Since the SOCG conference banquet was scheduled immediately after the business meeting, there were a few issues that we didn't get a chance to discuss.
First, why was the conference so expensive? This was the most expensive SOCG in five years, including FCRC in 2003. (Coincidentally, or perhaps not, it was also the lowest attendance in several years.) Moreover, even FOCS 2004, which was held in a central location in Rome, included lunches
and a banquet in the registration fees, and was organized by the same Italian company, had lower registration fees. Unfortunately, registration fees will continue to be outrageous—IMHO, anything over $100 is outrageous—unless the community commits to holding our conferences at universities (as in Brooklyn and Vancouver) using local volunteers. See John Iacono's comment on my earlier post.
There was a little bit of muttering about Sheridan's complaints about noncompliance with ACM's ugly LaTeX style, via fixacm. Apparently, ACM finally noticed. Fortunately, the complaints seemed to focus on the top half of the first page: title, authors, and addresses. The next version of fixacm (coming soon!) will pretend to conform a little better. (One paper in this year's proceedings imminentized the eschaton. Hoopla! Fnord!)
Marc van Kreveld wanted to raise the possibility of having a poster session in addition to regular papers. There are good arguments both for and against this idea. On the one hand, adding posters would increase the number of accepted results. According to Joe Mitchell, the PC could have accepted 50% more papers if there had been no schedule constraints. Increasing the acceptance rate would increase attendance, which would increase the visibility of the conference, which could bring even more people into the field. On the other hand, as has been pointed out at innumerable SODA business meetings (drink!), posters and short papers are seen as second-class publications. The implication is that the authors of posters and short papers woudl be seen as second-class citizens, not fit to polish the shoes of the authors of real papers. Unfortunately, this implication is fairly accurate. Also, increasing the acceptance rate would necessarily decrease the prestige of the conference in the eyes of hiring and promotions committees, who seem to prefer hard numbers even when they don't make sense.
Günter Rote provided a pointer to his paper statistics and comments from authors about the submission process.
Finally, and most importantly, there was no discussion of the theory community's efforts to increase NSF funding for theoretical computer science, as there was at the (also beer-free) STOC business meeting. One question in particular was never asked: Are we computational geometers still even part of the theory community? The answer should be a resounding NO!, followed by a slap to the back of the head—of course computational geometry is part of theory! Look, we have big-Oh notation! Unfortunately, reality seems to disagree. None of the new material on TheoryMatters mentions computational geometry at all, although it does mention another border community: machine learning. With few exceptions, the computational geometry community rarely submits results to STOC and FOCS; this was not true ten years ago. Lots of geometric algorithms are published at STOC/FOCS by people outside the SOCG community, but nobody calls them computational geometry. (Sanjeev Arora's TSP approximation algorithms are the most glaring example.) For many years, computational geometry has been funded by a different NSF program than the rest of theoretical computer science. (This worked to our advantage when graphics was getting lots of money, but that advantage is now gone.) At one infamous SODA program committee meeting a few years ago, one PC member remarked that nobody at SODA was interested in computational geometry*, they have their own conference, they should just send their results there. (This declaration led another PC member to resign.) Apparently, the divorce has been a complete success.
*Update (10 Jun 2005): Despite the opinion of one strangely deluded PC member, the SODA community has always been a strong supporter of computational geometry. At least one geometer has been on the program committee every year since its inception. Geometric algorithms have always been well-represented in the SODA program, sometimes more than any other topic in the call for papers. This is not true at STOC and FOCS.