EuroPLoP from a first-timers perspective

Last week I had the pleasure to attend EuroPLoP. I submitted a pattern that I started back on October 1st at the inaugrual AA-FTT pattern writing workshop. Back then I called it Essential Examples, whilst through several round of shepherding and workshops I ended up with the name One clear purpose currently.

From the conference, I had several impressions as well as some insights which I would love to have gotten earlier. I decided to write these down for the next first-timers in the future to consider – even before submitting a pattern in first place.

Your submission

Right before you submit something, consider that most of the other folks will submit a paper with three to ten patterns in there. There is a concept in the paper based on some experience which the authors found worthwhile to submit.

I had the impression that I could just submit a single pattern, thereby ended up with the special price of the shortest submission with five pages. The price consisted of the 1000 pages thick proceedings from 2009 which put some additional weight on my back flight home on Sunday. So, especially if you come from oversees to the lovely Irsee, consider extending your experience to multiple patterns in your submission. It’s not a shame if you don’t, but most of the other author will have a multitude submitted – even the maximum limit of 12 pages is at times ignored.

Shepherding

Before the conference you will get a shepherd assigned to you. Together with the shepherd you will work through probably two to three updates of your pattern within about six weeks, and receive a final acceptance of your proposal – or not. You have to take into account that you will need some time reserved to update your paper several times. Plan for it. The effort is worth it, but takes some dedication from your time.

Your workshop

Right before the conference you will be assigned a workshop. Each of the workshop participants has written a paper him- or herself. During the conference there will be five to six slots when you will workshop the submitted papers in your workshop group. For each paper you get about one hour to talk through the contents and make suggestions on how to improve it.

This means that you should take time to read the papers in your group at least twice. I made it to one revision, and this was certainly not enough. Revisit the pattern format in general, and denote everything you can come up with. After a first reading go over it with your new understanding a second time, to denote comments on the structure, and if necessary go over it once more.

There might be submission as long as 75 pages in your group. You will have to digest the contents the participant wants to review. After a first brief reading of the three workshopped patterns, you will probably want to take the patterns into the larger context of the paper. So, plan for at least two readings of the submitted papers.

BoFs

Short before the conference you will get to know terms like BoFs – short for Birds of a Feather. These are discussions in the evening on anything that you are interested in. Keep in mind that EuroPLoP is an unconference, which means that the program is made up while the conference proceeds, with no fixed keynote or stuff like that. This makes the experience even more worthwhile – rather than listening to stuff someone else put up on some bullet points. This also means that your own learning will be more intense as well as tough going on for five days. Arrive relaxed, and don’t be afraid to speak about anything you like.

Don’t be afraid about the sessions or formats. In the mornings there will be a brief overview, and in the evening you will get (or provide) a summary of what happened elsewhere. Don’t try to attend everything – as you won’t be able to pay attention to everything. But that’s ok. That’s what the evening talks are for as well.

Plan for full attendance

As a first timer you should plan to attend the full conference. For me this meant to start at about 3pm on Wednesday up to Sunday morning after the breakfast. The workshops are spread all over the conference time, and you will not know up-front when your pattern will be workshopped. In addition you will need time to read the papers, late submissions, or even on-site shepherded submissions.

This might seem like a lot of time, but after the the conference you will have gone through several patterns, played a lot of games, attended a lot of sessions in the open space or late evening discussions. Plan for some time off after the conference. Five days conference plus a four hour weekend was too short for me. Definitely, and I pay the penalty this whole week right now. Don’t follow my bad example there.

I hope these suggestions help some first-timers to EuroPLoP (or maybe PLoP in general) in the future. Drop me a note if you found this helpful.

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