Check out the new USENIX Web site. USENIX - Instructions for authors

Please read this message carefully. We have written it to help you give your formal submission its best possible chance to be accepted.

We are looking for papers that address issues in the technology and use of electronic commerce.

Good papers will teach readers something that they can use when designing or using their systems, or causes them to think about a computing issue in new ways, or just plain helps "get the questions right."


The Third USENIX Workshop on Electronic Commerce will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, August 31 - September 3, 1998. The Workshop will begin with one day of tutorials, followed by two and a half days of technical sessions. The Workshop will accept both formal papers, which will be refereed and printed in the Proceedings, as well as work in progress and other non-refereed submissions.

Dates for refereed paper submissions
  • Extended abstracts due: March 6, 1998
  • Notification to authors: April 17, 1998
  • Camera-ready final papers due: July 21, 1998


For your convenience, here is a summary of the important information in the Call For Papers as it pertains to refereed papers:

  • Authors must submit either an extended abstract of their paper, (about 2500 words or 5 pages long) OR a full draft of the paper to the program chair via one of the following methods. All submissions will be acknowledged.

    • Preferred Method: Email to
    • Alternate Method: 10 copies, via postal delivery to:
      	EC'98 Submissions
      	USENIX Association
      	2560 Ninth St, Ste 215
      	Berkeley, CA  94710
      	Phone: 510-528-8649

  • The authors must also submit a cover letter or email containing the following information:

    1. The title and authors of the manuscript.
    2. The name of one author who will serve as a contact and his/her:
      • electronic mail address,
      • daytime and evening telephone numbers,
      • surface mail address,
      • and a fax number (if available).
    3. An indication of which, if any, of the authors are full-time students.
    4. A short abstract of the paper (about 100-200 words).

  • The final paper should be 8-12 typeset USENIX conference pages in length.


The most important thought to keep in mind when deciding whether to submit a paper is "what will the audience or readers learn from my paper?" We don't expect every paper to report on a major breakthrough, but we do look for something new, potentially useful, and not entirely obvious. Think about how different your work is from previously published papers; it may be good work but if there is nothing new to learn, it isn't worth reading (or writing) a paper about it. Think about how other people might find your work useful; can they apply what you are teaching them to their own systems? And, does your work really improve upon the previous state of the art? Or does it show how other people have been confused? "Negative results" that contradict the conventional wisdom are often more important than positive results.

Trying to decide if something is non-obvious isn't easy (patent lawyers make lots of money arguing about this), and sometimes the best ideas seem obvious in hindsight; but if lots of people have done the same thing, and you are simply the first person to have considered writing a paper about it, perhaps it's too obvious.

Also think about whether this workshop is the right place to publish your paper. Perhaps it belongs in the USENIX annual technical conference, a more theoretical conference, or a conference with a different kind of focus. Or perhaps it doesn't belong in a conference at all; it might be more appropriate for a USENIX publication like ;login:. On the other hand, USENIX conferences typically cover a broad range of practical issues in open computing systems. It may be that you can take a paper that has several possible themes, and write it to concentrate on issues specifically interesting to a USENIX audience.

The program committee will also be trying to decide if papers will lead to a good 25-minute presentation. Some systems are just too complex to be presented this way (perhaps you should focus on just one aspect); other papers just don't have enough to talk about for that long. On the other hand, a few rare papers are accepted mostly because the committee expects them to produce an interesting talk, but that might not otherwise merit publication.

Again, when you are writing your paper, keep in mind "what do I intend to teach the reader?" That means keeping the paper focused on one or a few main points. Don't try to cram too many big issues into the paper, and don't fill it up with irrelevant details. But do include enough background for the reader to understand why your problem is important, how your work relates to previous work in the field, and how it might fit into a practical system. Also, provide enough detail for the reader to put your performance measurements in context. It is vitally important to provide a good bibliography, both so that you give proper credit to previous work, and so that a reader can know where to turn to find additional background information. The program committee will not look kindly on a paper if the author doesn't appear to be familiar with the current literature.


An "extended abstract" might better be thought of as a "condensed paper." Outlines, copies of presentation slides, or 1-page abstracts are quite unlikely to be accepted for the refereed Proceedings.

When you write an extended abstract, you are explicitly leaving things out of the paper. Each time you do that, ask yourself, "Will it make it hard for the program committee to judge my paper?" There are no easy rules to follow here: something that might be vital in judging the value of one paper would be irrelevant detail in another case. It's best to leave out things that take a lot of explanation but are not central to the main point of the paper. You might also leave out descriptions of variations on, or extensions to, the main concepts. Don't leave out references to related work, but you can probably reduce this part to an explanation pitched to the program committee, rather than an "introduction to the field" written for the benefit of a non-expert reader. Include graphs, figures, and tables that are central to understanding the paper!

Finally, if a sample abstract would help, you can get a postscript copy of the abstract and final paper that Matt Blaze did for the Winter 1992 USENIX conference (pp. 333-343). The abstract is probably most useful when compared with the final paper. To get a copy of the abstract or paper, send email to, including the line:

send abstract papers
- or -
send paper papers

in the body of your email.


The Organizing Committee would prefer to receive submissions via electronic mail, but there are occasionally problems in printing them. If you have any reason to suspect that your submission might not be easy for us to print, please submit an already printed hardcopy by surface mail, in addition to your electronic version.

Please make e-mail submissions with standard PostScript (PS) or Acrobat format (PDF). Some PostScript generators are quite buggy and we may not be able to print their output. For example, lots of software generates PostScript that can only be printed on Apple Laserwriters. If you send PostScript, remember the following:

  • Use only the most basic of fonts (TimesRoman, Helvetica, Courier). Other fonts are often not available with every printer or previewer.

  • PostScript that requires some special prolog to be loaded into the printer won't work for us. Don't send it.

  • If you used a PC or Macintosh-based word processor to generate your PostScript, print it on a more generic PostScript printer before sending it, to make absolutely sure that the PostScript is portable.

A good heuristic is to make sure that recent versions of Ghostview (e.g. Ghostview 1.5 using Ghostscript 3.33) can display your paper. Please use MIME base 64 encoding or uuencode to submit your papers. DON'T send files meant for various word-processing packages (Word, WordPerfect, MacWrite, etc.). We don't have the resources to deal with them.

Overseas authors should make sure that their abstract prints properly on US-style 8.5x11 inch paper. Please make sure that you leave enough room for top and bottom margins.


Lots of papers and books have been written about how to write a good paper. We'd like to suggest that you read a paper called An Evaluation of the Ninth SOSP Submissions; or, How (and How Not) to Write a Good Systems Paper. This was written by Roy Levin and David D. Redell, the program committee co-chairs for SOSP-9, and first appeared in ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review, Vol. 17, No. 3 (July, 1983), pages 35-40.

Although SOSP and USENIX papers do differ somewhat, Levin and Redell give good advice for authors of any kind of systems paper.

The authors have graciously agreed to make this paper available online. You can also retrieve a separate copy by sending email to, including the line: send advice papers in the body of your email.

Another helpful paper is

"The Science of Scientific Writing," George D. Gopen and Judith A. Swan, American Scientist, Vol. 78, No. 6 (Nov-Dec, 1990), pp. 550-558.

This article describes not how to write an entire paper, but how to write sentences and paragraphs that readers can understand. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we cannot make this available online or send you photocopies, but almost any library should have copies of this magazine.

We also recommend that you read the proceedings of some recent USENIX conferences to get an idea of what kinds of papers are published. Not every one of these papers is perfect (or even great), but most of them are better than most of the ones that got rejected.

Finally, if you have any other questions, feel free to send mail to the program chair at

Good Luck!

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Last changed: Oct 7, 1997 jackson
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