I just came back from VLDB 2007 in Vienna and from giving a 2-day data integration course at the University of Aalborg, Denmark.
Traveling in Europe is always fun. I find it much more relaxing to assume (with some loss of accuracy) that the Euro and the American dollar are about equal in value. It seems more affordable this way. I've never been to Vienna -- a very nice place to visit. After spending 5 days there, I had 5 schnitzels (a favorite childhood dish of mine) and a large but finite number of Viennese cakes & tortes. Fortunately, I did have the opportunity to go for a couple of jogs while there, so am still able to fit into my clothes.
In Aalborg I gave a course on data integration. This was the first time I gave lectures based on the first few chapters of the book I'm writing with Zack and AnHai. The energetic students in Aalborg helped me debug the slides and the presentation, and overall it was a great experience. Though I knew this before, the database group in Aalborg is a very strong one and doing some exciting work (I was initially surprised to see that all the rooms in the department were labeled DatalogI, but then I was told this means computer science in Danish). My host, Christian Jensen, was very kind, and after making sure I got my exercise, took me up the coast to some very charming towns.
VLDB was very interesting. Yet again, I was pleased to see a lot of work going on in the area of data integration, uncertain data, web, etc. I attended two excellent tutorials: Adaptive Query Processing by Zack Ives and Amol Deshpande, and on Probabilistic Graphical Models and their application to data management, by Sunita Sarawagi and ... Amol Deshpande.
The high point of the conference was no doubt the video shown during the 10-year best paper award talk by Surajit Chaudhuri and Vivek Narasayya. The extremely hilarious video showed Surajit giving a demo of Auto-Admin along side Bill Gates during Gates' keynote at SIGMOD 1998. To put it nicely, the video showed Surajit's ability to mask certain unexpected mishaps during the demo and make it all appear to go extremely smoothly.
A few words on DBclips. Everyone I speak to says it's an excellent idea. However, so far, very few people created them for their papers. Since Luna posted the DBclip on our paper less than 2 weeks ago, it's already received over 180 views. Need I say more?
There are simply too many interesting talks and other events going on in parallel during most conferences. There is no way anyone can make it to all the talks of interest to them. Sadly, even people with the best intentions will not have time to diligently go through the proceedings and read all the papers either. A DBclip is an excellent way to reach a wider audience of people. While it takes some effort, it's well worth it. In fact, during my course in Aalborg I showed our DBclip instead of lecturing on data integration with uncertainty. I imagine that these clips will be a useful teaching resource in many graduate courses. Fortunately, it's not too late. You can create your DBclip after the conference (in fact, there are advantages to doing it now).