Today I'm sending out 138 individual emails to inform folks about whether or not their submission to the CascadiaJS CFP was accepted.
I thought I'd take a minute to explain our thinking in the hopes that other conferences might consider following our lead.
Speaking as an organizer, sending out "no" emails has been the worst aspect of running a conference. It's completely gut wrenching, and it used to make me feel like not running the conference anymore.
When I explored why I felt so bad, it was because the "no" felt like the end of the road. Someone had put their heart into a talk idea, and we were rejecting it and walking away. And often the idea had promise! They just needed some help.
That's when we the light bulb went off. We realized that if we thought about a "no" as simply a "not now" and the first round of feedback on a journey to eventually succeed in giving a talk, we could make this a more positive experience for everyone!
Another reason to "do things that don't scale" is that is de-emphasizes raw numbers of submissions, which are a vanity metric. Conferences like to brag about the raw number of CFP submissions, because it seems like a proxy for popularity and exclusivity.
But CascadiaJS isn't about being exclusive. By changing our focus from quantity to quality, we can focus instead of attracting the best possible submissions. We will probably cap submission counts in the future.
Finally, it's completely feasible. We pulled together a Talk Review Committee of ~8 people, each of whom helps provide written feedback. Many hands make light work.
I really hope more conferences move in this direction and start making the CFP process a more positive experience for all of the developers who submit to them.