- Student: Why doesn't FOCS have a best paper award this year?
- Me: They often don't announce the winners until the conference begins.
- Student: Traditionally the best paper get longer talks and there are none scheduled.
- Me: There's no such thing as tradition at STOC and FOCS. Rest assured (though I have no prior knowledge) there will be a best paper award given.
The decisions of how STOC and FOCS are run are up to the program committee with constraints on schedule and the local arrangements site. Two or three years of the same in a row becomes a "tradition" and hard to change. But we shouldn't let these "traditions" prevent us from running the best possible conferences and nor should you count on them to continue as is. Traditions keep us in the past, change pushes us to the future.