The Naming of Talks and Papers

reading time 2 min

I’m reviewing a LOT of talk proposals, draft papers, draft chapters, etc. I’ve noticed that people’s titles tend to rarely be plainspoken descriptions of the topic.

For conference talks, imagine that the conference attendee hasn’t read the full descriptions. 2 minutes before the next session starts they look at the conference talk grid which only lists titles and presenter names. The person should be able to decide if a talk is appropriate for them. “Appropriate” means 2 things: Am I interested in this topic, is it the right level (beginner, expert, etc.)

It may be boring, but the most plainspoken talk title would be in the formula, “X for Y”. “Flagflips for Beginners”, “Kubernetes for Experts”.

I’m always more of a “plainspoken title” kind of person. If this was a math textbook the chapters would be called addition, subtraction, multiplication, not poetic statements like combining values, reducing one by another, explosions of growth by factors.

If I see another talk proposal like “Modern security practices” when the contents are actually “How to use product X to better manage [insert one aspect of security]” I’m going to scream. And don’t get me started about proposals like, “How to [blah blah blah]” when the title should be, “Case study: How we did [blah blah blah] at [organization]”

FYI: Lately my involvement at conferences has mostly been finding better titles for talks and finding diplomatic ways to get the speaker to change their title… usually making them think it was their idea.

Tom Limoncelli

Tom Limoncelli

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