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April 2005 Conference Call

April 18, 2005
4:00-5:10 EDT
: Bill Aspray, Mary Hall, Henry Lowood (Stanford archivist),
Mike Mahoney, Joe November, Pat Ryan, Rick Snodgrass, and David S. Wise

Indented prose is what was discussed; non-indented prose is from the agenda.

  • Committee changes

    Due to their involvement in "work for hire" for ACM, Tom Haigh (who is doing several oral histories for the History Committee) and Beth Kaplan (who is doing a major project with the ACM Archive) resigned from the History Committee.

    Tom and Beth were both with the Committee from the beginning (when it was an ad hoc presidential committee). They each played critical roles in defining the activities of the committee and in justifying its need to the ACM Council, which subsequently established the Committee as an ongoing activity. Through their work, Tom and Beth have left an enduring legacy of historical scholarship within ACM.

    The Committee looks forward to continued interaction with both Tom and Beth, as they are extremely well respected in their communities and have much insight offer. And the Committee deeply thanks them for the many hours over several years of volunteer effort for the Committee.

  • History Committee web site (discussion with Henry Lowood )

    Henry discussed his experiences with history web sites.

    He discussed the Silicon Valley history portal, as well as other content on software history. (He differentiates portal from content: the former is a way to get to resources; the latter are the resources themselves.)

    People look for images on web sites. The SVHP has about 750K images in their library; they are currently thinking about how to push images.

    Copyright is an important issue for photos. The copyright is initially owned by either the photographer or the commissioner. The onus is on the user of the material to ensure that they have the copyright. Some collections, e.g., AMPEX (250K images), have a single copyright for the entire collection.

    For pictures on the web, they don't put high resolution on the web. For high resolution that they distribute on request, they use Luna Insight technology to control the resolution to catch copying (stenography).

    The conversation then moved to institutional history website. It is Henry's experience that the vast majority of institutional websites are driven by PR and communication, with history being used as a marketing campaign. A recent example is HP's web site.

    What are web sites good for? The general public likes

    - timelines, even encyclopedic approach
    - bibliographies, including links to other sites
    - images
    - facts
    - community memory
    - short URL to the page
    - "authorized data": if the web site can convey the care in which the content has been researched and verified

    The public does not like

    - voluminous text
    - interpretations

    Students seem to be concerned with quality control. They migrate to sites that seem worthy, "authorized site" of historical resources, "just the facts".

    It is helpful say once a month to have a featured article on a famous event, with a paragraph or two on its impact.

    Henry then discussed how a web site could pull together a community. An example is Tim Lenoir's mouse site. He compiled a list of several hundred people from Doug Engelbert's mouse lab, then emailed them. "Who are the people in this photograph?" People would fill out forms to provide historical information or correct errors. Time and others build a tool around a timeline, providing genealogies of researches. People would upload documents and pictures for this timeline. This site was used in an exhibit on computer games.

    Tim also constructed a very elaborate community website for biochemistry., through his association with Duke.

    Another example is the HPS Collaboratory, an interactive collaboratory timeline. The goal is to connect to HOPL, which is an existing community.

    Yet another example is the Project Plato history.

    To get one of these community websites going, one needs a leader, a research to poke people and ask leading questions. Also needed is an established, close-knit community. So "project Plato" or "mouse lab" are communities, but "Fortran" is not.

    The Sloan Foundation funded six of these communities, including mouse, big dig in Boston, electric vehicles in CA (David Kursh at Maryland). The sense was that this was at best a minor success.

    We thanked Henry for his comments on his detailed experience with history web sites and his knowledge of other ones.

  • CACM special issue [15 min]

    When? January 2007 starts ACM's 60th year. October 2007 is ACM's birthday. June 2007 is the HOPL conference.

    We discussed the possibility of a session at the FCRC near the HOPL-III conference on "What goes into putting together a successful history conference?" (The HOPL organizers certainly know this, but few if any other SIGs have a clue as to how to do this.)

    We decided that FCRC was simply too packet for such a session, but that we would try to put together a one-hour session at this fall's SGB new chairs meeting in Newark.

  • What do historians want? (see Jonathan Grudin's email) [15 min]?

    Pat mentioned that some stats are now available. Here is her message.

Here's the urls for the stats (conference submission/acceptance rates and SIG memberships):

The conference submission and acceptance rates are shown for each conference series. We don't currently have a page that attempts to show all of the rates together, although we could create one.

If you go to the Series page in the DL:

As you click on each series you can see the rates, (if we have them). We currently have data on about half of the conference series listed.

Individual SIG data as well as a historical report can be found here: The best to look at is the historical report which allows a quick comparison of all.

Pat also mentioned that the hit rates and download statistics are now privileged information, but will be released to the public.

David will schedule the next few conference calls, through the summer.


I did notice one error. The Silicon Valley History Portal is not a Stanford site. It's called Silicon Valley History Online, and you can find it here: &c=sts145&ct=0&l=en&w=utf-8

Stanford is focused on content, namely, in the Stanford and the Silicon Valley Archives.

So, I did make the distinction between portal and content, but also meant to say that Stanford is working on the latter, not the former.

That's probably the only correction that needs to be made.


Henry Lowood