Sunday, October 17, 2010

First Impressions of Reno and OOPSLA/SPLASH (JOT repost)

Hi, I'm Nick Cameron, a post-doc at Victoria University of Wellington. I'm going to be covering the SPLASH/OOPSLA conference for the JOT blog.

It should be an interesting year for OOPSLA: it has undergone re-branding from OOPSLA to SPLASH (a re-arrangement of the OOPSLA letters, minus OO (because who programs with objects any more?), and appended with "for Humanity" (cringe)). The research paper selection process has changed too, they introduced `white-ball' papers (each member of the PC can select one paper to be accepted without argument), and there were slightly more papers accepted than in previous years (including mine, so I can't really complain; Thursday afternoon, if you're interested). The payment structure has changed too: you have to register and pay for individual workshops, I can't comprehend why - the best thing about workshops is wandering between them.

Anyway, after twenty-odd hours on a plane from NZ, we started our descent into Reno, we got a birds-eye view of the Nugget (the conference venue and hotel) as we came in - sandwiched between the expressway and a railway yard, it did not look good. Reno airport was like a gateway into hell, slot machines everywhere and a backdrop of billboards for "gentleman's clubs".

The conference venue is almost comically grim. The main floor is a sea of slot machines and haggard looking people. There are a lot of cowboy hats around, and not in an ironic way. No-one looks happy to be here, mostly people look desperate, or just plain chewed up. People smoke a lot, indoors, which seems a bit odd in 2010. There is a patched motorcycle gang drinking in the lobby (seriously, this is not an exaggeration).

If I had to describe Sparks, and the Nugget, in a word, it would be "grim". I don't think I have ever been so disappointed in the location of a conference. I hope (and expect) the conference itself to be excellent, it will have to be to justify enduring this place for a week. On the bright side lots of interesting people are arriving, and the free wifi at Starbucks has become a natural hub...

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