Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Two days of tribulation

Programming language research groups around the globe are currently gnashing their teeth and grumbling, for today and tomorrow comprise the "author response period" for POPL'06, the world's foremost theoretical programming language conference.

For those who don't know what this means, early this morning (or, more precisely, 19:00 12 Sept, Samoa time) the reviews for all submitted papers were made available to the authors, who have 48 hours to submit a 500-word response. This is an innovation recently introduced to the top ACM SIGPLAN conferences --- actually, it started at PLDI of the year my advisor was program chair --- and most agree that it has been a success. Formerly, authors had no opportunity to reply at all, and only received reviews after the program committee had met, discussed the papers, and made a final decision to accept or reject.

Of course, given the great personal investment of authors in their work, author responses could have turned into an occasion for endless counter-sniping tirades. So, a couple of safeguards were built into the process. First, software strictly enforces the 500-word limit on responses. Second, authors are cautioned to avoid subjective ranting, and address only factual errors or questions posed by reviewers. From what I hear, these restrictions have mostly kept author responses useful.

But oh, a mere 500 words! How dearly researchers would like to discourse at length, correcting all the mistaken impressions, giving comprehensive and intuitive answers to the subtler questions, and really slamming down that one reviewer who was clearly (clearly!) smoking something illegal while writing their review.

In the unlikely event that any program committee members are reading this, I speak, of course, purely in hypothetical terms. Any resemblance to reviews that I, personally, have received for POPL or any other conference is purely coincidental.

Except for that one review...

Just kidding. In all seriousness, if you're curious, I'm actually pleasantly surprised with the reviews for our POPL'06 submission. It's still not likely to be accepted, but POPL's the toughest conference in programming languages, with an accept rate around 15%, so rejection's just the default situation. As far as I'm concerned, we've already beat the spread on this one, even if we don't pull out a victory.


  1. Good luck, dude...500 words is no fun at all. :)

  2. the one review, the one written by the pot-smoker -- its author was not them but him or her. Thus it is not their review but his or hers that is so confounding. Given the predominance of men in the field, probably his. Good luck knocking him down.