Google Analytics

Friday, September 01, 2006

Reception for FOCS 2007?

A request from Claire Kenyon.

We are finalizing the budget for FOCS 2007 in Providence. The traditional Saturday evening reception will cost at least $53 per person. The alternative is to skip the reception altogether. I would like to poll the Theory community and hear what they would prefer. Can you give your comments or preferences?

36 comments:

  1. Given the current theory funding situation, I vote for skipping the banquet.

    Aravind Srinivasan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Banquets are usually a waste, except for
    socializing. I'd vote against a banquet in the hotel.

    Russell Impagliazzo

    ReplyDelete
  3. After the first couple of comments I realized I had mistitled the post, now fixed. Claire is asking about the reception not the banquet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Skip reception (and if possible banquet, too).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Skipping the reception is fine.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've never liked the banquets.
    Receptions are good for socializing. If they remove the alcohol (or you pay for what you get) that would both save the reception and cut the cost.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Will $50 more in registration fees make the difference for anyone in terms of attending vs. not attending? Note that the actual cost difference is slightly less than $50, since without the reception people will need to get food from somewhere else.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Banquets are always lame, but the receptions actually seem like a valuable resource- you socialize with people before they have a chance to escape off to their respective research circles, and you setup research meetings for the rest of the week. Perhaps more importantly, it is a good place to find dinner/drink companions for the first night of a conference, when otherwise people would have trouble coordinating (and many would just stay in their rooms and go to sleep early).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would vote for skipping the Reception
    AND the Banquet.

    NOTE- CCC 2008 in Maryland will NOT
    have a banquet. Haven't thought about
    the reception yet.

    Bill Gasarch

    ReplyDelete
  10. Since not everyone attends the reception, and since the costs of the reception are shared by all registered attendees, not having a reception would only lower registration fees by $30 to $40.

    ReplyDelete
  11. We spend over a thousand dollars in airfare, registration and hotel to attend a conference, yet when it comes time to save money people propose (a) not printing proceedings and (b) skipping the reception, either of which are rounding errors and both of which have net academic benefits.

    A better way to save money would be to host the conferences in the summer (STOC during first week of May, FOCS last week of August) at universities and collocated with other major conferences (SPAA, Crypto, CCC, SoCG, etc) thus halving airfare costs.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If shaving a few bucks off the cost of attending is such a big deal, then here's my advice: keep the reception and the banquet. Skip the talks. That way we could (1) shorten the conference to a day or two, thereby saving a bundle in hotel costs, and (2) preserve what's most valuable about the conference.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Keep the reception. Theorists don't drink enough - it's like they're afraid they're gonna hurt their brains or something.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Skip reception (and if possible banquet, too).

    ReplyDelete
  15. We spend over a thousand dollars in airfare, registration and hotel to attend a conference, yet when it comes time to save money people propose (a) not printing proceedings and (b) skipping the reception, either of which are rounding errors and both of which have net academic benefits.

    A better way to save money would be to host the conferences in the summer (STOC during first week of May, FOCS last week of August) at universities and collocated with other major conferences (SPAA, Crypto, CCC, SoCG, etc) thus halving airfare costs.


    We're having STOC at FCRC next year and the registration cost will be much more than at a typical conference (more than $100 extra for full registration). This happens because such a large enterprise can only be done with paid organizers and the amount of money at risk is so much greater that budgeting must be more conservative than at a smaller conference.

    The room rates at the hotel for FCRC will be a bit less than is typical, though about the same as FOCS 2005. CCC and STOC will be co-located along with PODC and EC, I believe.

    BTW: Typical receptions cost much less than Claire has mentioned, on the order of $10-12 per registrant for FOCS 2005 and STOC 2006 for example, a cost that seems worthwhile.

    Banquets on the other hand are a waste in most locations that have available restaurants. I can think of two or three of them that have been spectacularly good over the years but most have been wastefully superfluous and others have been spectacularly bad.

    Universities are only really cheap if you can use the dorms. My experience with small conferences run at universities is that the requirement of using the university conference services and room rentals in many locations eats up a big chunk of the savings for the cheaper hotel options that are possible from not requiring meeting space at the hotel. (Meeting space is typically not charged for at a hotel but it is effectively paid for by higher room rates.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. My experience with small conferences run at universities is that the requirement of using the university conference services and room rentals in many locations eats up a big chunk of the savings for the cheaper hotel options that are possible from not requiring meeting space at the hotel.

    Many universities do not have such requirements, so all we need to do is avoid universities who do.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Typical receptions cost much less than Claire has mentioned, on the order of $10-12 per registrant for FOCS 2005 and STOC 2006 for example, a cost that seems worthwhile.

    I neglected beer and wine in this calculation. The actual total was $15-$17 per registrant - still quite reasonable.

    ReplyDelete
  18. How about changing the way conferences have been held. Instead of affiliating the conference with one hotel, or a university, distribute the load. Have the conference talks in university classrooms (or in large seminar halls), and let the participants stay at the hotel of their choice. I.e., don't bother with accomodation arrangements at all, and let the attendees do this themselves.
    For a reception, have cookies and beer delivered from the nearest bakeries and convenience stores.

    ReplyDelete
  19. To the person who argued that conference proceedings have a net benefit: Would you mind expounding a bit? They're heavy, expensive, and they waste paper. People who say "I like leafing through the proceedings" are lying. The damn thing weighs 40 lbs. You can't leaf through something that big. It usually sits on my bathroom floor for a month, and then I throw it out (condensation from the shower starts to degrade its quality). Furthermore, if you throw out all your old conference proceedings, you can remove one set of book shelves from your office, install another whiteboard, and do twice as much theory.

    ReplyDelete
  20. To the person who argued that conference proceedings have a net benefit: Would you mind expounding a bit?

    They are a great help in selecting which talks to attend. As well when I find one of my interest I usually have the proceedings open to the paper being presented and write my comments right on the page. Once the conference is over, the value goes down dramatically, and just like David Eppstein, I've been seriously considering ditching the printed copies of my proceedings.

    ReplyDelete
  21. OK, 3 things that have been mentioned here:

    I still like printed proceedings. Can't really find a solid argument why though.

    Banquets. They usually suck. Bad food for a lot of money and - not much socializing leading to anything.

    Reception. Please keep it. This is really useful for people to talk to each other if they aren't acquainted yet.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The problem with most banquets, apart from their economics, is that you're sitting at one table with maybe two to four people to converse with. At receptions, you can mingle more freely with different groups, as well as seek out specific people to speak with.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I suspect if we quietly discard paper conference proceedings, no one will miss them. It's like the box that you moved from undergraduate to grad school and so on. If you are given an opportunity to think about it, you would never get rid of it. But if it conveniently disappears, you'd be sentimental for a couple days, and thereafter ready to move on, possibly even grateful the next time you need to rent a U-Haul!

    As a more tempered measure, perhaps we could print say 50 copies of the proceedings that are made available at the registration desk on a "take one if you really want" basis. In addition, leave several "public copies" outside the lecture halls and other convenient locations (the same ones where you might expect to put up the conference programs).

    Another interesting experiment would be to take conference participants pick between

    a. conference proceedings paper version vs CD version

    b. conference proceedings paper version vs the current issue of New Yorker.

    The former could be incorporated into online registration (just a check box); the latter would probably be better implemented at registration booth. In any cases, the weight of the proceedings should be displayed. If it's at the registration booth, indicate the weight, and put on display a dumb-bell or a gym weight with the same mass. And if there is a way to quantify the impact of the environment, include that figure too!

    On a different note, is the STOC 2007 call for papers out yet?

    -- a theory grad student

    ReplyDelete
  24. b. conference proceedings paper version vs the current issue of New Yorker.

    I haven't found the New Yorker worth reading since before the times of Tina Brown, the odd issue on Perelman excepted.

    ReplyDelete
  25. As everybody else, I too enjoy the reception, and I don't think it needs any food. (But drinks are necessary.) If there were a banquet, I would skip it.

    Another possible experiment about proceedings: do not include them with the registration (but include a CD with pdf files of all papers) but have copies of the proceedings available for sale (not for free) at the registration desk. This way one can see how many people are really attached to the notion of having paper proceedings.

    For the record: I am very attached to paper proceedings, for no rational reason that I can explain, and I would pay extra for them.

    Also, I am aware that the cost of printing proceedings does not grow linearly with the number of copies, and so if only few people are interested I suppose the only reasonable solution would be to discontinue paper proceedings at all (rather than printing a smaller number of copies).

    ReplyDelete
  26. A great conference (ok, technically a workshop) I attended was a quantum information conference in Tokyo called EQUIS 2005. The paper proceedings consisted of a 1-2 page abstract for each speaker, which was enough to scan before/during talks of interest, but light enough to carry. The banquet was more like a reception, with a somewhat extravagant buffet and high tables with no chairs (lots of booze too ;) ). That way, no one gets stuck sitting next to anyone. There were also very long and frequent coffee breaks, so that those who wanted to hear talks didn't miss out on socializing - for many, the coffee breaks continued through the talks.

    ReplyDelete
  27. There were also very long and frequent coffee breaks, so that those who wanted to hear talks didn't miss out on socializing - for many, the coffee breaks continued through the talks.

    This is oh-so-very-important, yet every so often we see conferences where the length of the coffee breaks seems to have been purposedly minimized.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Another possible experiment about proceedings:...

    STOC/FOCS/SODA can survive this experiment. Middle-of-the-range LNCS based conferences wouldn't survive the shift. Also be careful what you ask for. This year AAAIhad a registration fee of $640, a reception with no free drinks, a lighlty cattered poster session and no proceedings (they weren't available at ocnfernece time on the web either!). If there was ever an incentive not register and crash the conference this was it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Why have the reception catered? Just meet at a local brewpub.

    ReplyDelete
  30. By the way, does anyone know anything about SODA'07? When do they announce the result?

    ReplyDelete

  31. Why have the reception catered? Just meet at a local brewpub.

    That's great for smaller groups, but 30-40 scientists (a typical number answering a global call) crashing a bar can sometimes get out of hand.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The banquet is an extravagance, but the reception is essential. Apart from its usefulness as a "mixer", it serves an important symbolic purpose. We must be professional, and we must be seen to be professional; best to have a conference with all the trimmings...

    ReplyDelete
  33. If shaving a few bucks off the cost of attending is such a big deal, then here's my advice: keep the reception and the banquet. Skip the talks. That way we could (1) shorten the conference to a day or two, thereby saving a bundle in hotel costs, and (2) preserve what's most valuable about the conference.

    Hence Dagstuhl, which could be best described as week long catered reception minorly interrupted by talks. I've found those workshops incredibly productive (several papers per trip), and I'm always perplexed by people who routinely turn invitations there down.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I like the receptions and always try to turn up in time for them. Even though I admit the combination of jet-lag and excessive alcoholic consumption is not ideal for paying attention to technical details the following day. I don't much care for banquets however.

    ReplyDelete
  35. It used to be that ACM/IEEE/SIGACT made a great deal of money selling Proceedings to libraries after the conference. While this money doesn't get used to subsidize the conference attendees, it's probably worthwhile keeping the Proceedings just for this purpose. We could make them an optional extra purchase, though.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Decision: yes, there will be a reception; we will keep the cost within reason. No promises regarding food quantity or quality:)

    Thanks to all contributors to this thread for clarifying the priorities.

    ReplyDelete