Another surprise announcement: I was asked to be the PC chair for STOC 2009, and I accepted.
I have to admit, I was surprised to be asked, as I am, after all, somewhat vocal in my opinions, which are not always popular. (I was going to label myself a crank, with examples, here, here, here, and here, before someone else did, but I prefer "vocal".) Once asked, I found it hard to decline, despite the warnings that the job is a lot of work (and arguably little reward). It is an honor to be asked, I do believe in service for the community, and, most importantly, I felt it might lead to interesting fodder for the blog. (Obviously nothing confidential will be discussed, but the challenges of the process -- an inside view -- might be interesting.) It was something I was hopefully going to do once in my life. And (as Cynthia Dwork nicely pointed out to me, when I asked her about the job), I'm only getting older, and will have less energy.
Some people might be worried, given my noted worldview, that I might set out to change things drastically. I was thinking it would make a great joke to take "competitive analysis" off the list of topics of the call for papers, only to find it wasn't actually there. Rest assured that things will probably change incrementally; I respect the traditions, and I view the main part of this job to be selecting and empowering a solid, talented PC to do their best job.
The one change I'd really like to implement, so much so that I have to let people object already, is to introduce the rating system that conferences like SIGCOMM use:
5: top 5%
4: top 10%, not top 5%
3: top 25%, not top 10%
2: top 50%, not top 25
1: bottom 50%
I like this approach much better than trying to guess what everyone thinks a 7 means, or differentiating between a 6.3 and a 6.6. (Though, depending on the projected acceptance ratio, I could see changing the numbers a bit -- to top 10%, 10-20%, 20-33%.) I think this approach makes it easier to concentrate attention on controversial papers that need attention.