Monday I attended the 24th Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, the lead conference for computer systems research. Why would a nice theorist go to SOSP? Trying to recruit a few good systems faculty for Georgia Tech.
I really enjoyed the day in ways I didn't expect. I found several of the talks interesting, even from a theory perspective. Austin Clements, in the first and one of the best paper talks, said he had a theorem and proof (roughly if operations scale there is an implementation that scales well on multicores), though purposely left the formalization and proof out of the talk and focused on implementations. Kay Ousterhout built on some theoretical tools for job scheduling. In a talk after I left, a group from Texas takes a step towards practical proof-based verifiable computing. I never expected to be cited in a SOSP paper.
When I go to a theory conference I see so many people I know that I don't spend enough time meeting new people. At SOSP, I knew a handful of people and just had a great time talking to people I haven't met before, particularly students.
Only thirty papers get presented in single track in this conference held every two years. STOC/FOCS accepts over 300 papers in the same time period. Having an SOSP paper is a really big deal. Despite having only thirty talks and traditionally held in hard-to-reach places (this year an hour and a half drive from Pittsburgh), there were 628 attendees split 42% students, 42% non-student academics, 15% industry and one member of the press.
The 2013 SOSP is the first ACM conference will fully open proceedings and the authors retained full rights to their paper, the gold standard espoused by many in our community. It didn't come cheap, the conference put up $1100/paper to the ACM to pay for the privilege.