I stopped a while by ITCS, before having to deal with other meetings.
I saw fellow blogger Claire Mathieu, who told me my post on day 1 was negative. To be clear, I didn't mean to come across as negative -- I did say the talks were all great, the arrangements were going well, etc. Indeed, I'd argue my main question -- why aren't more people there -- should be taken as a positive statement about the conference. But it was pointed out to me that I should point out that more senior people were around today (I guess Sunday people were busy with family or football), and that the lecture room for the talks -- which can hold about 100 people -- has been pretty full the whole time. In at least one session today, there's were plenty of people sitting on the floor or standing in the back. Even at larger FOCS/STOC conferences, there are plenty of talks that don't seem to get 100 people to come watch, so let's add that as a positive commentary for ITCS.
Umesh Vazirani approached me and suggested the following proposal: double the size of STOC, cancel FOCS, and make ICS the "second", smaller theory conference. Both conferences could have substantial co-location with other conferences to ensure large-scale attendance. His reasoning is that we should be accepting more papers in the theory conferences, we should have one substantially larger meeting, and that FOCS is at a bad time in the year (whereas STOC can be nicely in the summer and ICS in January, good times for academics; January, in particular, is a good time for things like a program for graduating PhDs/finishing postdocs to help them get their names out to find postdocs/jobs). I told him that not only did I think it was a worthwhile proposal, but that I had blogged about a similar idea before -- which, looking back at the post, was also inspired by Umesh! So I guess I'm on record already as supporting this general approach.
[UPDATE: Umesh wanted me to make clear this is not meant to be a concrete proposal, but as a food for thought conversation -- the main point, of course, being "What do we want from our conferences?" and "How do we get there?" Accepting more papers, and having something in January where students on the job market could present themselves, sound like two things a number of people think positively about. What one names the conference -- ITCS or move FOCS to January -- is arguably a secondary point.]
Claire suggested that no such big change was possible within our community, which runs (generally) as a democracy (not sure I entirely agree with that), and democracies have trouble implementing such drastic changes. She wondered what could be done with incremental changes. I'm not sure. We joked that we should just move both of STOC/FOCS a week closer together each year until they collided and then we could do away with one of them. I don't find Umesh's idea (I figure constantly referring to it Umesh's idea should add support for it) exceptionally drastic, though it would be a change. What do you all think?