Awesome Conferences

Making it easier to submit papers to Usenix LISA

[This was originally published on The Usenix Update Blog]

We want YOU to submit a paper this year to the LISA conference  Really.  Yes, you!  Whether you are in academia developing new algorithms that improve system administration, leader of an open source project that sysadmins find valuable, or a practitioner in industry that has written new software to improve productivity, we believe there's a paper inside all of you that wants to get out!  (Usenix LISA is December 4-9, 2011 in Boston).  LISA is also a great venue for student papers: it is a friendly audience and we have a "Best Student Paper" award that pays cash.

Usenix LISA is doing three big things this year to make it easier to submit a paper:

1.  We provide mentoring.

Submitting a paper to a conference can be intimidating, a lot of work and stressful. To make the process easier, the members of the LISA Program Committee (PC) are available to provide mentoring.  You can bounce ideas off of us by email or phone, we'll proofread your drafts, and we'll try to answer any questions about the conference or submission process.  Just write, "assign me a mentor" in email to the conference co-chairs at [email protected].

Mentors can help turn your accepted abstract into a "print ready" final draft.  We'll also work with you over video chat to rehearse and strengthen your presentation for the conference.

2.  You don't have to submit a full paper.

It can be heartbreaking to write a complete paper only to learn it wasn't accepted for this year's conference.   Papers are 8 to 18 pages; that's a lot of writing. In recent years about 20 of the approximately 80 submitted papers were accepted.

While you may submit a complete paper, we also accept an "extended abstract" of 4-8 pages.  You only write the full paper by the publication deadline if your abstract is accepted.

In an extended abstract, you document the meat of your paper. You want to make sure you don't leave out important points such as what you have achieved along with how you achieved it.  Phrases like "the full paper will reveal the new algorithm" don't allow the PC to evaluate your efforts. Working with a mentor can help you through this process to ensure you submit the best abstract possible.

3. You don't have to be a scientist.

"But I haven't invented anything!"   Refereed Papers describe work that advances the art or practice of system administration and are held to high research standards.  However, LISA has an additional category called "Practice and Experience Reports" (PER) that describe a substantial system administration project whose story reveals lessons worth sharing.  In other words, you did something awesome and want to tell the world about it so they can learn from your mistakes (Did I say mistakes?  I meant "learn from your awesomeness".)  Actually failures are often worth documenting as we learn the most!

A PER is judged on the basis of whether it addresses a pressing or rising need in the industry and the usefulness of the lessons learned. If accepted, a final draft of the full report (4-10 pages) is due by the publication deadline, just like refereed papers.

The first paper I presented at a LISA conference would have been a PER, if the category had existed then.  That was 1997!  My paper wasn't rocket science (or even computer science), but we were able to explain some valuable insights into what to do (but mostly what not to do).

We're also looking for proposals for general "Talks", special Q&A talks called "The Guru Is In", and "Poster Session".


Every PC member is currently reaching out to friends, calling universities, and visiting user groups to encourage people to submit papers. We'd love for you to announce the Call For Participation at your local user group meetings (and we'll give you a little gift if you do). Let us know if you're interested in getting more involved by participating on a future PC.

LISA11 is making an extra big effort to seek out new papers and new authors.  We're doing outreach, we're making the submission process easier, and we're providing mentoring. So, if you have never submitted an abstract to LISA, maybe this is your year.  Contact us if you are on the fence.  Maybe we can answer your questions and concerns to put you on the path to successful author.

The submission deadline is June 9, 2011.  That may seem far in the future but it creeps up on us very fast.  Start brainstorming your paper now and we look forward to receiving your submission soon!

Tom Limoncelli
LISA11 Co-Chair

Key dates:
  • Submission deadline: June 9, 2011, 11:59 p.m. PDT: Extended abstracts, papers, experience reports, and proposals for invited talks, workshops, and tutorials.
  • Notification to all submitters: July 11, 2011
  • Publication deadline: September 15, 2011: Final papers and reports due
  • Poster proposals due: November 11, 2011

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Career AdviceConferencesWriting