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Submitting Camera-Ready Copy to SIGCSE 2017 (or Additional Evidence that Computers Hate Me)

This past Sunday was the deadline for submitting camera ready [1] copy for the SIGCSE 2017 Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. My students and I had one paper and one poster accepted on our summer work developing and running a code camp [2,3]. I’d been working on the paper, and it needed a little bit more editing. The poster, in contrast, needed only an abstract. I had set aside most of Sunday for the work, but reviewed the mail on Saturday.

You can read the instructions if you’d like. If you do, you’ll probably get bogged down in details. However, you may eventually note that they say The contact author(s) will have received an email from with a link to the ACM eforms. They also say Remember to see the email from with the unique-supplied direct link to submit your final version.

So I went looking for those emails. I had nothing from [4]. I had nothing from I did, however, have email from with a unique-supplied direct link [5], but only for the paper. That made me worry. On Saturday, I sent email to both the conference contacts and the publisher contacts. I also reached out to my research students.

Let’s detour for a moment [6]. One of the interesting aspects of multi-authored papers is deciding the right ordering for the authors. In many research labs (well, at least many biology research labs), the first author is the one who did most of the work on the project, the last one is the senior person who brought in the funding, and the remaining author are supposed to be listed in order of contribution. However, for my research projects, it’s really difficult to say that there is one lead author, or even two or three lead authors. Many students contribute to both the research and the paper. So I’ve taken to putting the student names in alphabetical order by last name, and then adding myself and any other faculty/staff at the end, also in alphabetical order. I’ve seen others employ this practice, and I think it makes sense.

Now, SIGCSE (and most conferences) clearly understand that the first author isn’t necessarily the one who is doing all the organization. And so SIGCSE asks you to specify the corresponding author [7]. I will admit that I think it makes sense for me to be the corresponding author on most papers. My undergraduates aren’t used to dealing with conference submissions, and won’t gain much from doing so. Some are also studying abroad. I always indicate that I am the corresponding author.

You may recall that before the preceding detour, I noted that I sent email to appropriate conference and publishing folks and to my research students. One of my research students quickly replied with a forwarded message about our poster from The student helpfully added the note Not sure why they didn’t send this to you, too, but here you go!. And they were right; I wasn’t in the recipient list. It went to something like nine of my students, but not to me. The message about our paper went to everyone, but not the message about the poster. Strange.

By Sunday afternoon, I hadn’t heard anything from the conference chairs or the publisher or my research students about the rights review form, and we needed the rights review form in order to submit the paper.
Fortunately, I have my students’ cell phone numbers, and so I texted the first author [8]. They texted back quickly, and then dug out the email about an hour later. (I’m impressed that they kept the email. I think if I were a student, I would have assumed that my faculty member were dealing with and and discarded it.)

Filling out the permissions forms was fun. I almost finished submitting the one for the poster when I realized that four authors were missing (including me). I find that strange, because all of us got the email about the deadline for camera-ready copy. Nonetheless, four of us were missing and, amazingly, we were the four who didn’t get the email from

Once I got the material in place, I realized that the guidelines for the poster abstract were different than they’d been in the original submission. We had more space, and it seemed worthwhile to use that space, since we only get that one abstract. I appreciated that there seemed to be three different guidelines: 750 words, 3000 characters, and one-third of a page, depending on where you read the guidelines. But I got it done.

And then came the upload. Now, when we’d submitted the poster proposal, I’d had to fill in lots of information on each author: name, email, department, home institution, city, state, and country. You would assume that this information would automatically propagate to the publication system. But you’d be wrong. I got to fill in all of the information again. Twice. Once for the poster and once for the paper. And one time I left out author #3, which mean that I had to retype all of the remaining authors. I also had way too many students on this project [9], which meant that I got to click the add additional authors button again and again and again.

But the material finally got uploaded. I made some final changes to the main paper, including a few minutes [10] in which I realized that I had blanked out portions of one of the photographs in the original submission to anonymize that submission [11], couldn’t remember where I’d left the original, found the original, couldn’t remember how I’d scaled it [12], figured out how to scale it, scaled it, and added it to the program. All seemed well and good.

On Monday, I finally got some email from the conference chairs and from the publisher. The conference chairs first said It looks like there was a problem with copy and paste between the submission system and the publisher [14] and then followed up with a note that we download information from the submission system in spreadsheet form and then send that to the publisher. The publisher sent me information on a different poster, although I’m not sure why. Later, the publisher indicated that they were told that the first author was the contact author. Something is clearly going wrong between the two systems.

Today, I got a nice message from someone else at the publisher. I think it said You had a widow on column two of page 5. We fixed it. Please check to see if we did okay. They did a great job, and I appreciate it.

Are there lessons in all of this [15]? Almost certainly. First, I should not wait until the last day or two before a deadline to check my email about the steps I have to do. Second, it is clear that software systems hate me. Why else would they forget that I exist and that I’m the contact author. Third, I never want to be a SIGCSE conference chair and have to deal with annoying complainers like the person who wrote this essay [16].

I probably should also learn to make myself first author on my papers with students. That would avoid many of the problems described above. But I don’t think I should have to change appropriate practice to deal with problematic software.

[1] No, I don’t think they use cameras any more. But the term stands from the good old days.

[2] SIGCSE is a peer-reviewed conference. SIGCSE 2017 had a 30% acceptance rate for papers and a 35% acceptance rate for posters, so I feel pretty good about having our work accepted.

[3] I have a story planned about the papers. I hope to get to it later this month.

[4] Okay, that’s not quite true. I had something from last year’s SIGCSE, sent in November of 2015. But I don’t think that’s what they mean.

[5] No, I don’t know why unique-supplied is hyphenated.

[6] I would tell my sons and my students not to put such meta writing in their essays. But I think it’s necessary in this essay, and it’s easier than writing a careful transition.

[7] I expect that the SIGCSE corresponding author is the Sheridan contact author.

[8] I was also fortunate that the first author is currently in the US. I’m not sure what I would have done if the first author had been out of the country.

[9] Only in the sense of having too many authors. All of them were necessary for the project. All of them were necessary for the code camp.

[10] In this case, I think a few minutes is an hour.

[11] It’s a picture of the campers and the counselors from our summer camp. Amazingly, t-shirts that say This is what a GRINNELL computer scientist looks like fairly clearly identify our institution. And large numbers of SIGCSE folks know who I am, so I needed to excise myself from the picture.

[12] Okay, I remembered using ImageMagick. However, I’d forgotten the commands to scale appropriately.

[14] Do you find it scary that folks are using copy and paste between two databases? And that these are folks who work for a professional technical society? I do. But I also must admit that I do things in less than sensible ways.

[15] I feel like I ask that question a lot.

[16] The SIGCSE chairs are awesome and wonderful people. And I really do mean that. I’ve been fortunate to work with different sets of chairs over the years, and have always enjoyed doing so. I think that I’ll probably end up being student volunteers co-chair starting with SIGCSE 2018, and that’s probably the right role for me. But I have also done the stupid thing and checked Yes, I’d be willing to serve as SIGCSE symposium chair if asked to do so.

Version 1.0 of 2016-12-13.