I’m in Montpellier attending STAIRS/ECAI. The city is nice, and I’m experimenting with taking b&w-only photographs.
The main conference is very big, comparable to AAMAS in size, which is a bit surprising. The workshops on the other hand seemed much smaller. STAIRS however, where I had a paper, was a very peculiar experience: it’s basically a conference for PhD students that has AI “in general” as its topic and allows for… 15+5 min talks. This results in a number of very short and very fast talks on all AI-related topics, from machine learning through non-monotonic reasoning to logic and knowledge representation. On top of that you have an audience full of PhD students that basically don’t ask any questions (because they’re unfamiliar with most stuff outside of their respective narrow fields). Weird.
Also, I’d like to share 3 small observations about France/Montpellier, as it’s the first time I’m in this country:
- The food everywhere is fantastic. Seriously, beats Spain and any other country I’ve been to. It’s not very cheap though, but I guess that has something to do with the fact that Montpellier is a touristy place, and it’s August.
- People are very friendly, and most of them speak English quite well. They’re not very eager to speak it, though, e.g. they understand what I’m saying and, if forced, will reply in English, but they generally ask questions and reply in French. To which I always reply in English (unless it’s something really basic), and it seems to all work perfectly fine.
- Drivers are much more aggressive than in northern Europe. Feels almost like in Poland.