Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Nicole's final FOCS post.

And it's over! The 48th FOCS ended at 6.10pm with a talk on "The Computational Hardness of Estimating Edit Distance". About 50 brave souls lasted the whole three days.

Overall it was a really great FOCS. The results were good. The company was good. I have to admit, even the food was generally pretty good!

See you all next spring at STOC in Victoria.


  1. Oooh -- let me beat everyone to the punch:

    You're wrong -- the souls who lasted to the end were not brave. Moreover, the food was not good, and lima beans were under-represented. This whole way of thinking is indicative of a serious problem with the TCS community, and you should all move to Wall Street instead (where the lima beans are better, and we are really the brave ones).

    All in jest, of course -- Nicole, thanks for your wonderful posts!

  2. Nicole, I read comments in the other postings, especially by Janos. I realized that this is not the first coverage but nevertheless a great coverage.

    My only problem is that most of it can be substituted for the next FOCS too, which I have not even attended. I do not have time machine yet:)

    I think people want to know the delta, i.e., things to know about this FOCS in particular. For an example, what papers were well attended. Which papers got best paper, best student paper award. Write something about your favorite papers.

    Write what was great with this particular conference. Things like "the community is great, we are a family and that's the primary reason we attend" is always true with any coneference. That's a wastage of bandwidth.

    There was no banquet is a delta. There was CD proceeding is a delta. The hotel rooms were great was a delta. The hotel service in the rooms was great is a delta. But the hotel service in the conference sucked bigtime is a delta. The hotel food was mediocre, especially the breakfast. From some I have heard food was not in sufficient quantity either. Lunch kept some people hungry. Some coffee breaks did not have coffee. Water was gone by late afternoon. The pastries were sufficient for the folks missing the last talk before the coffee break etc. The accoustics in the conference room sucked. It was hard to figure out anything from the back row seats. The hotel generally had not sufficient infrastructure for big meetings. No single room to have a lunch. I feel if we had double sessions then this hotel would not even be sufficient.

    Service from Brown university folks was great. I have not seen another group of people working so hard for organizing a conference. The students there had taken care of everything smartly. The only shortcoming was perhaps the choice of the hotel (Disclaimer: this is half informed opinion since I do not know what other hotels in the area looked like. It may be the best suited hotel in the area.) The projector was rented from outside and did not give any single problem, a very smart choice. I am sure hotel's projector would not have been that great.

    Overall the conference expense was kept within limits. I missed the banquet though:)

  3. Kamnal: yes, we tried to save on hotel food, perhaps not the best decision in retrospect.

    We planned the reception under the assumption that people would come in to meet their friends, then leave for dinner. That is not what happened, and so we ran short on food.

    We planned coffe and food for one break in the morning and one break in the afternoon, but people clearly expected coffee also at the other afternoon break - we fixed that on days 2 and 3.

    We planned little food during the breaks to save money and because I don't believe in offering people food all day long. I'm still happy with that choice.

    I agree with you regarding acoustics - but you have to admit that it's a common problem at conference hotels. After the first morning I thought things went ok, though.

    Lunch kept some people hungry? Disapointing, given that it cost over $31 per person (including service and tax.)

    One possible solution: have double sessions, have FOCS happen over just 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, and use campus facilities and campus catering services. Better infrastructure for talks, cheaper food, and a much much better deal.

  4. The food was actually okay. I have no complaints other than the large markup. The best break food was for the tutorials.

  5. I thought that the organizers did a great job in running the conference and the tutorials. Many thanks to Claire, Anna, and Phil!

    The hotel was a grade above the hotels that we usually get for STOC/FOCS and the guest rooms were quite luxurious. We really were lucky to get it (especially at that room rate) after negotiations broke down between IEEE and the hotel originally selected. (The historic character of the building did limit the meeting space a bit; it was a good thing that we didn't have parallel sessions.) The lunches were very good and well chosen.

    Being at a higher end hotel meant that the food cost more. From Claire's figures, 2/3 of the budget was needed for the food, in comparison with a bit less than 1/2 of the budget needed when we did STOC 2006. For example, student registration was significantly less than the cost of the food they got. Making this any worse would have been pretty scary when planning the conference!