It's remarkable to go back and read my posts after previous SCMS conferences because some things are still the same for me, and others have changed. This year, I embraced the conference as specialized tracks rather than attempt a generalist sampling. In all, I felt much happier doing this, though I am sure I missed terrific papers that way.
Terrific online schedules. I used the Guidebook app and loved it. The Sched website version is also great. I appreciate the work of the conference organizers in providing these and getting them out in advance.
Conference is too long. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. The conference is too long. Yes, I know people can go for only part of the time, but that's actually a problem. Gone is the sense of a shared conference experience. In a 2 day conference I end up seeing more papers than in a 5 day. This is because SCMS is about more than papers, certainly, but it's also because the exhausting schedule is not as conducive to the presentation and exchange of ideas as smaller conferences.
Scheduling is too tight. Expecting 4 papers and a robust Q and A to fit into 1h45m is not realistic in most cases. My panel experienced technical difficulties that ate into presentation and question time, but beyond my experience I can say that the only active Q and A sessions I saw were for panels of 3 presenters. Which I gather SCMS discourages.
We need lunch. The conference length or overall schedule has some major constraints, but if I could change one thing, it would be to add a proper lunch break each day and prioritize common breaks in the scheduling.
Conference hotels are getting better. At least in terms of conference room size and facilities, common meeting areas. The breakfast at the Fairmont was a nice addition to the conference experience.
SIGs are growing but still underutilized. I do think that Caucuses and SIGs provide the best way forward of achieving a manageable scale within an unwieldy conference. But they still do not involve a majority of the membership or anything approaching.
Weirdly enough, each time I attend the conference I find it an ungainly conference with problems, but I always enjoy it and value the experience. I do look forward to Atlanta.