Tuesday, June 02, 2009

STOC 2009, Feedback

The conference is over. I thought it would be useful to provide a thread for feedback on the conference. The point here is, in my mind, to offer feedback that might be useful to the next Program Chair (Leonard Schulman) and/or possibly the next Local Arrangements team. Did you like the mix of papers? Were there enough conceptual/technical papers? Was the schedule reasonable? How were the talks? There could be more institutional memory in our conference processes; perhaps this can add some. Or discuss some of the previously raised issues from this blog I brought up at the business meeting (slides). Or just to say you enjoyed it or hated it. In order to avoid this becoming a "discussion" with me, I don't plan on commenting on comments, so now is a good time to say what you think -- although do keep in mind constructive criticism is significantly more helpful than criticism.


Jonathan Katz said...

Having the papers on USB instead of CD-ROM would have been a lot more convenient, at least for me. (My travel laptop does not have a CD-ROM drive, and I suspect many others are in the same boat.)

I was on the organizing committee, so I know why we chose CD-ROM rather than USB: it was significantly more expensive to put proceedings papers on USB (I don't know the reason for the cost difference, but it was 50%). So how about if we don't put the copyrighted proceedings versions on USB, but instead encourage authors to send the full version of their papers and put those on USB? (Authors could also send non-full versions in 1-column format.) To do this manually would be a pain, but surely there must be companies who could do this at a reasonable price?

This would have the side benefit of getting (at least some) full versions of papers in one place.

Unknown said...

Rather than carpet bombing the conference with either paper or CD proceedings, offer a mix of options. If I recall correctly traditional paper proceedings cost around $25 each to make, for a total cost of $25 * 250 attendees = $6250. I bet the following multi-pronged approach would give most of the benefits of both paper and electronic proceedings for two thirds the cost. Do all four of the following:

1) Print out 20 copies of the proceedings for use at the conference. To make them easier to share, bind them into medium size chunks, such as per session. In other words, create 20 proceedings for each 5-paper session. Put these on a table in the break room for attendees to flip through.
Total cost: 1000 pages * 20 copies * 10 cents/page = $2000.

2) Provide a laser printer at the conference that people can use to print out papers they want to read in more depth or mark up. Have an honor system requesting that people limit their usage to about half a dozen papers. Total cost: 250 attendees * 60 pages / attendee * 10 cents / page = $1500.

3) There's no need to give everyone a proceedings CD to take home. Just have 10 CDs and 10 USB keys available for people to copy the proceedings onto their laptops. Total cost: around $100.

4) Arrange for the hotel internet to have an ACM Digital Library subscription. That way people don't have to mess with VPN to download papers from other conferences. Total cost: ????

Overall cost: around $4000.

Anonymous said...

Another idea for cheap proceedings: don't have them. Force all authors to submit their final version to arXiv at the same time that the proceedings version is due. (Make it a requirement: authors who don't comply won't have their papers appear.) On the conference website, have links to all the arXiv versions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: What about authors who already have another version of their paper on the arxiv, or plan to put one there? Would it be kosher to have two versions of the same paper on the arxiv, one short one long?

Michael, I think you did a great job this year. Having a blogging PC chair made it all much less mysterious.

Anonymous said...

Mike you did a good job. Thank you

JeffE said...

Anonymous Jue 3 asked whether having two versions of the same paper on the ArXiv would be "kosher".

Certainly it would be kosher from the ArXiv's point of view. I know of several papers where different versions have different ArXiv numbers. Occasionally new submissions get reclassified as revisions of old papers, but the old versions are still there, so there's no problem linking to them. (There's admittedly a built-in assumption that the latest revision is the one readers want. If it's really an issue, just ask us admins to fix it.)

Or do you mean kosher wrt community standards? Again, I don't see why not. It's not like ArXiv preprints carry any weight as CV-bullets.

Jakob said...

I have to say I really missed the paper proceedings (much more than I would have expected).

Apart from the problem of not having a CD/DVD-reader (which I happened to have this time), it just doesn't work for me reading papers on the screen. I tried to look at some interesting papers after the first day of talks but quickly gave up.

I think I would have paid extra to get the paper proceedings had there been such an option.

Anonymous said...

I found the CD nearly useless during the conference. The papers are up on the ACM website so it is now truly useless. I would pay extra to get paper proceedings but would want to get my money back for what the CDs cost.

During the conference there are not enough places to keep a laptop charged long enough to make it worthwhile to use the CD. (I don't spend long hours in my room at conferences reading papers.) In the sessions it also is much more distracting for other people to be reading from a laptop during a presentation than flipping through a paper proceedings. If I had a Kindle DX then maybe I'd be happy with the electronic form but not with these CDs.

Richard Cole said...

One thing that was done at SODA this year (which also gave up on paper proceedings) was to give attendees a small spiral bound booklet containing the paper titles together with 1-2 paragraph abstracts (which the authors provided separately, I believe).

For me, having these on paper was helpful, and indeed was what I previously read from the printed proceedings at conference time. I much prefer being able to look at these in paper form rather than having to click through all the titles (were this online). Also, having a small booklet is more convenient for this purpose than the full proceedings.

Anonymous said...

Some more thoughts:

1) Wrt the PC work, it was great to get not only the (usually quite uninformative) referee reports but also the scores.

2) Also, Michael's conflict of interest policies sounded extremely reasonable (which is why I find it a little scary that they apparently were so controversial). I would have expected some discussion of this at the business meeting. (What else should this meeting be for if not to discuss such important questions?)

3) The suggestion from the organizers to seriously look into the option of organizing the conference at a university sounds well worth pursuing. If it is really the case that this can be done significantly cheaper, then I see no really good reason against it. But obviously, this question cannot be discussed or resolved on-line at a business meeting---some preparatory work would be needed.

4) Is there any way to avoid the muffins-and-cookies-only breakfast and at least get some bagels, say, and fruit?

Josh said...

I second Warren's and Richard Cole's ideas regarding conference proceedings. I was talking with some friends about this issue, and this is exactly the model we came up with.

The Hyatt didn't have nearly enough outlets for laptops in the conference area.

Also, despite the medium-level applause at the business meeting, I think it can't be said too often: host FOCS/STOC at universities and save everyone a huge amount of money! Also, if it were cheaper maybe we'd get more people... Additionally, university lecture halls are often better set up for talks than hotel conference rooms, in terms of seeing the speaker/slides, acoustics, and seating.