I missed the FOCS business meeting for no good reason. But I heard after that there was some discussion along the lines of how many papers FOCS should accept with people vying for fewer papers and a more prestigious conference. Apparently there were complaints from the old guys that most of the conference was under 35. (Remember, this is day-after gossip laced with truthiness – I wasn’t there.)
Anyhow, my real beef is with the number of conferences in our field. Some are listed in the title of the post. And these are only the conferences in the algorithms subdirectory of theory. Under game theory you can go the FOCS/STOC/EC/ISIT/… route, under crypto, FOCS/STOC/CRYPTO/EUROCRYPT/… etc. SO MANY CONFERENCES.
For blanket TCS conferences though, we look to FOCS/STOC in the US (and ICALP in Europe, which I have little experience with, so I will keep to the North American scene here). But STOCS/FOCS are only blanket in terms of topics, not attendance. A Joint Math Meeting this is not. While I had a great time with my friends and colleagues who were there, it was the absences that were notable. Even colleagues from schools in California weren’t there, despite the proximity. Whole institutions left unrepresented. So even if I do make it to one of STOC/FOCS each year, what about those colleagues who choose to go to the other one. Or opt out entirely, sticking to their SODAs and SoCGs. When will I get to see them?
Then there are the more practical considerations. So much travel! As a grad student it was awesome. Free trip. Not a care as to where the money came from. Time away from school. But now. So much travel! Who will teach my classes? Who will pay for this? How will I recoup a lost weekend? (Answer: no one; me; with grumpiness.) Add the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of resubmitted conference papers. More work for the many PCs that are formed. And yes, there are practical considerations. What model do we use? What does the committee look like? This has been discussed before. I’m sure we can figure something out, even if we can’t agree on something.
So why can’t TCS have a SIGGRAPH or CHI or AAAI? Why can’t we meet all in one place once a year?