Help the !!Con 2016 attendees eat breakfast

Update (May 5, 2016): Thanks to everyone who’s offered to chip in and help !!Con out financially! There’s now an easy way to do so as an individual: (hosted by my fellow !!Con organizer Leo Franchi). Read the rest of this post to learn about our financial situation and why I’m asking for help.

Update (May 11, 2016): You people are amazing! At the last minute, !!Con got a sponsorship from Stride, plus over $1600 in contributions from individuals. With their help, we were able to serve bagels, fruit, and coffee on both days of the conference! Thank you so much!

Regular readers of this blog may know that I’m one of the organizers of !!Con (“bang bang con”), an eclectic and inclusive conference of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of programming.

2016 marks the third year of !!Con, which is held annually in New York City. This year, our program features talks on the usual bewilderingly broad range of topics: lossy text compression, interplanetary spacecraft flight software, storing your data in kernel space, and more. I can’t wait!

That time my tweet got cited in a scientific journal

I use Twitter a lot. A couple years ago, I was walking through the woods near my building on campus in Indiana when I saw a gorgeous, shiny green critter that I didn’t recognize. I wanted to know what it was, so I snapped a photo and tweeted about it, asking if anyone could identify it.

Don’t “invite” people to your program committee; ask them to serve

Recently, a friend told me that one of their pet peeves was being “invited” to do things like review papers on a program committee, rather than being asked to serve on said committee. I had never considered the difference between inviting people and asking them to serve, but as soon as my friend pointed it out, I realized that I had sent a few of these so-called “invitations” myself not so long ago.

Why review papers?

A few days ago, in response to my complaining about all the reviewing I’ve had to do lately, an undergrad researcher friend asked me, “what’s the incentive to sign up to join PCs and review papers? it seems like a lot of (free?) labor.”

Good question! Here are some reasons why someone might sign up to review academic papers. TL;DR: you should review papers in order to: provide a crucial service to the community; see a preview of new work in your field; advocate for the kind of work you want to see more of; build a reputation; see and learn from what other reviewers say; get better at writing strong papers yourself; better understand how arbitrary acceptance and rejection decisions can be; and feel good.