I just returned from PLDI 2010 in Toronto, Canada. The papers, talks, and non-technical content were all great!
This year parallelism and concurrency seemed to be the hot topics, as there were two tracks for each of those. According to the program chair Alex Aiken (if I remember correctly), there were relatively high acceptance rates for papers on types, static analyses, and programming language designs. Some papers that I particularly liked include Viktor Kuncak et. al.'s Complete Functional Synthesis about using decision procedures at runtime for synthesizing program expressions, Khoo Yit Phang et. al.'s Mixing Type Checking and Symbolic Execution on a hybrid type-checker/static analyzer, and my adviser Armando Solar-Lezama's Smooth Interpretation with Swarat Chaudhury on smoothing program spaces for analysis/synthesis. The other papers in the verification session with me (Zach Tatlock's Bringing Extensibility to Verified Compilers, Adam Chlipala's paper on type computations and meta-programming with Ur, and Michael Emmi's Parameterized Verification of Transactional Memories) are also cool.
This year they reduced talk length to 15 minutes (instead of 20), which people seemed to have strong thoughts about. The general consensus seemed to be that people appreciated having the time limit for others' talks, as people who worked hard on their talks would take the effort to make a good 15-minute talk, and the short length kept people awake and even enticed people to attend talks on areas of marginal interest. People generally seemed unhappy/concerned about the shortened time for their own talk. Also, someone commented that having shorter talks made them more intense and left less (perhaps necessary) time for zoning out.
This year there was no PLDI-wide outing, but having everyone staying in a huge hotel (Fairmont Royal York) with its own bar, restaurants, shops, etc. promoted PLDI-wide unity. There were also many restaurants and tourist attractions within walking distance, which made it easy to embark on food and other excursions with fellow PLDI-ers. Being by the waterfront was also nice: Tom Ball led a running contingent along the waterfront path every morning at 7am. Before and after the conference, I managed to do a fair amount of sight-seeing: pictures here. (Toronto is huge and has so many interesting neighborhoods! I loved Kensington Market and Old Cabbagetown. Toronto also apparently has multiple Sri Lankan restaurants!)
This was a big conference for me because not only did I give my first conference talk, but my paper with my MSR mentor Chris Hawblitzel (Safe to the Last Instruction: Automated Verification of a Type-Safe Operating System) won the best paper award!
Talk slides below: