Organizing a conference is not an easy task. Even though, many tips can be found on the web to smoothly get your conference up and running, each organization committee see the way to manage their conference in a different way.
The multiple requirements are a challenge for ConfOrganizer. A simple example is the number of abstract versions and their format, all that combined with the rating of the abstracts.
Here is a list of what the users of ConfOrganizer have requested for the abstracts up-to-now:
- unique simple text abstract;
- simple text abstract with extended version as PDF or Word document;
- simple text abstract with extended version as PDF or Word document and for a selected few, LaTeX version for publication;
- unique version as Word document;
- with any combinations of them for special authors.
Then for the rating, it goes from yes/no approval to multi-criteria conditions with multiple rounds of reviews for the different abstract versions. With all these details, it is really easy to lose the big picture and miss the forest for the trees in front of you.
As I am working on the version 2 of ConfOrganizer, I took the time to consider the review process of the abstracts from a higher point of view. In the current version, it is not that obvious to find where is the abstract now, which are the steps which brought it there and what are the next possible moves.
This is why I decided to decouple a bit more the different steps and focus more on the reviewing process. For the reviewers, I am not changing that many things, I am just providing more historical data and a way to exchange with the authors. All the reviewers I meet and discussed with found the interface of ConfOrganizer being the best, so better not to break it. The important point I found is that the review process is a big feedback loop to improve the abstracts. My goal was to provide the theme coordinators with a clear view of where the abstract is in that loop and all the key information to move it to the next stage.
I think I have now the right approach (once the design work is done, I will provide some screen shots), but I am still fighting a little bit with the definition of the different stages. These stages, proposal, reviewing, improvements, session planning, book generation etc. need to be clearly defined especially in terms of the requirements imposed on the abstracts. For example you cannot include an abstract in the book of extended abstracts if it is not available, but you may schedule it for an oral presentation.
After 3 years of work on version 1, this is really nice to allow myself to think with more freedom to create version 2 and I am sure that my customers will be pleased with the outcome.