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Thoughts on Conference Paper Submission
April 22, 2005
Mark Rittman

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.

For 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 latest software.

Anyway, over to the tips (all of which are of course unofficial and just my opinion).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 commitee.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 event.


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