PyCon Proposal Form Explained

One of the most common questions we get, as organizers, is how does the proposal submission form work, what do all the fields mean, and what are our expectations. Although there are subtle but important differences between the main conference program committee (talks) and the tutorials committee, the explanation below and description of fields and expectations applies to both. One of the main people involved in the conference organizing committee (among a bunch of other important Python things), Laurens Van Houtven, has eloquently summarized it as follows:

The abstract should be a short description of what you’re going to talk about, and what you hope people leaving your talk will be able to take away from it. The outline can vary somewhat in detail. The point is that the program committee members need to understand the structure of your talk. If you structure the outline (e.g. nested lists), more detail is probably better because we can stop reading once we feel we have a good grasp. It definitely should not be a line-for-line of your talk; but definitely the major parts, and preferably the sub-parts as well. Don’t forget to include timing estimates. Example:

Introduction to quantum transmogrification with Python

  • Introduction (5 min)
    • Who am I?
    • What is quantum transmogrification and why should I care?
  • Physical basics (15 min)
    • The Poincare-Hadamard-Cthulhu equation
    • Applications to warp drive theory
  • Computing the equations (10 min)
    • Crazy scipy magic here
  • Questions (5 min)

That’s probably the minimum detail a good outline should have. It can be completely sufficient, but if your talk is fairly exotic, you may want to elaborate. We have a wide variety of backgrounds in the committee, which makes it a fairly good cross-section of what PyCon will be like. Use your own judgment :)

In the case of tutorial proposals, we’re a bit more stringent in what we’re looking for. For one, a tutorial consists of a three-hour session, so we want to know that you really can fill the time slot with quality content, and, secondly (and perhaps more importantly), unlike other smaller versions of PyCon, tutorials are paid separately from conference registration. So, we, the organizing committee, go through great pains to make sure the sessions we put in the schedule will be financially viable and useful to attendees.

That said, while you are writing your proposal, if in doubt, adding more detail will never hurt your chances, whereas not enough detail definitely will.

Finally, as of this writing, there is roughly a month left to submit your PyCon 2015 proposal(s) for talks and/or tutorials, so there’s ample time to draft that proposal and, please, ask us questions as you go along, if you need help or clarification. However, I cannot emphasize enough: don’t wait until the last week before we close the CFP system to draft and submit your proposal.