On Tuesday around 2pm, the SouthSouthWest corner of Microsoftt building 99 breathed a collective sigh of relief: the SODA submission deadline was past. Altogether, the members and visitors of the Theory research group have submitted a good dozen of papers, and the last couple of days have been quiet and busy.
On Monday Allan Borodin joked that since our submissions were all in competition with one another, we should try to prevent other people from finishing up their last touches, but in reality, the studious atmosphere helped people work. Certainly, I remember that from when I visited Berkeley or Princeton. Five minutes after the deadline, everyone is dawdling in the hallways, and if this was at different times, we would all be having a smoke or at least a drink. For that atmosphere to exist, there needs to be a critical mass of people working in theoretical computer science. Only a few research groups are like that.
That sense of reaching a (temporary) goal all at the same time, that collective breathing in and out of the research community three times a year (SODA, STOC, FOCS) is unique to our field. In Mathematics, it is unknown. It is part of our tradition and it makes us more of a community.