As I hoped, the dinner for FECS 2013 was a great experience. While the food and atmosphere weren’t quite as nice as the ones I’m used to at the SIGCSE Symposium (kudos to them for providing such nice food while keeping the registration fee low), the conversation more than made up for it. Only one of the men at the table I randomly picked is attending FECS, but that only made the things they discussed more interesting to me. We spent a lot of time talking about parallel programming, about which I know almost nothing, making it a good learning experience. But the most interesting comment came from the man attending FECS. When I asked everyone about their experience with WorldComp, he remarked that although it was his first time attending he was quite happy that such conferences exist. He believes, and I agree, that computing is at its most innovative when it’s combined with other disciplines. He claimed that having a federated conference where computing is seen in so many applied areas is a way of reminding people to not overly narrow the field and rather embrace the diversity of ways that computing can be extended.
The dinner conversation made me reevaluate my reaction earlier in the day. Yes, the culture at FECS is different from what I’m used to, often manifested in simple ways. They provide printed proceedings, something that I’d even forgotten existed. The balance of topics is different. For example, yesterday I heard more talks about accreditation than I have at all of the conferences I’ve attended in the past several years combined. They make different assumptions about what people know, for example, that everyone knows the outcomes required by ABET. But I think the real reason I reacted the way I did yesterday is that the change in culture is pushing me out of my comfort zone. This isn’t what I expect from a conference, and I’m rebelling. Realizing that was a bit embarrassing, since I pride myself on pushing boundaries. So it’s good that I have another day of talks to mend my ways and listen without the expectations I had before.