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In the conferences I've experienced, each paper gets a serial number that can tell its authors how many submissions were made prior to theirs.

Many conferences have a fixed number of tracks (and days), and thus the number of accepted papers cannot vary too much. (The organizers do have some flexibility, but it is rather limited.)

Thus, knowing the number of submissions can help one assess his chance of being accepted to the conference, which might tempt him to submit at the very last moment just to figure out the submission count.

Obviously, not everyone can do this. Why don't the organizers simply post it on the website after the submission date is due?

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    Because nobody really cares? – Jon Custer Apr 21 '17 at 17:59
  • At least sigchi and siggraph do post their numbers, at least in an email to authors – y3sh Apr 21 '17 at 18:11
  • @JonCuster - apparently, I do :). – PPc Apr 21 '17 at 18:12
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Usually (most of the time) this information is shared on the opening day as part of the welcoming session.

Why do conferences use sequential numbers that could give this sort of information away? I don't know, probably because it is easy, and the information has little value in general. Since most of the review process is a pretty manual labour intensive task, this probably makes it easier to find missing papers by hand, to search for and track papers, reduce potential administrative errors, etc.

What would change if there are 300 spots and your paper was number 600 vs 350 (assuming you submitted last)? You are usually not allowed to submit the same paper to more than one conference at the same time, so you cannot act in either case until you received your acceptance/rejection letter. Good conferences cull poor quality papers, even if that means not all the spots are filled. You only know the paper is accepted when it is accepted. Estimating a probability of acceptance is merely for your own enjoyment and has no benefit to the conference organisers.

In academia, if you ask the question why is x, y or z not done, the answer is usually time and effort required without any benefit to that person.

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    Yes - like many other types of conferences, volunteers make it happen, and if you want something more out of the conference, become a volunteer! – y3sh Apr 21 '17 at 18:09
  • Well, one can withdraw the submission and aim for a different venue if you have 600 submissions and expected 350. As far as I know, if you withdraw your paper before any manual labor was involved in reviewing it, this is OK. Also, I'd argue that posting the number of submissions shouldn't take more than a few minutes. – PPc Apr 21 '17 at 18:15
  • @PPc Sure, you can play that game, but how confident are you in the quality of your work if you have to do these type of things? Rather aim for the less prestigious smaller conference from the start. It is not that it takes a few minutes. It is that someone has to add this as a task to a long list of other more important and more pressing tasks. Hosting a conference is hectic! Answering your question, they don't post it because they don't want to, or don't care to. Could they if they did, yes. Maybe you can e-mail the organising team and ask? – Jurgen Strydom Apr 21 '17 at 18:28
  • Conferences that I know include the number of submissions in the preface of the proceedings. – Alexey B. Apr 21 '17 at 19:05

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