Monday, February 09, 2009

STOC PC Wrapup

I think -- hope! -- this will be my final post on STOC for a while.

As my posts have made clear, as STOC chair I chose to experiment with a few things. Indeed, even posting about the PC process as much as I have on this blog has been something of an experiment. So now's a time took back and reflect on lessons learned.

To summarize some of my previous posts, here are some recommendations for the chairs of the future (or the steering committee) :
1) Move to co-chairs instead of a single chair.
2) Increase the PC size -- a small difference is worth a lot in coverage and reducing papers/PC member.
3) I find the 1-5 scale helpful in clarifying the easy accept/rejects and papers with great differences in opinion. It also helps to check that PC members are being consistent.
4) Decide your conflict of interest policy early, make it clear to the committee, and prepare for its implications.
5) Keep the meeting running smoothly; insist that if there's agreement on a paper that discussion is limited.
6) Automate as much as possible; find software you like working with.

I also have observations for authors and other members of the community.
1) When submitting an short abstract (like those that are being distributed with the list of accepted papers), just submit plain text. Your text is just being put in a database and moved around at various points. Its main use is for someone to skim it to see if they want to review the paper, or later, to attend your talk. Any special characters are likely to mess up some system at some point; Latex should be kept to a minimum.
2) Start earlier and have someone proofread your work. Errors in a proof -- even trivial errors -- are a sure way to reduce confidence in the acceptability of your paper. Other errors or typos create a bad impression. And a poorly written intro does hurt -- if we can't understand your contribution clearly, it's hard to accept the paper.
3) Most importantly to me, please don't ask annoying general questions like "When will accept/reject decisions come out", "When will we get the reviews?", and "When will the list of accepted papers go up?" Anyone who asked me one of those questions -- even anonymously on the blog -- please know that I figure you owe me a drink, and I expect you will pay up at the conference or your first opportunity. The answer to all these questions is "As soon as possible." In some cases there are administrative things going on you may not be aware of (reviews being finalized, authors changing titles or abstracts, etc.). In some cases the delay is simply that I have a life and a job that are taking priority. In any case, I can explain to you further why it's rude to ask such questions, but if you buy me the drink, then I'll probably happily spare you the explanation.
4) If you do have a special question or request -- like you need to schedule your talk on a specific day -- a little politeness, and patience, goes a long way. Remember, there are a few hundred of you, and just one of me... (And seriously, if you need to schedule your talk on a specific day because of a conflict, let me know NOW!)

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