OpenWord Suggest-a-Sessions @ Oracle Mix

Jul 25, 2011 / By Alex Gorbachev

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There has been quite a bit written about Oracle Mix Voting (let me refer to it as OMV for short) this year and I don’t think I should waste your time restating any of this. What I wanted to do is to take a step back and try to list “stakeholders” of OMV.

Before I continue, here is some of the relevant blog posts on this topic:
Oracle Mix: OOW11 voting, a race against time – Australia speaks up through votes
Data Science Fun with the OOW Mix Session Voting Data
Has Oracle MIX “Suggest-A-Session” Jumped the Shark???
Suggest-a-Session 2011 follow-up: What worked, what didn’t, and how can we improve?

Let’s see who the imaginable stakeholders are and what their primary needs are from the Oracle Mix Suggest-A-Session project. I hope I don’t sound too cynical but I think it’s a reasonable objective…

1. Oracle Corp

Primary need — attract as much attention as possible to OOW, positive media splash around OOW.

Was it successful? Of course, twittersphere and blogosphere were boiling around OMV. You could argue that there were some other needs but for the company as business — marketing was number one reason to support OMV, IMHO.

2. Oracle Mix

Primary need — grow Oracle Mix membership and community participation. Since it’s part of Oracle Corp, it will include its agenda too but I think I wouldn’t be mistaken to emphasize that Oracle Mix wants to primarily develop their network.

Was it successful? Of course, OMV time is really when Oracle Mix membership spikes.

3. Proposal authors

Primary need — get to present at OOW.

Was it successful? It depends. For most authors “no” but it’s a feature by design – most abstracts will not be selected. If you take a collective measurement when 20-30 authors need to win then we can put “successful” in that check box.

4. OOW attendees

Primary need — have more relevant and interesting sessions to attend at OOW.

Was it successful? I’ll let you decide on this one. In my personal opinion, I’d describe it as “could be better” to say the least or maybe even “no” (even though I got two of my sessions selected but again – trying to stay objective).

5. Oracle Mix voters

Primary need — the need depends on which camp they fall into. Many voters are also people who attend OOW and their needs are matching the needs of “OOW attendees”.

So let’s see who are the potential groups of voters (and they might slightly overlap):
a. OOW attendees (or potential attendees as it’s a bit too early) — they want to see sessions they are voting for. There are some of those but not a whole lot.
b. Non-OOW attendees genuinely voting for the sessions — they like fairness and think that the best authors should present. There are very few of those I think. Actually, there are MANY who want to be in that category (if they are not in the above already) but most have no time to spend on analysis of abstracts for the sessions they would never see.
b. Non-OOW supporting network — they vote to support their friends, colleagues, social media contact and think they are being helpful responding to the request for help in their inbox. How many of those are in this category? While I don’t have a definitive answer, my personal estimate that this would be a majority.

Of course, I didn’t mention but most people want also to be fair and act within a certain ethical framework. Even if I listed the first two stakeholders as companies (or their parts), there are people behind the scenes and those folks are good people who want to be fair and help others.

Optimization

Is it possible to optimize and meet all needs within the defined limits such as number of sessions that can be selected? Let’s see…

To optimize for proposal authors “on average” (group 3) all we can do is to limit number of sessions selected per author to one. There is a risk of losing a potentially great session (sacrificing potentially the need of group 4) if author has more than one great abstract but at least you are maximizing the number of selected authors, so pick your battles. I think this is a no-brainer.

To optimize for the group 4 (OOW attendees), the easiest option is to exclude subgroup 5.c. from voting. Unfortunately, you would also eliminate group 5.b but that might not be such a big loss. Also, since Oracle Mix voting is done way in advance of the OOW event, most attendees are not even registered yet. Finally, and this is probably the most significant drawback, the leftover of group 5 (OOW attendees – subgroup a) are in small numbers so Oracle Mix activity would be rather low. Consequently, the interests of groups 1 and 2 (Oracle Corp & Oracle Mix) will not be met.

I won’t be sharing my perspective and suggestions for a new set of rules here but I hope that the perspective I described could be useful as the basis for the framework on how to evaluate changes to the rules of voting for next year.

DISCLAIMER: I have submitted several sessions myself and actually got two selected. Looking at intermediate results, back when the voting was still open, I’ve been somewhat concerned about the process (remember that we all want to be fair) and even contacted the Oracle Mix team behind the scene to share my point of view. I’ve made a decision that with the rules as they are this year, there is virtually no chance to be selected without active promotion via your networks so I decided I should leverage my connections to promote what I think would be the sessions interesting to attend including mine, and those of my colleagues and a few friends. Last year (or was it the year before?) I’ve actually done a small campaign for one of my friends actively promoting his only session (and it worked well) — I thought it would be a pity that if he didn’t present anything — he is a smart chap and a great presenter. Did I cross some ethical boundary this year? I thought for a while about it and my assessment is no, because I believe that the speakers I promoted are worth listening to so I’d argue I did good for the community but then it’s my opinion you may argue. The only one concern, would be about my sessions simply because I’m obviously extremely subjective here so I thought I’d do well by handing over one of the Mix selected session to my colleague who I think will do even better job than I’d do myself. I voted 27 times on Oracle Mix this year. I wish I could do more but I had little time to analyze many abstracts.

8 Responses to “OpenWord Suggest-a-Sessions @ Oracle Mix”

  • Gary says:

    Speaking as 5b, one factor that interests non-OOW attendees is whether the presentation material will be made generally available (before or after OOW).
    In years gone by the presentations were available for download (with the required username/password publicised, including in Oracle newsletters). I don’t recall that being the case for OOW 2010.
    Some presenters, especially those with a visible community following, are likely to make their material available and will gain votes that way.
    There are some ‘hungry hoards’ (including myself) in the OOW non-attendees who still hope to benefit from presentations at OOW.
    I’d like to see some preferentially weighting for potential speakers who will allow Oracle to distribute the presentation or associated documents publicly.

  • Arup Nanda says:

    Great insight. totally agree with limiting the number of sessions per speaker.

  • Bob Rhubart says:

    I see no problem with people lobbying social connections to vote for their sessions. Votes cast on that basis may not be entirely objective, but if someone casts a vote solely on the basis of his/her relationship with a speaker, with no regard for the quality or value of the presentation, the fault lies with the voter, not with the system of voting.

    No system is perfect, and it is human nature to exploit any systems imperfections.

  • Thanks Arup and Bob for the feedback.

    Bob, I totally agree with you if Oracle Mix’s main purpose is to satisfy the needs of groups 1 & 2. Nothing wrong with this except that some will see this this unfair to some authors and voters who genuinely interested in certain sessions but they need to remember *why* the contest is run.

  • bex says:

    @Bob I feel that it’s a HUGE problem if people vote just because they were told to vote… but I agree that the fault lies with the voter. So, how to fix it?

    It’s the same problem as SPAM. Most people ignore it, a smaller number are angered by it, and a smaller number do what the SPAM says.

    I’ve come to believe “down voting” is a critical counter to a SPAM campaign. MIX voting rules should clearly state that you should aggressively down-vote ALL sessions by any author who crosses the SPAM boundary. That way, the number of angry down-voters would overwhelm those people just voting for people in their network.

    • Brian,

      First of all, thanks for the feedback.

      I personally would agree with you on the assessment whether this is a problem or not but Oracle Mix contest doesn’t have to fit my needs (or needs of many others).

      If Oracle Mix primary target is to gather as much membership as possible and create as much social media noise as possible then it has nothing to do with the fairness. Having lots of new people registered on Mix is great for Oracle – it’s one more touch point with potential Oracle customers. Fundamental idea of standard marketing funnel. Having lots of OOW related messages via email and social media – like help me get to he OOW as it’s a really awesome event – is also something that OOW organizers wouldn’t mind!

      Oracle Mix is a social media and the only way to grow large is to go viral – when existing members will attract more new members from their network. The voting doesn’t really cause viral effect because the is little chain reaction but it’s at least close – make your customers sell your product (or, in this case, your members work on attracting new membership).

      Of course, Oracle Mix wants to leave positive image in the community and Oracle Mix has good sensible individuals behind it so they will make attempts to have it perceived as a reasonably fair contest.

      So I think it was successful for what Oracle wanted to get from it. Now, they do want others to see it as successful too and asking for feedback is great.

      Regarding down voting… Since it’s not anonymous, many people will avoid publicly down-voting people they know (and this is presumably what’s you network is) as very few people don’t care what others will think about them. People generally want to be nice.

  • [...] Alex Gorbachev, the Oracle ACE Director at Pythian is taking a step back and listing the stakeholders of Oracle Mix Voting. [...]

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