Fri 21 - Thu 27 October 2011 Portland, Oregon, United States

Onward! is more radical, more visionary, and more open than other conferences to not (yet) so well-proven but well-argued ideas. We welcome different ways of thinking about, approaching, and reporting on programming language and software engineering research.

Onward! fosters the multidisciplinarity of software development. We are interested in anything to do with programming and software. Processes, methods, languages, art, philosophy, biology, economics, communities, politics, ethics, and of course applications. Anything!

Sounds good? Do you want to report on and present your new ideas to the community and get feedback? Do you have a video to show or a story to tell, an essay perhaps? Do you want to bring reflections and new insights to the community? Or do you simply want to know more about innovations, visions, and the future of programming languages and software engineering? Then…

Join Onward!, the unique, creative, and collaborative environment to discuss and investigate challenging problems related to software, its creation, and nurturing.

Accepted Papers

Ageing Society 2010
A literate experimentation manifesto
Automated Program Verification Made SYMPLAR: symbolic permissions for lightweight automated reasoning
Automatic Performance Programming?
Coding at the Speed of Touch
Continuous Demonstration
Emerson: Accessible Scripting for Entities in an Extensible Virtual World
Mind Your Language: On Novices’ Interactions with Error Messages
Naturalistic Types
PLATEAU—Evaluation and Usability of Programming Languages and Tools
Presenting a Day in the Life of Video- based Requirements Engineering
The intuitive control of smart home and office environments
The serious game: weMakeWords
TouchStudio - Programming Cloud-Connected Mobile Devices via Touchscreen

Call for Films

The Onward! film track invites "submissions in motion.“ Papers and slide presentations are not always the right media to convey ideas. We are therefore interested in anything that combines film with programming and software.

For example, film can show the interactive nature of a proposed system in a way that goes well beyond the capacity of requirements specifications and use-case diagrams. Film can visualize how a proposed system should or might work, and reveal exceptional circumstances in which the system still must work.

There is also an increasing need of describing research projects whose results are difficult to explain to non-experts. The interesting behavior of such systems often stretches into weeks or months and a film might be much more helpful than a real-time demo. Moreover, film can be used as visual scaffolding of how software engineering is conducted in order to help us improve the software development process itself.

Other topics including, but not limited to: documentary on learning a new language; interviews with practitioners; diary of a frustrated graduate student, presenting worlds that are physically difficult to access; capturing group interaction dynamics; branching scenario options; portraying the emotive excitement of real-time activities; displaying processes from a specific, personal perspective; displaying examples of exceptions and exception-handling; animation of new programming methodologies or team-oriented processes; mobile video microblogging.

Author Guidelines

We accept two categories based on the length of the film: Short movie (1-3 minutes, “YouTube” category) and long movie (between 4 and 10 minutes, “epic” category). Films will be peer-reviewed based on these characteristics:

  • Clarity of presentation: Is the message clearly stated and is it understandable?

  • Visual storytelling: Do the film makers maximize the use of image and sound to clearly make their case? Does the plot (visionary scenario, user story, …) make sense?

  • Production value: Is the material presented in a pleasing manner?

  • Sound/music: Is audio as well as visual information used effectlvely?

  • Cinematography: What light and camera choices were made? Does the movie look like somebody’s home video?

Film Submission

  • Electronic submission of the film is required. Films must be submitted in AVI or MOV format, preferably encoded in H.264.

  • A film submission must include a 200-word description about the film. The final camera-ready text must be formatted to conform to SIGPLAN Proceedings requirements. Details will be released once the film has been accepted.

  • The film makers must secure the rights for any third-party materials used.

  • A film submission must include an early or partial version of the film. Full films are only required by the time of the conference.

Onward! Film Program Committee

  • Bernd Bruegge (Chair), Technische Universität München, Germany
  • Yvonne Coady, University of Victoria, Canada
  • Oliver Creighton, Siemens Corporation, Germany
  • Ralph Guggenheim, Alligator Planet, USA
  • Jessica Hodgins, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
  • Bruce Horn, Microsoft, USA
  • Martin Purvis, University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Jesse Schell, Carnegie Mellon University and Schell Games, USA

For additional information, clarification, or questions please contact the film chair, Bernd Bruegge, at films@onward-conference.org

Call for Workshops

The Onward! conference is dedicated to new ideas at the frontier of knowledge about software and programming. Onward! workshops are located a day’s ride past the frontier. They are where groups can explore uncharted ideas. They are an ideal base for intellectual insurrections. Workshops proposals are welcome on all topics related to software and programming, especially topics unacceptable at mainstream Computer Science conferences.

Proposal Guidelines

Your proposal should include the following elements.

Main Theme and Goals

The proposal must explain the importance of the workshop theme to the SPLASH community. Goals should be clearly stated.


The proposal must include a 150-word abstract that summarizes the theme and goals of the workshop. If the workshop is accepted, this abstract will be published in the advance program and the final program.


The proposal must list the workshop organizers. Workshop organizers are responsible for advertising the workshop, reviewing potential participants' submissions, running the workshop, and collating any results of the workshop for dissemination to others. Workshop organizers should be listed, together with their contact information. The primary organizer of the workshop and a contact person should be specified (they need not be the same person). For each organizer, the proposal should describe his/her background (expertise in the area, and previous experience running workshops) and also identify his/her responsibilities for this workshop.

Anticipated Attendance

The ideal, minimum, and maximum number of participants.


Describe how you plan to advertise your workshop to ensure participation.

Participant Preparation

Your proposal should describe what preparation is expected of workshop participants.

Activities and Format

The format of the workshop should be described and a timetable given. Please state clearly if a full-day or a half-day workshop is proposed. You should consider, for example, whether there will be any introductory material, whether there will be any paper presentations, any panel discussion, debate, or focus groups, and how such groups will report back to the other participants.

Post-workshop activities

The proposal should describe what results the workshop will produce and how those will be disseminated to the wider public.

Special Requirements

Identify any special requirements.

The following questions may help focus your submission:

  • Are there at least two organizers and do they represent a reasonably varied cross-section of the community?
  • Does the proposal present a compelling case for the importance of the topic area? Is this done succinctly and completely?
  • Are the goals of the workshop expressed clearly?
  • Is the topic likely to be attractive to SPLASH attendees?
  • Is the format clearly described and does it encourage a high level of interaction between the participants?
  • Is a workshop the right forum to address the theme and goals or does the proposal fit better into another type of SPLASH event?


Please submit workshop proposal by sending them to the workshop chair, Pascal Costanza, via email ( workshops@onward-conference.org).

Important Dates

  • Workshop Proposal Submission: April 8, 2011
  • Workshop Proposal Notification: May 8, 2011
  • Camera-ready copy due: June 8, 2011
  • Onward! Conference: October 22-27, 2011

Workshop Chair

Call for Papers

Have you ever wished you could get your ideas out there for comment quickly? Have you ever wondered where are the conferences or journals that cater to work earlier than usual in the scientific cycle?

Onward! is that place. At Onward! we are interested in papers that describe work with potential to change significantly the field. But Onward! isn''t a venue for just any old thing - an Onward! paper must say something substantially original, and must be sufficiently important and interesting to deserve the attention of the programming and software communities. An Onward! paper must present some supporting evidence - not pure conjecture. Evidence may be in the form of a compelling argument or analysis, a sketch of validity, or an initial implementation.

The scope of an Onward! paper can be broad: It can be single idea, a new approach, or a new paradigm. It can talk about programming languages, programming methodologies, process, software engineering, collaboration, and anything to do with programming and creating software.

But above all, an Onward! paper must be well thought out, well-written, and compelling in its argument.

Onward! is a fully peer-reviewed conference. Accepted papers will appear in the SPLASH proceedings and the ACM Digital Library.

Theme: Software Language Design

Collectively the software language community is exploring the space of language designs. It often takes many years for a design (a point in this space) to be implemented, applied, and evaluated. Language design is very much an art. Can we speed up the process by more systematic methods? What properties do good language designs have? What are good language design patterns? How can we evaluate language design at an early stage, i.e. before an implementation exists? Can we (and should we) incorporate method from human-computer interaction in the evaluation of language designs? Can we use user-centered design methods to inform language design? Can programming language designers learn from the design methodologies of other disciplines such as architecture and industrial design? Are there principled ways to guide and evaluate software language designs other than empirical experiment and mathematical proof? What assumptions do we hold so dearly about programming languages that it would be heresy to question them? This year the Onward! PC would welcome in particular papers reflecting on the future of software language design.

Author Guidelines

All papers will be peer-reviewed by members of the Onward 2010 program committee and additional expert reviewers drawn from relevant research communities.

Submissions will be evaluated on the basis of originality, significance of the contribution to the field, technical correctness and presentation. If a submitted paper may appear to overlap with the previously published or simultaneously reviewed work, the authors should email the Program Chair directly to explain how the new work represents a unique and substantial new contribution.


  • Electronic submission through easychair is required: http://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=onward11
  • Submissions must be in ACM SIGPLAN 10 point format; templates for Microsoft Word and LaTeX are available. For ease of reviewing, please include page numbers in your submission. (Note that the SIGPLAN formats differ from the standard ACM formats in some respects.)
  • Papers must be submitted in PDF format. PDF files must be created to allow printing, and must be readily printable on a modestly configured color laser printer.
  • Final camera-ready essays must also be formatted to conform to SIGPLAN Proceedings requirements. Details will be released once your paper has been accepted.
  • Papers must be both no longer than 10,000 words and no longer than 20 pages when formatted under the SIGPLAN templates. Papers violating these guidelines will be rejected without review; contact the essays chair in advance if you have any doubts about the length of your paper.
  • Onward! and OOPSLA provide a number of other publication venues; papers that are not accepted to the research program may, at the discretion of the committee, be forwarded for consideration for the OOPSLA research program.
  • Papers must not have been previously published, and must not be concurrently submitted for publication elsewhere (including journals and formal proceedings of conferences and workshops). Violation of this policy will result in rejection of the essay. See the SIGPLAN republication policy for more details.

Call for Essays

Onward! attendees are looking for ideas—interesting, challenging, and provocative ideas—and are looking to Onward! Essays to provide them.

While SPLASH and Onward! authors are adept at writing technical papers, the essay form has proven to be more elusive. This year the Essays Track will take the form of a writer’s workshop.

Authors are invited to submit a proto-essay—a draft—of their idea.

Selection for the workshop will be simple: does the idea look interesting and does the draft show potential? The author must be committed to the development of the idea and completion of the draft at the workshop.

There are no absolute limits to page length but authors should heed the following guidelines. Two-to-three pages are probably ideal. Less than one page hints that the idea is insufficiently conceived. Four pages is close to the limit for valuable and detailed feedback.

Ideas that make it through the workshop and become essays will be published in the ACM Digital Library as part of the Onward! Companion.

Selection Committee:

  • David West—New Mexico Highlands University
  • Leigh Fanning—University of New Mexico
  • Jenny Quillien—New Mexico Highlands University

Workshop Leaders:

  • David West—New Mexico Highlands University
  • William Cook—UT Austin
  • Richard P. Gabriel—IBM Research


If you wish more background for composing your draft, consider Robert Atwan’s comments on writing essays, especially the second paragraph. The point of the workshop is to help authors, and readers, use the essay as “an act of discovery, an opportunity to say [think] something they had never before thought of saying.”

Years ago, when I was instructing college freshmen in the humble craft of writing essays - or ‘themes,’ as we called them—I noticed that many students had already been taught how to manufacture the Perfect Theme. It began with an introductory paragraph that contained a ‘thesis statement’ and often cited someone named Webster; it then pursued its expository path through three paragraphs that ‘developed the main idea’ until it finally reached a ‘concluding’ paragraph that diligently summarized all three previous paragraphs. The conclusion usually began, ‘Thus we see that….’ If the theme told a personal story, it usually concluded with the narrative cliche, ‘Suddenly I realized that….’ Epiphanies abounded.

What was especially maddening about the typical five-paragraph theme had less to do with its tedious structure than with its implicit message that writing should be the end product of thought and not the enactment of its process. My students seemed unaware that writing could be an act of discovery, an opportunity to say something they had never before thought of saying. The worst themes were largely the products of premature conclusions, of unearned assurances, of minds made up.… So perhaps it did make more sense to call these productions themes and not essays, since what was being written had almost no connection with the original sense of ‘essaying’—trying out ideas and attitudes, writing out of a condition of uncertainty, of not-knowing….

The five-paragraph theme was also a charade. It not only paraded relentlessly to its conclusion, it began with its conclusion. It was all about its conclusion. Its structure permitted no change of direction, no reconsideration, no wrestling with ideas. It was—and still is—the perfect vehicle for the sort of reader who likes to ask: ‘And your point is…’.