SODA 20 minute talks

Many people have been blogging on the technical content at SODA, but I won’t. Given that David has already hinted that I only value the first 10 minutes of most talks, clearly I’m not in the position to expound on the more than the definition of problems and all but the highest level of analysis.

I’ve been thinking about what I like about conferences. Of course I appreciate meeting wih friends and colleagues – working on new and old problems. I do enjoy the talks too. But for me, the 20 talk is problematic. I can only imagine two possible uses of 20 minutes: an advertisement to go read the paper, to educate people of the definition of the problem/topic/solution statement, or to actually go into technical details.

For topics that are directly in my area, 20 minutes are too short to delve into any technical details for which I would have questions. Nor do I need an advertisement. I am probably already aware of the paper (thanks archiv and its users) and perhaps already read the paper.

For topics not in my area 20 minutes is probably too long for an advertisment and too short for me to absorb definitions in order to appreciate any technical content.

That said, I miss theory seminars. I am the only traditional TCS person at OSU and am too far from theory strongholds to attend a theory seminar. I would love to get that content from a conference. The plenary talks provide a little of that, but they are not usually on recent results of a technical nature (nor would I want that to change).

What I propose is having two types of talks – short 10-15 minute “advertisements” and long 45-60 minute seminar style talks. The committee could choose the best results to give longer slots to. Perhaps (and probably controversially) longer slots could be biased towards better speakers.

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One thought on “SODA 20 minute talks

  1. SAmir Khuller

    It may become too controversial as to who gets long slots and short slots. I think some conferences have the concept of
    “full paper” and poster effectively breaking submissions into these two categories. I like the fact that we have not done that. Things are already too subjective as it is in terms of which papers get in.

    I think the ICALP/IPCO 30 min format is great. Its long enough that you can convey a large part of the details as well and I get a lot out of the talks on topics that I care about.
    The 20 min talks need to be rehearsed and practiced very carefully and its possible to give a great talk, conveying the ideas and not the details, but its hard. As a listener if you dont focus for even one minute and miss something crucial, then you can be totally lost. However given the number of papers at SODA, the talks cannot get any longer unless we go to a 4 day conference format.

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