Sunday, December 14, 2008

NSDI Program Committee , Part I

I'm spending tomorrow at the NSDI (Networked Systems Design and Implementation) Program Committee meeting. It's been a few years since I've been on the PC for a networking conference, but I've found it so far to be a lot of fun.

First, it's very "civilized" -- I had only 20 papers to read the first round, and then had 5 more for the second round. (The first round was designed to get each paper 3 reviews; the second round was for paper missing reviews, or where the scores suggested another review would be helpful.) That's not too much, compared to most theory conferences.

Second, there are a good number of "algorithmically" oriented papers for me to read. Overall, networking has become a lot more theoretical, which is good. It still seems to me, though, for a network-oriented conference, you have to be careful not to go overboard with the theory. They want results -- backed by theory, preferably -- but at the end of the day, it's the results that matter. As usual when serving on a PC, seeing how it works gives insight into how to frame my own papers.

Third, one thing that's impressed me is how long and detailed the reviews are for this conference. I tend to write shorter reviews, covering what I think the high order points are. (And one thing that has been interesting -- there's generally a lot of agreement on these high order points.) But most reviewers go into a lot more detail -- the average review is at least a good page plus of text. Very different than what I usually find in theory conferences -- although I know there's a push to improve that.

I'm not sure why the culture of networking conferences has led to more detailed reviews. Fewer papers per PC member probably helps; maybe because few papers go on to journal papers (but that's equally true in theory, I think). But it's a marked and interesting change.

Anyhow, now I'm looking forward to SIGCOMM... except that I'll need to be ready to write longer reviews.


Anonymous said...

At conferences like ACM-EC where the PC doesn't meet physically, that allows them to use a larger PC, with correspondingly smaller review loads and perhaps more detailed reviews.

Anonymous said...

".. but at the end of the day, it's the results that matter."

So, results=practical results? I hope STOC doesn't get turned into a non-theoretical conference after you are done with it.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anon 2: In a networking conference, with rare exception, yes, results = practical results.

I am somewhat aware that that's not the case for STOC, and I doubt my stint as PC will change that substantially. In fact, I didn't set out to try to change it that way. (Although I wouldn't mind if it changed a little...)