Appeared in Volume 9/4, November 1996
The Joint International Conference and Symposium on LP was held in Bad Honnef, a small town on the shores of the Rhine, and a short journey from Bonn. The conference ran from Monday September 2nd until Thursday 5th, and workshops from the 5th to the Friday 6th.
There were a little under 200 attendees, with some only signing up for the workshops. The numbers were a bit disappointing considering the importance of the conference, and there were some discussion of this issue at the ALP general assembly. One comment was to run several LP-related conferences together at a single location, in a similar way to the federated logic conferences held in the USA. At the same meeting, it was announced that Alan Robinson was the first ALP Honorary Fellow.
Overall, most of the conference talks seemed to be concerned with semantics, although there were sessions on implementation and optimisations. The "Non-classical LP" session was of particularly interest to me, as well as the papers by Bonner & Kifer, Naish, and Kusalik & Prestwich. Some people expressed a wish for more application papers, but these are increasingly being directed towards the "Practical Applications of LP" conferences, which have become quite popular in recent years.
The invited talks drew mixed responses. Most enjoyed Ehud Shapiro's talk, due to its Internet topic, but there was some criticism of it for not having enough LP content. I liked the talk by Jean-Francois Puget on ILOG, a commercial constraint programming library with a strong CLP flavour. This field is a good example of how LP ideas can have a significant impact in industry. Wolfgang Bibel's talk on the successes and disappointments of LP was challenging, but did not take sufficient account of recent work. Michael Genesereth's talk was cancelled.
There were two tutorials, and a nice feature was that hard copies of the overheads of both were included in the conference materials. Unfortunately, I missed the tabling talk by Terence Swift, but the hard copy was informative. I did attend Zoltan Somogyi and Fergus Henderson's Mercury talk, which I liked. However, other attendees less familiar with the material thought the presentation rather speedy.
I enjoyed the poster session, and especially the idea of having the posters on permanent display during the conference. The poster by Wetzel, Kowalski and Toni on Procalog and the poster on a hypertext environment for writing logic programs by Deransart et. al. encouraged me to obtain the full papers.
Unfortunately, the conference did not attract much attention by book publishers or LP companies. There were no publisher's tables (although some discount leaflets were available) and only IF/Prolog displayed its products. A representative from another Prolog vendor told me that they were now concentrating on conferences with an explicit industrial bias.
The workshops were a success, although my view is probably affected by the fact that I co-organised one of them (on Internet applications). For that reason, I only had time to attend one other workshop on multi-paradigm LP. It had a number of interesting talks, including ones by Seif Haridi on Distributed Oz and Dan Sahlin on Erlang.
The conference hotel, the Seminaris, was excellent. I liked the voluminous breakfasts, lunches, and the close proximity to the town and river. The social events were excellent, including a visit to a local vineyard (a definite must at this time of year). The Prolog programming contest was held again, but the outcome will be reported in a future newsletter. The concert by the LP trio (Cohen, Furukawa, and Robinson) was enjoyable, and located in a beautiful concert hall. The obligatory cruise down the Rhine was followed by a delicious concert dinner at the "Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland". This art gallery is truly striking, but perhaps a little too post-modern for some tastes.