April 2005 Conference Call
April 18, 2005
Present: 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
Students seem to be concerned with quality control. They migrate to sites
that seem worthy, "authorized site" of historical resources, "just the
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
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:
http://www.acm.org/sigs/membership/. 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
Stanford is focused on content, namely, in the Stanford and the Silicon
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.