The Shoemaker’s Children Go Barefoot


Earlier today I submitted the camera-ready version of a technical briefing on mining Git repositories, which Georgios Gousios and I will be presenting at the 2018 International Conference on Software Engineering. I was struck by the complexity and inefficiency of the administrative process.

I provided seven times my personal details (things like name, email, and affiliation) and four times details regarding my work (title, abstract, keywords). On one occasion I even provided my ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), which one can easily query to obtain a person’s identification. I received seven emails from three different domains that required my action and visited seven different web sites to complete the required steps. (I also received tens of confirmation emails, which I do not present.) Here is a digram depicting the steps of the steps of the publication process. (Right click, select “view image”, and zoom to see the details.)

ICSE 2018 publication process

It is particularly striking that a process with such complexity and inefficiency exhibits itself at the premier conference on software engineering: the place where researchers from around the world gather to present the latest methods, tools, and techniques for developing cutting-edge software. Unfortunately, this situation is far from unique. I’ve (too) often witnessed similar pathologies in IT systems of governments and large organizations; systems lacking interoperability and providing a poor user experience.

I’ve concluded that the reason behind these failures is a lack of power, authority, and ownership regarding the user’s end-to-end experience. In the case of ICSE, several organizations are working together on the conference: ACM, SIGSOFT, IEEE Computer Society, TCSE, EasyChair,, and Sweden MEETX. All are apparently trying hard to polish their own IT systems, but nobody is looking at the big picture regarding the user experience, nor is anyone directly responsible for it. Furthermore, nobody has the power to bring these organizations together, and no one is working on strategic planning regarding the overall IT systems architecture and integration.

How can this situation be improved? I see two possible ways. One is for enlightened people within these organizations to sit together around a table and discuss how they can leverage existing standards, such as ORCID, or setup missing ones in order to improve the process. Second, one of the existing players or a new one may realize that the inefficiencies I’ve described present a strategic opportunity to invest on a new, shiny, integrated service and thus capture a large slice of the market.

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Last modified: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 10:09 am

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