SIG History Activities
SIG History Activities |  Newsletters | Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What interviews have been completed?

A. See http://portal.acm.org/toc.cfm?id=1141880&type=proceeding&coll=portal&dl=ACM Contact the SIG liaison (listed at http://...) for those interviews that are in progress or that are being considered.

Q. Who might be interviewed?

A. The History Committee has focused on the history of ACM, and thus has interviewed ACM Presidents and some staff members and volunteers. The SIGs have initially been interested in contributions to the profession and so have worked with the History Committee to interview recipients of the ACM Turing Award.

Q. What is involved in an interview?

A. This can range from a SIG volunteer interviewing a person at a conference for 30 minutes up to a professional historian interviewing a person for several days.

The ACM History Committee has preferred the latter. It commissions professional historians of science or of organizations to research the individual's activities, identify prior interviews and study them, and search extant archives. The interview itself can be many hours, possibly spread over several days. After the interview is transcribed (see below), the interviewer edits the transcript, then sends the transcript to the interviewee for checking. The HC pays a commission, along with reasonable travel costs, and also pays the transcriber.

Q. How should the interviewee be contacted?

A. This task is normally left to the interviewer. Rosemary McGuinness can provide contact information for some interviewees. Here is her contact information.
    Manager
    Office of Policy and Administration
    Association for Computing Machinery
    2 Penn Plaza, Suite 701
    New York, NY 10036-5701
    mcguinness@acm.org
    +1-212-626-0561
Q. What sort of agreement is needed?

A. The copyright of the transcript should be transferred to ACM, by signing the attached form (both the interviewer and the interviewee) before the interview commences.

The interviewer should have the interviewee sign this, and also sign it yourself as interviewer, BEFORE the actual interview. Ideally, this could be sent to the interviewee for signature when the interviewer is setting up the interview, just so that everyone is on the same page.

The original signed copy should be sent to the address on the second page, with a copy of the transfer retained for the interviewer's records.

The copyright form is available at
Please let the interviewee that s/he will edit the transcript to correct any inaccuracies after you do an initial edit. Please also let the interviewee know that it is the policy of the ACM to place into the ACM Digital Library the transcript as it is three months after the interviewee receives the initial transcript draft, with an indication of "has not been edited by the interviewee". ACM will replace this version with the final version whenever it is received, removing that proviso.

Q. What sort of questions are appropriate?

A. The questions you ask are entirely up to the interviewer. These are informed by the interviewer's training and his/her research on prior interviews of the subject. Additionally, the History Committee has prepared a list of possible questions, which are at

Q. How can the interviews be transcribed?

The History Committee uses Christine Rousseau to transcribe its interviews. She comes strongly recommended and has performed superbly.
    Christine Rousseau
    AfterWords
    7809 Kincheon Court
    Austin, Texas 78749
    512-288-3751
    Email: christine@afterwordsaustin.com
The process is as follows.

When the interviewer knows when he/she will be doing an interview, please contact Christine, so that Christine can schedule things.

Once the interview is complete, please send the audio to Christine.

Christine has promised to prepare transcriptions within one month of receipt of the audio. Once finished, she will send the transcript by email to the you. She should then be reimbursed.

The interviewer will then edit the transcript for accuracy. When the interviewer is happy with it, then send it to the interviewee and work with the interviewee to finalize the interview. As the interviewer has direct contact with the interviewee, and rapport built on an extensive interview, the interviewer is in the best position to encourage the interviewee to complete the editing of the transcript. (After all, it is in the best interest of everyone to have an accurate transcript.) It is best to complete this editing within a month or so.

Once the interview is complete, please send a copy of the transcript (as a digital file, as text or in Microsoft Word) to Rosemary, with a CC to me. ACM will add the transcript to their digital library and will submit both the audio media and the electronic version of the transcript to the ACM Archive.

Q. Audio Media?

The interview can be provided in one of the following four formats (in rough decreasing order of preference).
  • Digital file in any popular audio format (e.g., .wma, .mp3, .wav, realaudio)
  • Analog cassette tape
  • VHS video tape
  • DVD video
The first can be uploaded to
Please contact Christine for the password. Browse your local hard drive for the file you want to upload to the server, select, press the upload button. The files will stream to the server, and once complete, the site will display a message indicating the file was successfully loaded.

The other three should be sent by postal mail to Christine at the above address, after making a copy to hold (!).

Q. What sorts of activities might be relevant for a history session at a SIG conference?

A. Still needed.

Q. How can SIG documents and other physical artifacts be archived? Is the ACM Archive appropriate for that?

A. Still needed.

Q. Who makes the decision on what material is acceptable for the ACM Archive? On what criteria? What is the process and the timeframe?

A. Still needed.

Q. Who curates the ACM Archive? Is this available freely or is there a cost to submit material to the ACM Archive?

A. Still needed.

Q. How can electronic documents and web sites be archived? Is the ACM Electronic Archive appropriate for that?

A. Still needed.

Q. Who makes the decision on what material is acceptable for the ACM Electronic Archive? On what criteria? What is the process and the timeframe?

A. Still needed.

Q. Who curates the ACM Electronic Archive? Is this available freely or is there a cost to submit material to the ACM Electronic Archive?

A. Still needed.

Q. What services or help can the ACM History Committee provide to a SIG that is interested in the history of the development of the technology and the field and application areas?

A. Still needed.

Q. What services or help can the ACM History Committee provide to a SIG that is interested in its SIG history and its part of the history of ACM and how that history weaves into the history of its technical discipline?

A. Still needed.

Q. Who within the ACM or the ACM History Committee should a SIG officer contact to follow up on any of the above?

A. Still needed.

Q. What services or help can the ACM History Committee provide to a SIG that is interested in its SIG history and its part of the history of ACM and how that history weaves into the history of its technical discipline?

A. Some other things the ACM History Committee has done with SIGs:
  • helped a SIG collect its history
  • helped arrange oral histories of prominent members of a SIG's community


Q. What should a SIG do first?

A. The SIG should first identify the goal(s) of a SIG history effort

TODO: Elaborate on the distinction between a history of the SIG and a history of the discipline served by the SIG What questions should a SIG chair should first ask before developing specific projects

Q. What are the differences between an interview and an oral history, and which is preferable?

A. Still needed.

Q. What are the differences between and audio and a video interview, and what is preferable?

A. Still needed.

Q. What is an appropriate length of an interview?

A. Still needed.

Q. Should an interview involve a single interviewee, or a group of interviewees, like a panel?

TODO: Summarize as a model the Burt Grad approach of a group oral history.

Q. What are some models of projects a SIG chair might wish to consider?

TODO: Elaborate on an HOX conference, interviews of prior SIG chairs, sponsoring an oral history, a Pioneers Day, and providing a curator for a Turing Award page.

Q. How should an oral history be conducted?

A. Still needed.

Q. What makes history?<

TODO: Provide a brief summary of Mike's paper, along with a link.

Q. What is the experience of the Computer History Museum

TODO: Elaborate on using domain experts rather than historians in interviews, of videotaping the interview, advantages and disadvantages of group sessions, and tips for getting good transcripts.

Q. What other general advice does the History Committee have for SIG chairs?

A. Still needed.