November 9th, 2010

ILC 2010 part 4

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts about ILC 2010. Some of it doesn't have much to do with Lisp itself, sorry.

Several presentations were by Japanese students. The general mode was them reading their slides word-for-word. At question time, it was not always clear that there was true communication taking place. After a particular question, one of the students got a panicked look, giggled uncontrollably for an uncomfortable minute or two, and said "Sorry. My English is not so good." I don't fault the students for poor English, but it didn't seem like a good use of their time or mine to have them read the slides to me without any real possibility of discussion afterwards.

Those presentations were also the only academic presentations by students at the conference. update I forgot about Hannes Mehnert, who gave a student presentation about Dylan.

The venue was John Ascuaga's Nugget, a casino and hotel in Sparks, Nevada. The rooms in the East Tower, where I stayed, were pretty old-fashioned. Someone casually mentioned at the ILU meeting that rooms at the Nugget went for around $45 on Priceline; nobody told me in advance and I paid more than double that. Wifi was an extra $20 or $30 per day (I didn't shell out for it). If I positioned my laptop carefully by the window, I could get access to the free SPLASH wifi network, with only about 20% packet loss, good enough to occasionally check email.

Smoking is apparently forbidden in most public places in Nevada except in casinos. At times navigating the first floor, which was dominated by slot machines, meant walking around through some stale cigarette and cigar smoke.

I didn't see much of the surrounding city except for going out to dinner each night. Each place had decent food and a sociable atmosphere. Those who ventured out to play tourist told me they found Reno's downtown depressing, with lots of closed storefronts and not much to see or do.

There were about 50 people attending this year's International Lisp Conference. That was in stark contrast to the 2009 conference in Boston, which attracted over 200. Lots of ideas were put forth about the dropoff: the economy sucks, there was short notice, Boston is a traditional center of Lisp activity, ILC is too CL-centric so people who use Scheme or Clojure or newLisp who would otherwise have come were not interested.

I choose to go to the ILC because I like meeting people face-to-face that I talk to online. I also like meeting new people who share similar interests. I like hearing about new ideas and projects that I can use directly or adapt into my toolbox. For example, Marc Feeley told me about his Scheme Now project, which has goals and ideas that are somewhat similar to Quicklisp.

I was able to go to this year's ILC because it was held in North America, and because my employer paid the registration fee while I paid the travel and lodging costs. If it was held overseas or if I had to pay for it all myself, I wouldn't have gone. How many weren't as fortunate as me and couldn't get someone else to pay all or part of the cost?

I really like getting together in space and time with other Lispers. An ideal future Lisp conference for me, personally, would be held in North America, have a low registration fee, be in a city that's cheap to fly to and stay in, and attract hundreds of cheerful and enthusiastic Lisp nerds. All the talks would have a good Lisp connection. Navel-gazing and nostalgia would be at a minimum. People would talk about what they're doing today and what exciting things they plan for the future. Everyone would get together at dinner and swap stories about Lisp, life, and whatever else came to mind.

I know people are doing fun stuff with Lisp because I talk to them every day about it online. It would be pretty special to talk to them for a few days about it face-to-face.