As mentioned recently, the FOCS submission site is now up, and STOC acceptances have come out. Related blog posts have arrived, including an amusing one by Dick Lipton on if you could create a site that would automatically estimate the chances of your FOCS submission getting in.
So it seemed a good time to ask -- what's the big deal about FOCS/STOC?
FOCS/STOC are, I think, still generally thought of as theory's "flagship conferences." It's hard to get taken seriously as a theorist -- particularly when searching for your first (or even second) job -- without a reasonable number of FOCS/STOC papers under your belt. (SODA papers are, I think, now regarded as a reasonable substitute, but the lack of the heft of something in FOCS or STOC still stands out on a CV.)
My point here is that many of the best theorists I know have, I would say, transcended FOCS/STOC. This does not mean there's not great stuff in FOCS/STOC; it just seems strange, given this, that these conferences are accorded such weight.
Perhaps, in fact, they're accorded less weight than I'm crediting them with these days. Certainly, the Innovations in Computer Science movement demonstrates some dissatisfaction with FOCS/STOC, and there are debates in subcommunities (SoCG, Crypto) about FOCS/STOC vs. the specialized conferences. It still seems to me, though, that FOCS/STOC is where most people would want their best theory results to appear, and it's still the lens through which fresh theory PhDs are viewed.
It seems to me that the theory community, as a whole, needs to think about FOCS/STOC/SODA and the other many conferences, and figure out what it wants them to me. FOCS and STOC haven't changed much over the years, and perhaps they've become just a bit too comfortable; the (theory) world around them has changed considerably, and it's not clear that they've adapted. Should they be the flagship conferences of theory, and if so, what does that mean, and how can they better fulfill that role? If they're not going to be the flagship conferences of theory -- which might be perfectly reasonable -- what is their role to be?