STOC 2010 appears to be running quite smoothly. I've been popping in and out -- the problem with being a local is that I actually have to go home at reasonable times (and stop by the office quickly). While nominally (thanks to Lance) I was appointed Conference Chair, my role, happily, was minimal. Great thanks to the efforts of the Microsoft Local Arrangements Team -- particularly Paul Oka -- and also Yael Kalai, Adam Kalai, hosts Jennifer Chayes and Christian Borgs, and anyone else I'm forgetting. (Personally, I'm now all for a Microsoft team managing local arrangements every few years... all in favor?)
Thanks to everyone who has offered condolences for my new position, and special thanks to those who said they'd hope my scientific career might revive a few years hence.
A quick word on the business meeting. I wasn't actually there, but I understand Lance briefly discussed "The Future of STOC." Let me briefly give my take, as I understand there might have been some confusion.
1) Several of us on the SIGACT executive committee have been concerned that STOC seems to be at best stable (and perhaps slightly deteriorating) in terms of attendance the last several years, even as our field is ostensibly growing. Perhaps, we think, STOC/FOCS are not adequately fulfilling their roles as the central, flagship events of the theory community. (Needless to say, given this year's attendance, perhaps things are brighter than we think.)
2) So we think about it. For example, some of you might recall my wacky Double One, Half the Other post from November.
3) Lance comes up with an even more drastic proposal, and tries to get some feedback on it from targeted members of the community. I believe he tried to explain this proposal at the business meeting. To be clear, the feedback before the meeting was largely very negative; although many people think things could be structurally improved, there's a lot of different opinions as to what form that should take. This proposal was never meant to be on the table at the business meeting.
4) The one thing that DID seem to have reasonably widespread support is that we could accept more papers. We still have some room if we made it a full 3-day schedule. STOC acceptance rates have dropped from generally well over 30% in the 1990's and early 00's (some years it was over 40%!) to 25-30% the last few years. While upping the number of papers is, admittedly, a small delta, and not likely to change some potentially larger systematic issues with the conference, it seems like a good idea -- it should get some more people to come, and perhaps will allow a bit more leeway in terms of what is accepted. Moreover, if people liked the change, then perhaps we could think of further changes (a 3.5 or 4-day conference? triple sessions like SODA? your idea here?) that could further open up the conference.
So the SIGACT EC came up with the proposal that we advise next year's chair that, as long as the paper quality warrants it, there's no reason to aim for about 75-80 papers (the apparent "target" of the last many years) and we would be happy if they might aim for 85-90 papers.
Again, I wasn't at the business meeting, but I heard even this modest proposal did not receive enthusiastic support. I'm starting to get the feeling there's a non-trivial minority that thinks the conference is going just fine, and are in principle against any change. I can certainly understand trepidation at radical change, but I can't see any reason not to try this modest experiment, which seems to have little to no downside and some reasonable possible upside.
So feel free to explain YOUR opinions in the comments.