impressions from SIGMOD’12

This year’s SIGMOD conference was a good excuse to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Turned out, the choice of Scottsdale as a venue was a pretty good one: I prefer conferences/workshops to be held in places without (m)any tourist attractions or distraction in walking distance as it keeps the crowd together–there’s simply nowhere people could walk off to. A punishing 100+F outside temperature posed an additional incentive to stay within the confines of the conference hotel.

Anyways, this year’s event differed from previous one in a few notable aspects:

  1. Organizers accepted fewer papers in the main conference which made for a slightly more relaxed pace. Personally, I’d take this even further and opt for shorter talks which would allow reducing the number of parallel tracks too. That way attendees could take in more of the program without having to trade off one interesting session for another one.
  2. A larger than usual number of students participated not last because of generous travel grants. This is a truly great development! It’s rather refreshing to see a large number of new talent participate. I hope organizers can expand this program even further in the future.
  3. Much stronger industry presence than in any previous year with heavy recruiting efforts going on; I’d like to think this is not last because of Greenplum’s lobbying for providing better recruiting opportunities for corporate sponsors.
  4. But best of all: poster sessions of workshop papers as part of the conference! This allowed conference attendees to quickly survey (or drill down whenever interested in) the workshop. Personally, I found quite a number of gems I would have missed since I didn’t attend any of the workshops but DBTest.

Couple of other impressions: Surajit Chaudhuri’s keynote (which by the way was the same talk as the one given at ICDE earlier this year) outlined research challenges in the context of Big Data. No surprises there; rather, a broad agenda for a variety of problems that need to be attacked. Other highlights included (1) NoDB, which revisits the idea underlying many a database systems’ extensions to reference external data sources and provide full-blown query processing for these sources, (2) a nice synopsis of the short but eventful history of VectorWise — or as some folks in the audience put it “the discovery of the NULL”.

Overall, Selcuk Candan and Yi Chen have done an outstanding job in organizing this conference!

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