A while back I submitted a proposal to a conference related to teaching with technology. This is the presentation title and abstract (limited to 75 words) that I submitted: (some of you may recognize it as one of my standard presentations)
Web 2.0 Whirlwind--Free Web Tools
There are many new Web applications that are free and easy to use. Many of these services have specific applications in higher education. The presenter will demonstrate these free applications currently being used by students, faculty, and staff. Applications related to digital photos and video, digital music tools, one-to-one and one-to-many communications, web office, and other services are demonstrated. A presentation wiki containing all resources is shared for use after the conference.
This week I received an email that started with the following: "Congratulations! Your session has been accepted for (blah-blah-blah)."
Normally that would be a pretty good email. However, by the end of it I was more than just a little bit offended. Through a pretty good use of technology the conference organizers give you access to a password protected site where you find out what four anonymous reviewers thought about your presentation proposal.
- 1st Reviewer said nothing.
- 2nd Reviewer said: "I want to attend this session! :-) "
- 3rd Reviewer said: "I would like to see the Presentation Abstract expound just a bit more on the types of tools attendees would see or use."
- 4th Reviewer said: "Better title it assumes to much/doesn't say enough. "Web 2.0 Whirlwind" ?? and "Free Web Tools" is what the presenter will demonstrate; "those free applications currently being used by students, faculty, and staff." To do so Web 2.0 is a given. How will this lead to a discussion and use in the 3.0 - now and in coming future - is also something" (and was apparently cut off for exceeding the word limit)
Below is a copy and paste from the email I sent to the conference organizers:
I'm actually feeling a bit insulted by a couple of the comments. So much so that right now I am inclined to no longer submit proposals for (your conference) in the future.
This is a presentation that I have given many times in many different settings. Twice it has been rated as the best concurrent session at national conferences. After several of these presentations I have been invited to give similar presentations at various schools and organizations. Funny how none of these attendees felt the need to change what my presentation is about as (the 4th reviewer) would like to do.
Additionally, I see little value in the comment from (the 3rd Reviewer) who "would like to see the Presentation Abstract expound just a bit more on the types of tools attendees would see or use." Does this reviewer know that there is a word limit on the abstract? How exactly can someone expound more while remaining within the word limit?
Maybe I'm the only person out here who doesn't appreciate being talked down to by an anonymous reviewer. If I am, then you have nothing to worry about. If there are others who feel the way that I do, then you might want to re-think your system of reviewer comments.
Respectfully submitted, Barry Dahl
(end of email) ******************
Was I making too much of this? Should I just let it slide? Is it just me?
I was ready to post the item above when I did hear back from the conference organizers. They replied to my email shown above and were very kind and apparently have a thicker skin than yours truly when it comes to receiving feedback that is less than glowing. Although keep in mind that their feedback clearly came from me and not from some anonymous source.
One thing that was very important in their reply was that this was a double-blind review process. In other words, the potential presenter does not know who the reviewers are and the reviewers did not know who the presenter is. This is a little different from what I assumed to be true, but I'm not sure how much it changes things. On the one hand I definitely do not appreciate anonymous reviews when they are only single-blind, as is usually the case. But I'm still not quite sure what I think about the double-blind review. For example, someone might write a boffo presentation description but maybe has a track record of being absolutely dreadful when actually making a presentation. In fact, I think that I see that all the time. I would want to know that it is Joe Blow who is making the proposal because I know that Joe Blow mainly blows smoke and we really don't need to hear from him again - or we'll blow our brains out (that's just a figure of speech, of course).
So now I've had a couple of days to cool down from all of this, but I'm still not quite sure what to think about the whole thing. One thing that I do know is that the conference organizers responded very quickly and professionally to my concerns, and I appreciate that. One more thing is certain - I don't particularly like receiving anonymous reviews where there is no chance for a rebuttal and no chance of assessing the credibility of the source. End of rant. Life goes on.
CC photo by Violator3