guido's blog

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ITiCSE 2011 is over...

For about four weeks by now, ITiCSE 2011 is over. I tremendously enjoyed the conference, even if my duties as a conference chair largely prevented me from attending sessions. The general atmosphere and "mood" at the conference was very good, and those smaller or larger "glitches" that appeared here and there - and there are always some such "glitches" - could be handled without most people even noticing them, thanks to our registration desk and the student volunteers.

I would like to thank all attendees for a highly memorable conference, that turned out to be more stressful than anticipated before it started, but then changed into being far less stressful once it "got going" than I had expected! A large thank you is due...

  • to my family, especially my wife, who supported me throughout the planning stages, and also helped with the excursions and the welcome reception, with arguably the youngest "student volunteer" ITiCSE has ever had playing an active role in refilling everybody's apple juice or cider cups,
  • my student volunteers, who were a great assistance,
  • my two program co-chairs, Tom Naps and Christian Spannagel, as well as the other committee members, for doing their job very well and on time, or even ahead of schedule,
  • Cary and Norma Laxer, who very capably and calmly managed all registration-related affairs,
  • and especially the attendees, for attending and enjoying the conference.

The preliminary results of the evaluation indicate that the conference was rated between "excellent" and "very good" in practically all respects. Once the report has been finalized and sent to the SIGCSE board, I will post it here in another blog post. But first I want to make sure that "all the numbers are in there, and those that are in there are correct" :-).

I have now removed the "Dates" and "Supporters" headings from the navigation, and put them into the "Attendees" menu. They are replaced by the new Photos link. Here, I will gather some pictures from the conference and provide them to those interested in them. If you have something of interest, please do not hesitate to send it to me, or let me know where I can access the images!

Getting close(r) to the end...

Now that Wednesday has started and we are approaching lunch, the conference is slowing approaching its end. I regret that it will all be over soon, as I would not have minded another two days of it. (And in that way, I might have been able to actually attend some more sessions than I managed to do).

Initial feedback from many attendees have been mostly positive, although some quirks and issues (predictably) appeared and we could probably not resolve all of them immediately.The Heidelberg excursion on Tuesday afternoon seems to have been enjoyed by most, if not all, participants. Since the second bus taking us to Heidelberg and back again was sufficiently large, we could actually take three persons on board who had not booked the trip beforehand, and had a great day in Heidelberg despite the heat. Tuesday was supposed to be "the hottest day in the year so far" - not the best day for an excursion, but the weather was one of the aspects we could not easily influence ;-).

I have now also uploaded the keynote materials in PDF format, to be found under these direct links:

The conference is on its way!

Finally, after a lot of work and organization, the ITiCSE 2011 conference is on its way!

The Working Groups, which have a long-standing tradition of starting on the weekend before the actual conference begins, took up their work today, after a brief meeting with the working group leaders (and in several cases, members) on Friday late afternoon. During this meeting, the working group leaders were given information on how the working groups are organized, and where each working group will be placed, as well as given a key to the CS department to allow them free access. From this, the working groups took off for a shared dinner with their respective members, which from what I gather was very nice.

On Saturday, work started at almost exactly 9 AM. Each working group room was prepared ahead of time to have markers for the foldable whiteboards, a VGA cable for the 1024x768 data projector, and enough extension cords to support all members. In the registration package,
which working groups members received during the Friday meeting or on Saturday (depending on their time of arrival), information on how to connect to the wireless network were also given. A couple of additional request could usually be dealt with with ease, and it seems that at least for the working groups, the conference is now starting off well!

Tomorrow we will start the "regular" registration at 5 PM and will greet our guests with a small reception starting at 6:30 PM. The latter will offer apple juice, cider - a sour alcoholic "wine" based on apples instead of grapes, and a real thirst-quencher on hot days -, and pretzels.

I am eager for the conference to begin!

Poster announced to authors, but not - quite - to the online program

After a long and intensive reviewing process, the poster authors for ITiCSE should by now have received an email stating whether their poster was accepted or rejected. This year, we received 58 poster submissions, 52 of which we could accept. At first glance, this may appear to be a very high acceptance rate, but this should not be taken to mean that the posters were not carefully reviewed. It just happens - similarly to the tips, techniques, & courseware submissions - that almost all submissions were easily "good enough to accept". Instead of rejecting good and meaningful contributions that might spark new ideas or raise discussions, we opted to accept as many good posters as we could.

Since many authors did not quite follow the submission guidelines for posters - probably because their definition on the web page was somewhat ambiguous -, I have now provided an updated version of the submission guidelines for camera-ready submissions. This now explicitly states which pieces of information are needed, and points authors to the two different copyright "blurbs" - the long one which cedes the rights to ACM; and the short one that leaves the rights with the author. Hopefully, this will clear things up (thank you to Vicki for pointing this out!).

I hope that the final schedule will be online soon, as well.

Tips, Techniques, and Courseware announced

We have now finished the reviewing process for the "tips, techniques, and courseware" category. This year, we have received 20 submissions in this category, which I believe might be a record for ITiCSE. The largest number of entries in this category I could find in the previous online programs were 9, although this only reflects the accepted entries, not the submissions.

In a brief but intensive reviewing process, each submission received three reviews. The program had, based on previous years, reserved one session for this category (75 minutes), which would have given us enough time to accept between 4 and 7 submissions, depending on how much time each presentation was given. Our first large - and positive! - surprise was thus to receive 20 submissions. The second positive aspect was that at first glance, all 20 submissions were on topic, of interest, and of good quality. Within the reviewing process, four submission were identified that for one reason or another were not quite fitting and had to be rejected. This left us with 16 very interesting submissions, and the task to reject an additional 9 of them to bring us to the maximum 7 submissions - or find an alternative solution.

As you will find out in the online program, we focused on finding an alternative solution. We have taken a bold step in offering three parallel (but not related) "TT&C" on Wednesday. We have kept the original session on Tuesday, which will discuss ideas and insights in seven different presentations. Additionally, the three parallel sessions discuss improving computer architecture courses, tools and APIs, and supporting novice programmers. Each of these sessions contains three tips, and is placed directly between the Keynote by Mark Guzdial, and the coffee break and posters session - and thus in one of the best places.

We are looking forward to our attendees' feedback on this unusual new step. It would really have been a shame to be forced to accept any of these submissions - something I am sure you will agree with when you attend the conference!

In case you are wondering which of the 16 entries would otherwise have been selected, and which 9 ones we would otherwise have rejected... Please let me point out that these are spread out over the different (topical) sessions. The mathematically "obvious" assumption that we would have accepted the 7 submissions in the Tuesday session, and have rejected the contents of the Wednesday sessions, is not correct :-). IN fact, we quickly decided that we did not even want to pick out 9 submissions to reject, and focused on assigning sessions with a given topic, instead of assigning sessions by the submission "scores".

The online program has already been updated, including the online PDF and PNG renditions. Please check out the modifications, which I am sure only improve an already great program!

Author Notification slightly adapted

We had to move the deadline for announcing the accepted or rejected entries in the two categories faculty or student poster and tips, techniques, and courseware backwards by one week. The reason for this is not that we have been lazy (quite the opposite, in fact!).

As mentioned in a previous blog post, we had extended the deadline for posters and tips, techniques and courseware by one week, to allow authors with rejected papers and especially those (many) of you who attended SIGCSE 2011 to submit something without undue stress. The original deadline was Friday, March 11 - the "SIGCSE Friday".

In the end, it turned out that having only one week instead of two for reviewing all poster and tips, techniques, and courseware submissions was too short. One part of the reason for this is that we have received a large number of very interesting submissions in both categories - 58 poster and 20 "TT&C" submissions! I believe that the latter is a record for ITiCSE; I have not been able to find a previous ITiCSE conference that had more than 9 (accepted) TT&C submissions.

While the TT&C review process is almost finished, the 58 posters will give us some additional work. We plan to have this finished by April 2 at the latest - and thus, again within two weeks of the submission deadline -, and perhaps will be done a bit earlier. We will then also announce the final program, which may see some slight changes in the schedule of one conference day - but more on this later, when we can really talk about it!

Since some of you may want to apply for membership in one of our three interesting Working Groups, if your submission has been accepted, we have accordingly also move the deadline for this to April 2.

Thank you for your understanding, and I hope that this has not caused any complications for one of you!

New Digital City Tour: Mathilda Heights

While we are working on getting the final details for the excursions at ITiCSE 2011 resolved - come back next week to read more about this here! -, I have created another "digital" city tour. This time, it will take you to the "Artisans Colony Mathilda Heights", one of the centers of the European art movement "Art Nouveau" at the beginning of the 20th century. While the few pages I have created can only give you a brief impression of what is offered in Darmstadt, they may help in whetting your appetite in seeing more of this!

Conference Program online

As promised in yesterday's blog post, the preliminary program for ACM ITiCSE 2011 is now online and can be found following the Attendees -> Program link. Compared to yesterday's (necessarily) shortened version, you can now access the program in five different ways:

  1. Using the overview image or the associated PDF file. This only gives the schedule of sessions and their titles, but not paper / author information.
  2. The Program at a glance option shows an overview of all available sessions. Simply click on a session title to see more details.
  3. The Program ordered by submission titles lists all current entries in the program in alphabetical order.
  4. The Program ordered by author name, as the name indicates, shows who has which publication(s) at the conference.
  5. Finally, there is a view of the program that you can individually adapt to your taste by selecting the sessions you want to attend to get your very own conference schedule!

We are quite proud of the conference program, and hope that you will agree with us :-)

Interpreting Paper Scores

Now that the reviews will soon be made available to authors and reviewers, I would like to inform readers on how to interpret the results.

Each paper is reviewed according to the following criteria:

This criterion is used to evaluate how well organized and formulated the paper is. It thus addresses both the general paper structure and language use, but also the "logical flow" between sections.
Here reviewers grade the paper on how original (new) the presented idea or work is, and whether it appropriately builds on and acknowledges previous work in the area: Thus, this measures both the "novelty" and the relevant literature survey in the "state of art".
Is the paper technically sound, that is, does it include evidence for all statements or conclusions that it makes? This has some overlap with the previous criterion, which also measures the use of "state of art".
Does the idea or work presented in the paper show potential to contribute to CS education?
Overall evaluation
Finally, the reviewer gives the "final mark". Here, reviewers differ in their approach: many will tend to "average out" their previous grades for the paper and give the (rough) average grade for "overall". Others may bring in additional, or alternative, arguments here, or weigh the different criteria differently.
Finally, the author can grade his or her familiarity as "Low", "Medium", or "High". This can help the program committee in deciding ho relevant or reliable a given review is, especially if reviewers disagree about the quality of a paper.

Now that the criteria are defined, here are the marks that are possible:

6 (Exceptional): Top 5%; likely to be among the top few papers at the conference
5 (Very Good): Next 15%; very strong symposium paper
4 (Good): Next 15%; suitable for symposium paper inclusion
3 (Average): Middle 25%; potentially could be used as a symposium paper
2 (Below Average): Lower 30%; correct but not too interesting; not suitable
1 (Deficient): Bottom 10%; contains serious errors or deficiencies

Thus, in general, a paper that has an average overall rating of 4.0 has good chances of being accepted - but is not guaranteed to be accepted. Quite simply, the ITiCSE conference has a good competition of authors, so that the conference regularly receives many papers that are "good enough" to be accepted, but cannot be accepted - usually because of the limitations of there only being space for so and so many papers in a conference. Additionally, a paper that has an average slightly below 4 has a (small) chance of being accepted, if the program committee feels that some of the most negative remarks were too strong compared to other reviews, or the paper would ideally fill a vacancy in the program.

If your paper has not been accepted, although the reviews look good and the overall average score is better than 3.0, please do not be too disappointed! (This has happened to me at ITiCSE or SIGCSE more often that I would have liked, too.) In most cases, it may not say as much about your submission as about the strong competition among submissions: having written a "good" paper may not be good enough, if there are too many "slightly better" papers in the same pool. What I personally always found very helpful at both conferences is to thoroughly read the reviewer comments, and then re-read my paper and try to find out what the reviewers referred to. In many cases, I could understand the criticism voiced by the reviewers. In fact, several rejected submissions actually turned into much improved (and in many cases, rather different) accepted submissions at a later iteration of the conference.

The same, of course, also applies to accepted papers - even they can usually be improved based on the reviewer comments.

The Conference Program is going online... later tonight!

A large amount of work has finally culminated in the preliminary conference program. The program looks very good (to me, at least!), and I am sure that it will also find a good interest in the SIGCSE crowd and beyond. At the moment, we only provide the "short look" at the program, which shows the schedule and the session names - the basics for planning, and for keeping the suspense high: both on "what is meant by (for example) "Environments for Motivating Students?", and "has my paper been accepted or rejected?".

As you can tell from the title of this blog entry, the actual preliminary program is not yet available for everybody - but this is expected to change either late tonight ("German time") or in the afternoon ("US time"). Why do we delay publishing the program, although the program is already finished? (To be precise, neither posters nor tips, techniques & courseware have had their submission deadline yet, so they cannot appear in the program beyond a placeholder entry).

The reason for that lies in the way we have split our work. The conference chair and the two paper co-chairs have been working together intensively on determining the best papers and meshing them together into interesting sessions. The final touches on the database will be discussed later today between our US-based program co-chair and Henry Walker, the database administrator. After this, the acceptance and rejection emails will be sent out, because we want to be 100% sure that no author receives an incorrect message.

And this is also the reason why we do not yet publish the "final preliminary program". Speaking as an author, I would really not like to learn that my paper was rejected by not finding it in the program, rather than by being able to read a rejection email and examining the reviews! To me, this is similar to students looking over a sheet of paper in apparently random order, hunting for the student ID and hoping to find a good (or at least passing) grade next to it - they would also much rather not have their friend telling them "you failed the exam; I just saw that on the list" if they did not know about this!

Thus, once the review result emails have been sent out, we will shortly follow up on this by making the program available. Depending on when this is done exactly (at GMT-6), I will link the online program today (Monday GMT+1) or tomorrow morning (Tuesday GMT+1 and for most regions of the USA). Thank you for your understanding, and I hope that if you submitted something, you will appreciate the reviews!

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