Wednesday, January 07, 2009

SODA and Me

There have been 23 IEEE Conferences on Computational Complexity and I have been to all of them. There have been 20 ACM-SIAM Symposiums on Discrete Algorithms and I have been to none of them. Yesterday Bill talked about the joys of SODA. So why haven't I gone?

I have nothing against SODA. The conference has strong papers and researchers. Algorithms is an important area of theory. But algorithmic results just don't excite me in the same way that a beautiful complexity result does. I don't mind a good algorithms talk every now or then but I don't think I could take three straight days of them.

When I applied for graduate schools my boss in Cornell Computer Services tried to talk me out of being a theorist. "Do you really want to spend your life shaving log factors off of running times?"

"Yes, I do," I replied. But in fact I don't and I didn't.

I have had two SODA submissions, both accepted to the 2003 conference in Baltimore. Right before SODA that year I was visiting Bill in College Park, south of Baltimore. As I drove back to New Jersey I pondered taking a right off the highway into the conference. But then common sense took over and I drove on.

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