As you might imagine, there's actually little controversy at ESA. But as I mentioned to some colleagues during the breaks, the only (consistent) way to get comments on a blog is to say controversial things, so that people are annoyed enough to comment. So here are some possibly controversial things, perhaps just a bit tongue-in-cheek, focusing on the business meeting (where I'm typing away now):
1) I was talking with some others this afternoon about awards. Why aren't more conferences giving test of time awards (particularly in theory)? An award for the best paper from 10 years ago at the conference seems like a wonderful thing to have regularly.
Then we started talking about negative awards. Besides giving a best paper award at the conference, what if we gave a worst paper? Funnily enough, it didn't seem like such a negative. "Congratulations, you did just the right amount of work to get your paper over the bubble to get in!" How bad could you feel about that? Perhaps a worst talk award, in contrast, would inspire people to prepare better talks.
2) ESA had issues this year with deadlines -- they had to set their submission deadline a week after ICALP decisions, but still leave enough time for the other associated ALGO workshops to have their deadlines after and satisfy publication constraints for proceedings. This didn't give a lot of time for the PC decisions. I know I had issues chairing STOC as many other conferences tried to set their deadlines after decisions would be announcing.
Why don't we get a unified theory calendar, and have all deadlines preset a year in advance? (This was essentially Thore Husfeldt's idea, if I've interpreted him right.) Stick it on a website/Wiki somewhere, so everyone can see what's going on in advance and plan appropriately? Of course, such advance planning and coordination seems impossible (until we actually get organized and do it).
3) A related issue -- ICALP vs. ESA. Does one dominate the other in your mind? (Because of deadlines, ESA gets and accepts a lot of ICALP rejects.) Maybe we can get a European version of the SODA vs. FOCS/STOC debate going.
4) Amos Fiat, showing the slide at the business meeting on what percentage of papers in each "category" were accepted: "The higher the percentage, the less the PC knew about that topic." Discuss. (Once those SODA reviews come out, you can discuss in that context as well.)