Well, I can tell you that the SIGGRAPH conference committee has spent more than 2 years at this point trying to address some of the issues that have been raised here. SIGGRAPH 2008 is going to be a noticeably different format than the conferences of the last 10 years. Each area is going to be, hopefully… more. The Computer Animation Festival is now a full-on Animation Festival, rather than screenings of the same topic reels over-and-over in a screening room. They’re working towards a high-quality art journal and juried art awards in upcoming years to better serve the artistic community. There’s more focus on participation and process-exhibition with the expansion of things like the FJORG! animation competition and collaborative areas. They continue to refine the process for papers jurying to keep the technical program at the top of the game.
One thing I’m personally really excited about is the increased participation of co-located events. The Sandbox video game symposium is the weekend before SIGGRAPH, as is Web3D and about 7 other topic-specific small conferences. Same airfare and hotel room, and the opportunity to register and attend multiple events with their own content.
Anyhow, I’m not on the conference committee this year, though I have been in the past. The 2008 and 2009 conferences are going to be serious testing grounds for new ideas, as the new format shakes out, and there will be things that SIGGRAPH has never done before – and may never do again! Every attendee will get something different out of it, of course. But freshining things up hopefully is going to re-build some of the image that has slowly developed, of the conference sometimes being “too commercial” or “not focused enough.” The new content areas will change year-to-year, so locating content that’s relevant to you should be much easier.