in order.

If you have an idea, drop a note in comments, but know that there are no promises here. We reserve the right to make executive decisions.

And don’t let this deter you from entering your suggestions. We’ll work out a way to give them all equal time. I promise, even though suggestions from the ‘Lab are the top two right now 🙂 We want to have all the ideas out there. I’d rather sit in a session than give one; it’s way easier.

Rich is exception here, since if you read here, you get exposed to my babble all the time. A session at OpenWorld would just be more of the same. But seriously, why wouldn’t you want to hear Rich talk about JRuby? The guy’s a JRuby maven.

I hear he’s available for weddings and all your special events too.




  1. I think you should write letters to each and every user and mail them via USPS. I mean, obviously USPS has got to be hurting for cash, so why not help the postal workers? 🙂

    Seriously, I don't see why you couldn't offer some product categories. Maybe a session is allowed to be part of multiple categories (just like I have multiple products listed in my profile). You'd also need some new categories that aren't product-based, like Social Networking and other less-concrete ideas. I'd like to be able (right now) to filter by at least a product area (DB, Middleware, Apps, IdM) to be able to page through things that I find most interesting.

    Oh, and stop paying people to vote for your session, it isn't fair. 😉

    P.S. As soon as I get enough people to agree to vote for my idea(s), I'll get 'em in.

  2. @Dan: Woah, letters sounds too new-fangled. I was thinking carrier pigeons or smoke signals.

    Product categories means another taxonomy. We have enough problems with the one we have. Do not want another to maintain. I want easier, and I know you can do better.

    You found us out; we're using our enormous budget to pay for votes. You better hurry or all my voting budget will be spent, nothing left for your sessions.

  3. @Jake: I note that some of the submissions are suggestions and ideas, why are others are real sessions proposed by presenters. While ideas and discussions around this are great because they may lead onto presentations, a proposed presentation is a much more substantial beast and needs to be flagged in some way so people can browse them.

    Also there is a h3ll of a lot of ideas already building up with the usual duplicates and cross ideas that needs careful pruning, otherwise the usual duplicate clutter is going to happen.

  4. @Chris: Agreed, I suspect the positive response will force the stakeholders into quick action to clarify what's involved, more details, etc. Not by accident, I have definite content in mind for the suggestions I've proposed, but then again, I had a head start 🙂

    We (AppsLab) have been a promotion vehicle only so far, and I'm taking in all the thoughts for the inevitable meeting that we'll need to have soon.

  5. Just Curious, how do you know who actually *are* the people that voted for a particular session. I mean we see the number of people who want a session, but do we know exactly who ?

  6. @shishir: You can submit ideas until June 13 and vote until June 24. Are you still writing a Google App Engine post for me? I got my invite a few days ago and was planning to mess around in there.

  7. @shishir: Yeah, you're not alone in suggesting a tag cloud, but it has
    several drawbacks IMHO. 1) It advances popular tags, making it tough to
    browse, 2) In this case, we would have to have a tag cloud only for OOW
    sessions. I think a tag cloud still underserves the middle. This may be the
    best way though, stay tuned.

  8. gotcha !! and I even submitted an idea there :). am not getting enough time after my not so web2.0 office work. Will send you as soon as I have something concrete 🙂

  9. @manalang, just curious (again) – why not ? I think it will be kinda neat if someone posts and idea and they know who are the like-minded ones who dig that idea. Then you start to see sub-ecosystems forming by like-minded folks under the bigger Mix umbrella. Oracle internal folks can also know who are the people that responded to their idea posts and maybe even connect with them at another medium.

    Unless there's a big security implication, I would think it's a good idea to expose the users, not just for the OOW session votes, but even for the idea posts as well (but then again it might be just me)

  10. @Lennard: We've gone around and around on this from the beginning. We keep who voted for what private to encourage new people who aren't used to Digg, etc. to participate. Also, I want product development to focus on ideas, not on people.
    We may eventually turn this on, but for now, it's private and will stay that way.

  11. Why not allow the submission's author to see who voted for them instead of making votes publicly available? I'd personally like to know who has a mind warped like mine and it would still not cloud the rest of the world (PMs, dev, first-timers, etc). Maybe it's harder to implement that way, but the 'lab has never been one to stop when something looks “hard”.

  12. @Dan: We may have to do something, depending on internal decisions that are outside my influence. Either way, I'm not terribly concerned about votes, more so about how to get all the ideas equal time.

    Ideas there?

  13. Creative Brain not working that well today I guess. Maybe you should have some sort of a randomizer to give them random order? That would give equal fairness to everyone. However, I can see people being frustrated with that :). If it was on a cool, slot-machine-style thingy where I spin it and get 3 random sessions to review, that might be a game I'd play…

  14. Another sorting order could be “last voted on”. So, the last voted on idea will bubble to the surface. Just an idea.

  15. We do sort by “last voted on”, sort off. In the OOW group, the default sort
    order is “Recently Active.” That surfaces an entry if anything was done to
    it (i.e., edited, voted on, or commented on). But, you're right, we need to
    align all of these views to be more consistent.


  16. So if iI have a session that is very similar to another one being proposed, why can't I agree to either
    a) Co-present with the other person. or
    b) Drop my suggestion and back theirs

    Then we can merge ideas and the votes (removing duplicates to maintain one member one vote).

    This will remove many duplicates and reduce the noise in a democratic self policing warm and fuzzy way. It will also make for some great sessions, bringing people with similar ideas and interests together – isn't that what mix is about?

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