[TUHS] How to Kill a Technical Conference (was: Zombified SCO comes back from the dead, brings trial back to life against IBM)

David Arnold davida at pobox.com
Tue Apr 6 08:26:30 AEST 2021

> On 6 Apr 2021, at 00:05, Theodore Ts'o <tytso at mit.edu> wrote:
> A lot of the conflicts were over the writing style.  There many ways
> you can write papers.  For example: 
>   (a) academic papers suitable for tenure-track publications
>   (b) technical industry paper meant for other industry practitioners
>   (c) white papers written by and for sales/marketing folks

One reason you don’t get more of (b) at USENIX these days is that the value to writer is basically nil.

Compare writing a USENIX conference paper with crafting a decent blog post: the latter gets immediate distribution, a flurry of comments and feedback from peers, and can often kick off new software projects, define new industry-wide nomenclature, to say nothing of the career benefits of building your professional “brand”.  All the things a paper *used* to do, when people attended conferences and read papers as a means of information exchange.  

The pre-publication peer review process, and the annual (or longer) cadence means it’s just not the right venue for a fast-moving field, for the majority of topics.  Sometimes, it makes sense to turn a successful blog post into a paper, to get some formal recognition, or to explore an idea more rigorously, but most of the time, things have moved on by then, and for an industrial worker (vs. academic), there’s very little incentive: you’re much better off getting another high-profile blog post than working through and writing up a paper.

It’d be great to see USENIX rejoin this conversation as an essential forum, but it’s hard to see how: disintermediation has done its thing.


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