(authored by Peter F. Patel-Schneider, Program Co-Chair)
Now that the dust has mostly settled and my nerves have calmed down, I decided that I would write a short note about the WWW2007 paper submission process.
When running any conference there is always the worry that the number of papers will not be what was expected. There is the possibility of a disaster – perhaps the research area is imploding, perhaps conference publicity went astray, perhaps something will go wrong with the submission process, etc., etc. – and too few papers are submitted. (With all the problems with spam email a worry is that conference announcements will be caught by over-zealous spam filters.)
There is also the possibility of a success-disaster with so many papers submitted that the reviewing machinery and program committee is overloaded.
To add to these general worries, WWW has a history of problems. Last year the building housing the computers for the conference web site experienced a major fire just before submissions were due. In previous years, the submission site had serious capacity problems.
For WWW2007 there was also a new submission process – the EasyChair system. As well, the reviewing process for WWW2007 has essentially no slack in it so slipping the submission deadline, as has become quite common, was not an option.
With all these issues, I was rather nervous about the number of submissions for WWW2007. To try to calm my nerves I planned on counting the number of submissions at various points. In my previous experience with running conferences (admittedly a long time ago) the rule of thumb was that 1/3 of the submissions arrived the last day, 1/3 the day before, and 1/3 before that, so I had some expectations on how the numbers would go.
Unfortunately, the early “returns” were very low. One week before the deadline there were only 55 submissions. Two days before the deadline there were only 132 submissions. By my rule of thumb this would mean about 400 total submissions – a rather large drop from the 716 submissions in 2006. One day before the deadline there were only 252
submissions, indicating only about 380 total submissions. I was now definitely beginning to worry. Although the pace of submissions picked up during the last day, by the time I went to sleep about six hours before the deadline, there were only 522 submissions, and I was still quite nervous.
Of course, all my worries turned out to be unfounded. A very late surge of submissions (253 submissions in the last six hours) resulted in 775 submissions to WWW2007, more than in any previous year, but not more than had been allowed for.
In retrospect, I should have expected this late surge, as electronic submission allows for last-minute behaviour and researchers are notorious for not being early. However, I instead expected that the history of problems with WWW would have made more authors more
conservative. There were a couple of tracks that had to add a few extra PC members, but surprisingly little had to be done to react to the submissions.
Now if only the reviewing process works as well….