A commenter asked me a while back to say what I thought of the SIGCOMM submissions this year.
I'm finally getting around to reading and reviewing. (First round reviews aren't due for at least a week!) And so far, by and large, the papers I'm getting are pretty terrible.
This generally seems to happen to me on the first round, but this year is extreme. My first several papers just don't belong at this conference. (Arguably, they don't belong at any conference...) There's some number of papers submitted at every conference that are just not serious submissions, and apparently I got more than my fair share on the first round.
This makes it harder to judge the other papers -- it's hard to calibrate when you start with a lot of junk. Many of my other papers are theoretically oriented, and I'm not too optimistic about them. There's room for theory papers at SIGCOMM, but I think the bar is, rightly, pretty high. When I read a theoretical paper for SIGCOMM, I look for one of two things. First, it could be the paper has a nice theoretical idea that's actually useful. The problem there is that it's incumbent on the paper to clearly demonstrate the utility, and most fall down in that regard. I quote the SIGCOMM call: "SIGCOMM is a highly selective conference where full papers typically report novel results firmly substantiated by experimentation, simulation, or analysis." A mathematical analysis alone generally does not count as a firm substantiation. [Such papers generally have a better chance at INFOCOM -- which I think is a good, and very important, thing! There needs to be an outlet for more theoretical networking work, and perhaps it's just better suited for a big conference. Many such papers will end up having minimal impact, but once in a while, a good idea gets built on and has a real impact.]
Second, it could be the paper really challenges our way of thinking, introducing a new framework that seems a clearly important guide for future work. Such papers are rare, but important. I seem to have a number of economics-networking papers that are very high-level, and I'm really trying to understand if any of them have that character. Again, because SIGCOMM is so selective, I think the bar is very high for such papers. I'm really looking for something that enhances our fundamental understanding of the network.
That's it for now. If you have a submission, don't let my comments make you antsy -- the meeting is still a long way away, and I'm quite sure I'm not reading your paper anyway.