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October 25, 2010

Sigcomm 2010 in New Delhi

SIGCOMM broke new ground this year when we held our annual
in India for the first time. This was a first not only for
SIGCOMM, but apparently for ACM as well, as we became the first
SIG (among 34) to hold its flagship conference in India. ACM has been
making an effort to expand its visibility beyond the U.S. and SIGCOMM
(thanks largely to efforts of my predecessors on the executive
committee) has been in the lead among SIGs in this department.

There are clearly a number of complications in going to a place for
the first time, especially a country that is unfamiliar to many
SIGCOMM members. A completely unscientific survey of those who
attended the conference suggests that SIGCOMM in New Delhi turned out
much more smoothly than many had expected. I attribute much of this to
the exceptional efforts by the general chairs and local organizing
to make the conference logistics absolutely flawless and to
go beyond the normal level of effort to help attendees deal with
practical issues. (I risk leaving someone out as soon as I mention
names, but the 4 general chairs and vice chairs were all notable
for their efforts: they were Shivkumar Kalyanaraman, Venkat
Padmanabhan, K.K. Ramakrishnan, and Rajeev Shorey.)

A good example of the sort of extra effort made was the use of student
volunteers to meet arriving attendees at Delhi airport. Finding your
way through a strange airport after a long trip is never that much
fun, and being met by a student holding a large "SIGCOMM" sign made
the process of getting out and into a taxi completely painless.

The 5-star Meridien hotel was a very good conference venue, and
certainly presented no great challenges to the conference
attendees. A great deal of work (and some tense negotiations with the
hotel) went into setting up the conference network, with Cisco
donating the services of a larger-than-normal support team to keep it
running, and it seemed to work very smoothly.

There were a few concerns pre-conference as to how the venue would
affect attendance. Compounding the issue of Delhi's distance from the
U.S. (which remains the predominant source of attendees, although not
by much) was the relatively late date of the conference. We try to
rotate among the 3 weeks before the first Monday in September; this
year we were as late as that schedule allows. This led to conflicts
with teaching schedules for some fraction of our attendees. With all
that, we ended up with numbers that were close to last year*: 460
conference attendees plus 40 workshop-only attendees, which is almost
identical to the number in 2009, and within 20% of the last US-located
conference. The geographic distribution was, predictably, rather
different than prior years, notably in the increased attendance from
India (approximately 150). One very impressive achievement from the
organizing committee was the securing of unusually large corporate
support, which enabled them to offer about 180 student travel
grants. In all, 230 students attended the main conference, or about

At the Community Feedback session, there were some comments about
the difficulty of getting to Delhi from the U.S., and of the high
travel cost affecting the number of students that could affordably
attend. Of course, any location will have high travel costs for some
part of our community, so the sort of rotation that we now do (North America,
Europe, Wild-Card) seems close to the fairest thing possible. The
SIGCOMM community is far more geographically diverse than it was in
the past, as a quick look at author affiliations in the program will
attest. Clearly student travel grants help mitigate the travel cost
issue to some extent and we hope corporate support will continue at
the high level achieved in 2010 to enable similar numbers of travel
grants in the future.

*Figures in this post taken from registration logs are approximate,
rounded to nearest 10.