Thoughts on Conference Paper Submission
April 22, 2005
It's that time of year again when
the various Oracle conferences start calling for papers. The
UKOUG Conference & Exhibition call for papers opened up a
couple of weeks ago, and over the next few months it'll be
possible to submit papers for Oracle Open World in London and
San Francisco. I'm hoping to get a couple accepted for the
UKOUG event and Open World in SF and therefore have been
thinking about what I'd like to present. There's a bit of a
technique required for successfully submitting papers, and as a
UKOUG SIG Chair and a member of last year's paper selection
committee, I've seen a bit of how the system works from both
sides. Here's a few observations on how the process works.
the UKOUG Conference, anyone can submit papers, and the emphasis
is on tips and techniques that will be of interest to the Oracle
user community. Unlike SIG events, which seem to mostly end up
with speakers sourced from vendors or consultancies, the UKOUG
main conference has a particularly high proportion of end users
and technical staff sharing the benefit of their experiences
with the user community. What this means is that papers that
tend to get selected are those that offer a real insight into
the Oracle technical and functional world, with less "marketing"
and more substance. Also, the UKOUG conference (unlike Open
World) isn't primarily taken up by Oracle Corporation
presentations, so you get a good balance between presentations
by Oracle product managers and presentations by such well known
community names as Jonathan Lewis, Connor McDonald, Mogens
Nørgaard, Sten Vestali and Tom Kyte.
My presentations are usually based around Oracle business
intelligence & data warehousing, and one of the good things
about the UKOUG conference is that you usually get a good number
of people who turn up just for the BI&W presentations that you
don't get to meet the rest of the year. I think that in some
cases, it's easier for people to get permission to go to a three
day event up at Birmingham than to get the odd day or so off for
a SIG event, and as I've been going now for the past five years
I've got to recognise a few faces now. I usually try and go
along to a few of the performance tuning sessions as well, as
there's a definite overlap between the regular relational
database world and the Oracle BI&W world (seeing as all the BI&W
features are now embedded in the RDBMS), and get some time down
on the company stand, talking to customers and demonstrating the
Anyway, over to the tips (all of which are of course
unofficial and just my opinion).
- If you've got lots of ideas for papers, and especially if
some of those ideas are slight variations on the others, don't
fall into the trap of making lots of submissions in the hope
that one will get selected. At best you might get asked to
combine them all into one paper (which ends up trying to cover
too much ground and seems unfocused) or at worst you'll seem
desperate or confused and all of your submissions will be
looked at dimly.
- Remember that it's the user group chairs or directors that
are selecting the papers, not Oracle, so focus on benefits for
the delegate, not appealing to Oracle product managers.
- The promise of a live demo or tutorial always goes down
well - it'll make your paper look more special, and when you
come to do the presentation, people will appreciate it more.
- Make it clear who the presentation will appeal to - don't
submit it into every stream (DBA, BI&W, Applications etc) as
at best you'll seem unfocused, at worst you'll get your
presentation put in the wrong stream.
- Don't submit yet another paper on response tuning, or
another on Discoverer for beginners - some subjects have been
done to death and to get selected, and to subsequently get an
audience, it's worth coming up with new variations on themes
that are well worn. That being said though, there's always
room for one well thought out presentation on each subject
area for beginners, just make it sound fresh and interesting
and show that you know what you're talking about.
- Don't skimp on the synopsis - there should be a maximum of
100 words but make sure you get across your passion, knowledge
and interest in the subject and "sell" it to the selection
- Remember that papers are reviewed by a broad range of
reviewers, not just specialists in your subject area. For
example, the BI&W papers are reviewed by DBAs and developers
as well as BI specialists, so try and think of what would
appeal to the Oracle generalist as well as just you.
- Try not to be too niche, at least for the smaller
conferences - there are often only a certain number of slots
for each presentation category, which tends to mean that
papers on particularly obtuse subjects tend to get left out
when the total amount of slots up for grabs is limited.
- If you're a vendor or a consultancy, try and involve a
customer and make the presentation a case study. Not only will
the chances of your paper being picked increase, but attendees
consistently rate customer-led case studies highly when
providing presentation feedback. Although some vendor-only
papers get picked (particularly hot technologies) preference
is usually given to customer presentations as that is what
attendees are looking for.
- Finally, be careful of getting more than a couple of
papers accepted. The amount of work and preparation required
for a paper is often surprising, and I know I've been guilty
in the past of putting the majority of effort into one paper,
and the other being a bit of an afterthought. Better to do one
paper well than three poorly.
This year I'm going to submit the same two papers to both the
UKOUG and Oracle Open World SF events, and therefore I've tried
to come up with two subjects that'll appeal to both the UKOUG
audience and the Open World audience, and of course the two
selection committees. In my experience you can't be too niche
with the UKOUG event (at least with the BI&W track) as the
audience is smaller and the number of presentation slots is
limited, but with Open World you've got a much bigger potential
audience and a larger overall number of BI&W presentations.
Hopefully, the papers I've put together will have a broad enough
appeal to get selected for the UKOUG event, but have enough
technical depth to go down well at Open World.
The first paper is on Oracle Warehouse Builder performance
tuning, and is aimed at both BI&W developers, and Oracle DBAs
who are evaluating the tool and wondering how they can apply
their existing performance tuning techniques:
"Optimising Oracle Warehouse Builder Performance"
"Oracle Warehouse Builder (OWB) is Oracle's full project
lifecyle extraction, transformation and load (ETL) tool for
building Oracle data warehouses. OWB generates SQL and PL/SQL
code that uses the ETL features of the Oracle RDBMS and works
with Oracle Workflow, Oracle Enterprise Manager and the OLAP
and Partitioning Options to leverage the Oracle Enterprise
Edition platform. This presentation looks at techniques to
optimise the performance of Oracle Warehouse Builder, and uses
performance profiling techniques popular in the Oracle RBDMS
world to instrument, analyze and optimise the performance of
Oracle Warehouse Builder."
the second is aimed at the experienced BI&W user and takes a
look at the high-end OLAP analysis features in OracleBI
Discoverer. Note the focus on a live demonstration and the
(perhaps reckless) promise of a look at 10g Release 2.
"Advanced OLAP Analysis With OracleBI Discoverer and the
Oracle 10gR2 OLAP Option"
"This presentation looks at techniques for designing, building
and analyzing multidimensional OLAP data using Oracle Database
10gR2 and OracleBI Discoverer. Using Analytic Workspace
Manager and Application Server Control, data is loaded into
analytic workspaces and prepared for ad-hoc analysis, with the
OLAP features of OracleBI Discoverer then being used to carry
out a number of complex calculations, forecasts and what-if
analysis. With a minimal amount of slides and a hands-on
demonstration, this presentation will give attendees a good
overview of the OLAP capabilities of the Oracle database and
toolset, and looks at some of the new features coming with
Oracle Database 10g Release 2."
The one I'm particularly keen on is the OWB paper, as I don't
think OWB has got a fair hearing at previous UKOUG events and
I'm hoping to use the paper as a way of legitimising it in the
eyes of more experienced DBAs. Jon Mead, one of my colleagues,
is also going to submit a paper on OWB, this time focusing on
it's value to DBAs as a data migration tool, based on a major
project we've been working on with a client where OWB is used as
the migration toolkit. Anyway, we'll have to see what happens
but hopefully at least one of them will get picked for each