In GASARCH's post on Will there be a 50th CCC He mentioned that conferences help to build community. One of the comments challenged that. Daniel Apon is very new to the community and William GASARCH is very old to the community, so we decided to do a joint post on the topic: Do Conferences Help Build the Community?
- The talks do not build community. The coffee hours and meals should. Do they?
- Having people with similar interests all in the same place should build community. Does it?
- Does size matter? CCC is only about 100 people so they can all sort-of know each other. MATHFEST has over 1000 so I never saw the same person twice.
- I've heard the complaint that older established professors do not bother to talk to younger people in the field. This is bogus in its generality: it varies tremendously from person to person. Also, if an older professor ignores you it might not be that he thinks he is better than you, it could just be that he has no social skills. (YES- there are academic computer scientists who have no social skills!) (I used `he' instead of `he or she' since I have never heard this said about a female established professor.)
- Is it worth the money the individual spends going to the conference to build the community? Are there other more cost-efficient ways to build community? I do not know; however, I just want to know, for now, is the current system helping to build community albeit inefficiently.
Bill Gasarch a long time ago and Daniel Apon recently have had very positive
conference experiences in terms of getting into the community
We DO NOT claim these experience are typical. We do not know.
But we urge you to share your stories, positive and negative.
so that we can get a sense of it.
Please be brief, to the point, and not nasty.
- Bill Gasarch: I went to a workshop on complexity in 1984 (There was no CCC then) where I met Stuart Kurtz and Ron Book, both of whom were friendly to me. My advisor Harry Lewis introduced me to Alan Selman at STOC (probably 1985). Steve Homer (who I had worked with) introduced me to other people at CCC, including Juris Hartmanis. I met long-time collaborator Richard Beigel at the 1986 CCC. All very positive for getting me into the community.
- Daniel Apon: My first conference was STOC 2010, and I bumped into Bill during a coffee break between talks. We had previously been in email contact since he was in charge of handling the travel awards for STOC that year, so it made for an easier ice-breaker. He introduced me to Lance and others. Later, when I went to the Barriers II workshop, I met Aaron Sterling (who is regular participant with myself on the TCS StackExchange site), and we had dinner together one night. I also had the pleasure of meeting a number of other people between the two trips and talking some. Here's a non-exhaustive list (just the first few who come to mind): Eric Allender, Dana Moshkovitz, Scott Aaronson, Andy Drucker, Paul Beame, Anup Rao, and Russell Impagliazzo. My impression of everyone were that they were friendly, open, fun (and smart!) people. It was definitely a positive experience getting the chance to interact with those that I did.