PyLadiesCon - CFP Closed. A summary, and a Retrospective.
October 03, 2023 | Tag: » Conference, Global, PyLadies
The CFP for the first PyLadiesCon has closed on September 17, 2023. On behalf of PyLadies organizers team, we’re grateful for the support from the community in helping us spread the news about our CFP, and also for everyone who submitted their proposals.
In total we received 164 proposals. Considering this is our first conference, we do think this is a good number of proposals to choose from, and we know that we won’t have trouble building a good conference program. Again, we’re grateful for everyone who submitted a talk which will help us put together a great conference.
PyLadies is a global community, and as such, we strive to be inclusive, and accommodating to our diverse community. Therefore, we made it our goal to have a multi-lingual conference program, where speakers can present in different languages. Additionally, we also plan to host our talks in different timezones according to the regions: Americas, APAC, and EMEA.
- English: 111
- Español: 31
- Português: 22
- Français: 0
- 漢語: 0
- 简体中文: 0
- Americas: 92
- EMEA: 59
- APAC: 13
We’d like to now take a moment to acknowledge, that despite our efforts, we did not receive any submissions in Français, 漢語, or 简体中文, indicating there is a gap in our community. This is indeed a disappointing news to us, and we are trying to understand the situation, and learn from this experience.
Why these languages?
As mentioned earlier, PyLadies is a global community with worldwide chapters. Even though PyLadies initially was founded in North America, and that English has been the main language among the early founders, PyLadies community has grown significantly over the years, including to areas where English is not the main language. There are now chapters in more than 60 countries. In Brazil alone, where the main language is Portuguese, there are more than 30 chapters.
When we began organizing the Global PyLadies conference, we recognize the importance of making our content accessible to as many members as possible. We believe that it will be a disservice to our global community if we had limited our conference to English-speaking members. Therefore, we decided that to include various languages into our program. And we chose the above languages because they are major spoken languages of the world.
Moreover, the languages mentioned above are spoken in more than one country. For example, French is the official language in 28 countries in the world, and Spanish is the official language in 20 countries. Therefore, by focusing on “languages” instead of “countries”, we believed that we will be able to welcome people from as many parts of the world as possible. To further clarify this point, when we mentioned in our CFP that we welcome proposals in Français, we did not mean that we want to hear from speakers in France, but rather from anyone in the world who would be more comfortable presenting in that language.
Our initial efforts in promoting our CFP
We also announced it on our internal Slack channel under both the
#announcements(10,560 members) and
#organizers(266 members) channels. We encouraged our PyLadies chapter organizers to share the CFP with their members.
We emphasized the fact that we would love to see representation from PyLadies all over the world.
Our team of volunteer organizers consists of people who are fluent in the different languages (Español, Français, Português, 漢語, 简体中文 ). They took the time to translate our CFP on the Pretalx platform from English into the various languages.
When did we became aware of a problem?
One month after we launched the CFP, on September 3rd, our team has started noticing that we did not receive any proposals in Français, 漢語, or 简体中文 yet. With the proposals due to close in a week’s time, our team started taking additional steps to do a more targeted outreach to the French, Mandarin, and Cantonese-speaking communities.
Our further steps in the CFP Outreach
We decided to extend the CFP for an additional week to allow more time for people to submit their talk
We shared the CFP Outreach Kit through our social media accounts and Slack channels.
We emailed the CFP Outreach Kit to all of our registered chapters (to their
Members of our organizing team personally reached out to their network in the targeted communities, asking them to help spread the news and share our CFP
We hosted two online CFP Workshops to help new speakers.
After the CFP closed, we created several access codes on Pretalx and shared the codes with several potential speakers in the targeted communities, giving them additional time to submit a proposal. This resulted in one proposal submitted in 简体中文 (Simplified Chinese).
Despite all of our efforts above, by the time the CFP closed on September 17, we still did not receive any proposals in Français, 漢語, 简体中文. On our next team meeting, we discussed this issue and we decided to acknowledge this issue.
What went wrong?
We identified several issues related to our CFP and our outreach.
Even though we translated the CFP on Pretalx to Traditional Chinese (漢語) and Simplified Chinese (简体中文), we only realized a few days before the CFP closing day that we did not configure Pretalx correctly. On Pretalx, potential speaker could not choose the “Traditional Chinese” or “Simplified Chinese” language selection, therefore potential speaker could not submit their proposals until the last minute. When our team were notified of this issue, we immediately made the necessary change on Pretalx. However, we realized that our fix might come too late. We have learned from this experience, and will be doing a more thorough review of the CFP and our content across the different languages next time.
Our initial CFP announcement was not translated. Going forward, we will take extra effort to translate our content to the various targeted languages.
We discovered two bugs with the Pretalx CFP platform, in which the Traditional Chinese (漢語) and Simplified Chinese (简体中文) locales were not showing up correctly. We wrote support tickets to Pretalx, and they were able to fix the problems within 24 hours of our report. We’re really thankful for their support! However, we become aware of these bugs a bit too late during the CFP process. Again, going forward we will be reviewing the various languages more thoroughly before launching the CFP.
Even though PyLadies is a global community, many local chapters have been run independently, and we are not well connected with the various local chapter organizers. We tried to reach our organizers through our Slack channel, and by sending email to their official Pyladies.com email address. However, not all of our chapter organizers joined the official PyLadies Slack. Additionally, not all of our chapter organizers have been actively checking their PyLadies email address. Therefore, PyLadies as a global community need to establish a better way to communicate and engage with the local chapter organizers.
We also need a better way to communicate with our worldwide members, aside from social media or Slack. We also currently rely heavily on our local organizers to spread the news to their members. At the moment, PyLadies do not have a global members mailing list or newsletter, making it challenging to reach the members directly.
Even though Français and 中文 are considered major languages of the world, and the official languages of the UN, it is possible that we do not actually have as many active members who can speak those languages. One way in which we can improve this, is to do a more thorough survey of our members of which languages they speak, so that going forward we can make our decision based on real data.
We recognize the possibility that the members from the targeted communities simply chose not to submit any talk to our conference. Perhaps, we did not gain the trust from the targeted PyLadies communities. We are learning and trying understand why this is happening. We would welcome input from our community on how we can improve and gain the trust.
What’s Next for PyLadiesCon
Our reviewers are still reviewing talk proposals. We plan to select the speakers in mid October.
We have invited our Keynote Speakers. There will be 5 keynote speakers, and each of them will be presenting in different languages: English, Español, Français, Português, and 中文 (Mandarin).
We have begun discussing the logistics of translating or subtitling the conference talks and presentations into the above languages. We are exploring various options to have the talks translated/subtitled professionally. However this would depend on the cost and our sponsorship. You can help and support us by sponsoring the conference. Please check out our sponsorship prospectus or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We recognize that there are a lot of room for improvement, and that we could have done better in reaching out to our global community members. By acknowledging and understanding the issues within our community, we can begin taking the necessary steps to further improve.
We ask for your understanding and we welcome any suggestions and feedback you may have on how we can improve this going forward.
If you would like to get in touch with the conference organizers, please write to: email@example.com.