Comments

(newest first)

  • Carlos | Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:02:30 UTC

    I've been a member for four years. I also wanted to keep myself updated with the latest research. I personally read CACM to have an idea/overview of what's going on out there but it is not that useful as I wish. What I did to fulfill that need was I subscribed to SIG of my interest and read their News Magazines with summaries of conferences and selections of the most relevant articles.
    I like the theoretical approach of ACM. For purely practical stuff and tools reviews I just visit a lot of good websites out there like infoq.com among others.
    Having a Good Source of Information now-a-days with this overwhelming amount of info out there is very important. That's where I see the ACM, as a source of info I can trust.
  • winston lawrence | Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:15:53 UTC

    I was a member for about 30 years. It was barely relevant when I was starting out as a mainframe systems programmer and became even less so over time, seeming to completely miss the fact and realities of the internet. If I had to give a comparison ACM is AOL and the reality is Google. 
  • Eric Pederson | Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:17:33 UTC

    In terms of content, I think that Rafael Anschau has the right idea - making theory approachable to hackers.  This would align the best with ACM's traditional academic focus.  This should be done with both regular surveys of research and deeper dives into subjects (the deepest dives would be MOOCs).  Either way the material needs to be translated into language practitioners can understand.  
    
    For research, the ACM needs to require working source code published in public repositories like Github.  It's incredible that you can publish a paper without showing that the concept can really be applied.  Having working source code to go along with papers would be invaluable for professionals, and would increase the quality of the papers themselves.
    
    I agree with others that a paywall runs counter to the open nature of science.  To fund itself the ACM could run conferences for practitioners.  This would also feed practice-oriented content into the system.
  • arvinder birdi | Sat, 12 Jul 2014 20:37:42 UTC

    The environment has also changed. Most app developers just need to keep up with apis, tools, and patterns. A lot of these are vendor specific.
    
    
  • Rafael Anschau | Tue, 08 Jul 2014 19:25:45 UTC

    I would suggest a column like: How theory helped me in practice(I was halving a problem getting this algorithm right then I remembered Hoare´s triple, defined refined the post-conditions and solved the problem). Or:
    "The program was too slow, a quick analysis revealed the underlying algorithm was expensive in Big0 terms, and I found a more efficient one reading Knuth. So I changed the algorithm and got a cake at the job the next day"
    
    I don´t think ACM should loose its theoretical approach and become a new IEEE computer(I think both associations are complementary important for the programmer). Maybe showing applications of recent theoretical results could make it more appealing in practice.
    
    Theory is really important in practice, and I love reading columns about theoretical subjects(I am a practicing programmer) that will not be mainstream for a while, they give me the horizon of what is about to come. 
    
    Showing theory applied to practice is a good way to remain true to ACM´s founding values, while at the same time adapting to this new world of ubiquitous computing, where people learn to program before they realize the importance of theory. In fact, there lies a great opportunity for ACM: Teaching "theory appreciation for hackers! "
    
    The book "Built to Last" by Jim Collimns is a good read for current ACM managers facing its current challenges.
    Basically, institutions that last remain true to their original values, while adapting mostly everything else to the uses of the time. Those are times of people programming professionally without a clear idea of what formal languages, states or algorithmic complexity are. Theory is as important to them as it is to everyone else, 
    maybe ACM could have a few articles with this audience in mind. 
    
    Finally, this column reminds of Djkistra´s article: "On the cruelty of really teaching computing science"
    
    "Teaching to unsuspecting youngsters the effective use of formal methods is one of the joys of life because it is so extremely rewarding. Within a few months, they find their way in a new world with a justified degree of confidence that is radically novel for them; within a few months, their concept of intellectual culture has acquired a radically novel dimension. To my taste and style, that is what education is about. Universities should not be afraid of teaching radical novelties; on the contrary, it is their calling to welcome the opportunity to do so. Their willingness to do so is our main safeguard against dictatorships, be they of the
    proletariat, of the scientific establishment, or of the corporate elite."
    
    Please ACM, remain true to your values, but at the same time adapt to the uses of our age.
    
  • Michael Pohoreski | Mon, 07 Jul 2014 23:25:29 UTC

    "It's about the (free) content, silly!"
    
    I've been involved with programming for 30 years and have shipped numerous professional games on various consoles and the PC.  Sadly, the ACM is largely irrelevant due to the content and articles being behind a paywall.
    
    I would rather go to the homepage of the author of whitepapers and download their .pdf, browse stackexchange for questions (and answers), check reddit, check the GDC vault, or find the few SIGGRAPH papers that I need instead of paying to access the ACM for a _few_ articles that I need.
    
    When so much content is available freely online, the "perceived value" of ACM is zero to me.
    
    What can the ACM offer me that I can't find elsewhere, freely??
    
    This problem is just systemic to the ACM.  I used to read Dr. Dobbs and the C User's Journal religiously 15 years ago but now-a-days I rarely find them interesting.
    
    What could ACM do to attract members?
    
    By providing _complete_ source + data for whitepapers.  So often I will read a whitepaper only to find there is no way to _reproduce_ the author's conclusions.  This is an extremely bad practice and sloppy Science.  Help bring back "accountability" and "reproducibility" to whitepapers and the ACM will again "have value."
    
    Until then, I sadly fear it will become more irrelevant in the modern web.
    
    Michael
    
  • Fazal Majid | Sat, 05 Jul 2014 17:26:10 UTC

    To answer Dr Cerf's question, through RSS feeds, and occasionally CiteSeer. The ACM is generally irrelevant unless a cited paper is hosted by the ACM, at which point it becomes an active nuisance due to the paywall and other hoops.
    
    Lapsed ACM member for over a decade.
  • Bob Ellis | Fri, 04 Jul 2014 19:23:01 UTC

    I beat you: I was 9 in 1947 when ACM was founded and have been a member since Jan 1960.  ACM has always been important to me almost exclusively through my activity with SIGGRAPH (1980 Conference Co chair, Executive Comm member in the late 70s and early 80s and other positions).  One thing that always impressed me about SIGGRAPH and its conferences was its value to a wide range of people from researchers to artists.
    
    I've suggested the following to several CACM editors.  As a practitioner I've always been interested in a wide range of research and applications but CACM has never been able to fulfill this need.  The problem has been there are too few and too long articles.  My model for what I would like to see from ACM is a publication like Science News where there are many short articles which review and summarize developments in scientific research, conferences and other topics.
    
    It has become clear to me that CACM will *never* fill this need.  I haven't even looked at an issue in at least two years, but read almost every word in my copies of Science News.
    
  • Osep Knet | Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:52:11 UTC

    The ACM is on the wrong side of history when it comes to open access. They seem to think about this issue more in terms of how they can persist as an institution in something like the form they had in a pre-Internet bygone era (as much as possible), rather than how they can adapt and reinvent themselves in a world that has fundamentally changed. 
    
    I say this as somebody who has been an ACM member for more than a decade (including DL access) and who actually finds a lot of the more substantive articles in CACM to be really interesting and very well-written. I cut out the best ones that I'll want to read again and must have collected at least fifty over the years. I keep my membership because I enjoy lots of the content, I use the DL regularly, and I hope for change as a new generation of folks work their way up the ranks both as members and as employees of ACM. I won't wait forever though, and probably not more than a couple years more without some significant changes.
  • Sean McDirmid | Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:35:28 UTC

    +1 on Jim H.'s post. Relevance: what is the ACM for these days when we have so many other better resources available? Seems like the ACM will have to reinvent itself, or be content with doing conferences and paywalls.  
  • Wayne Graves | Fri, 04 Jul 2014 02:28:31 UTC

    One other piece of information that I think is worth pointing out is that the recently updated copyright policy includes the following permanent retained right for the author:
    
    "Bundle the Work in any of Owner's software distributions"
  • Wayne Graves | Fri, 04 Jul 2014 02:21:29 UTC

    Here are a few options that ACM offers to help Authors, Conferences and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) extend access to the published works beyond the subscribing libraries:
    
    ACM gives authors the ability to freely share their work via the Author-Izer.  When an author creates and publishes an Author-Izer link the underlying article is available to anyone who clicks on that link, 
    free of charge and without the need to create a Digital Library login or account.
    
    In addition to Author-Izer,  each SIG sponsored conference has the option of hosting an OpenTOC on the conference and/or SIG sites.  This OpenTOC is the table of contents for the published proceedings from a conference and it contains links to the full text content.  These links work like Author-Izer links.  There is no authentication or subscription required.  This OpenTOC is put up just prior to the conference and kept up until the next conference occurs, generally annually.
    
    The SIGs also have the option of allowing the conference proceedings to be available through the ACM DL without authentication or subscription for the duration of the conference and one month after.
  • Jim Humelsine | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 21:55:19 UTC

    Dr. Cerf,
    
    I have a BS and MS in CS, and I have been a software professional since 1985. 
    
    Make sure a sufficient number of entries in the Communications of the ACM are relevant to practitioners, not just academics or researchers. Many articles are barely on my horizon or completely off my radar. There are a few interesting items in most issues, such as Kode Vicious, but its mostly irrelevant.
    
    You asked, How do you, the reader, stay informed about research that influences your work? I ask, How do you, the ACM, stay informed about the kinds of challenges that we practitioners face every day in our work? How many influential ACM officers are practitioners? Have they lived in the trenches of tight deadlines, inconsistent/incomplete/vague requirements or buggy code with horrible APIs and incomprehensible documentation? Do they have to maintain someone elses code whos long gone?
    
    Many software practitioners did not study computer science. They are electrical engineers, physicists, chemists, mathematicians or from other disciplines, who learned programming through introduction courses in college or on the job. They generally have no knowledge of the ACM, but they usually know of the IEEE - better marketing?
    
    These developers may be good at what they do, but they dont have a solid computing theory foundation. They dont know automata theory. They dont know graph algorithms, such as Dijkstra, Bellman-Ford or Kosaraju. They dont understand Big-Oh or Theta notation. And with the advent of generics and container classes in many popular programming languages, they may not know the underlying mechanisms of stacks, queues, trees, heaps or hashing. These are foundational principles that apply in almost any technology, and they transfer well as new technologies arise.
    
    The field is too broad for everyone to know everything. Consider a Continued Education series. This could be a monthly article describing a single foundational concept - a complex concept could be presented over several issues. This might introduce a new concept to a reader, or refresh the memory of a reader who last considered the topic decades earlier as an undergraduate. While content like this wont appeal to everyone, Im pretty sure that current content doesnt appeal to everyone either.
    
    Years ago The Communications published a great column by Jon Bentley called Programming Pearls. Bring more practical content like this back into the publication. Give us stories. Best practices. What worked. Even better, what didnt work. Im taking Tim Roughgardens fantastic Algorithms MOOCs on Coursera. Hes not just presenting algorithms. Hes presenting how to think about algorithms. He drops gems, such as some operations are so inexpensive that you should just consider running them on data immediately. Sort the array. Hash the data. Calculate the Minimal Spanning Tree. Once you place some additional structure around your data with these pseudo-free operations, they may lead to a working solution.
    
    I am trying to stay informed via MOOCs. New technology is always on the rising horizon and foundational technology never fades in the sunset. MOOCs address both types of technologies. I have completely over a dozen Coursera courses where Ive learned practical knowledge about Python, Android and the Internet as well as honing my theoretical knowledge in Mathematics, Algorithms, Automata Theory and Game Theory. I am learning much more from MOOCs than I have from the ACM.
    
    As for the ACM, its not so much a case of LOVE IT or HATE IT as its a case of RELEVANCE.
    
    Sincerely,
    
    Jim Humelsine
    
    ACM Member since 1983
  • Tim | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:37:31 UTC

    ACM should remove the paywall. In this age, where dissemination of information is possible through the WWW at very cheap costs, this is ridiculous. I wonder how an organization which says it is trying to help the professional can do something against the interest of its members. Please stop this nonsense if you want to have any relevance. 
  • Simon Byrne | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:02:54 UTC

    In addition to the problem of paywalled papers, the ACM causes significant headaches with its software policy:
    http://www.acm.org/publications/policies/softwarecrnotice/
    
    The difficulties of defining "noncommercial use" aside, its incompatibility with standard open source licenses (MIT, GPL, etc.)  effectively prohibits this research from being incorporated into any useful products, commercial or open source. To their credit, this no longer applies to articles published after April 2013, but there remains an immense library of valuable software stuck under the old regime. 
    
    I don't know how much income the ACM receives from commercial licenses on this software (it isn't a line item in the annual report, so I would assume it is not a large amount), but there is perhaps an opportunity here to garner goodwill and positive news coverage by releasing this software under a permissive (MIT/BSD-style) licence, as well as increasing its profile via wider distribution of this software.
    
  • Merik Vooswinkel | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 15:44:24 UTC

    Dear Vincent Cerf,
    
    I would very much like to have all my researchers in my Metamorph research institute join the ACM as members. The height of the fees and its exclusive credit card payment option does prevent us from doing so, we do not use credit cards, period. 
    More importantly, although we publish papers in many ACM conferences and publications, we do not condone the ACM practice of putting our own and any other papers behind a paywall and charging ludicrous prices for them. We encourage all researchers to publish at xarg or any other free and open source means and to allways include all their code as open source as well, lest other scientist can not confirm or duplicate their research.
    
    As almost fifty percent of de papers we read are only available through ACM we feel it is important that the ACM drop the paywall and allow for free exchange amoung scientist and to stop this focus on excusive american ivy-leage universities, excluding many good scientist worldwide.
    
    
  • Nat Welch | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:45:42 UTC

    I'll gladly read interesting papers that friends send me copies of, but having never been a researcher, I have never had any respect for the ACM organization. I've been programming for 12 years, and I have no idea why anyone would consider them useful or relevant. This is not an insult to the content ACM caries, but for what I'm interested in and what I have questions about, ACM has never been listed to me as a good source.
  • Alex Loucaides | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:07:53 UTC

    A few suggestions.
    There should be an active policy for getting ACM articles submitted to HN, reddit etc. If they're up voted then you'll get both traffic and mental association from devs. If not then you'll know that you're not producing articles that professional devs are interested in.
    
    Currently there are less than 1k job postings on acm.org, most appear to be academic or institutional. To put it another way, there's no need for a professional dev to bother checking it out. ACM should be actively talking to big dev recruiting companies and getting that number closer to 100k with good search facilities. Make it somewhere that devs go to.
    
    Before that though, the website needs a little, um, work. The word that sprung to mind when I went to the landing page was "quaint". There's even a leaf node in the nav tree called "bylaws". Bless. You need to type a minimum of 7 fields into a (90's) form to get sent membership info (not get membership!). It doesn't need to be SV hipster standard but it's the website that purports to represent professional developers. Also a non-trivial number of links produce web server errors. It's not exactly enticing me in...
    
     
  • Alexander Mikhailian | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:51:24 UTC

    I am a 38yo professional programmer. I used to be an ACM member largely
    because I could benefit from the CACM subscription. But at some point,
    the stack of CACM paper editions filled my cellar. Around the same time,
    Moshe Vardi published one of his controversial editorials on public
    access, so I cancelled my ACM membership, because:
    
    * I could not have a digital-only subscription, ACM is an exemplary
      shoemaker without the shoes in this regard.
    
    * CACM's position on public access made feel uneasy about supporting
      this ancient organisation with my money.
    
    Thanks for your time.
  • Christopher Monsanto | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:52:48 UTC

    I am a graduate student who has published in two ACM conferences.
    
    I feel deeply uncomfortable with using taxpayer money to produce research that is behind a paywall. The authors don't get a cut, the reviewers don't get a cut, the ACM itself does not help with typesetting or other things that I hear journals back in the day used to do. So I can only assume the money gained from this paywall is used to subsidize other ACM interests. This is inappropriate. Even if what is being subsidized is the conferences themselves, that is not nearly as important as freeing the research that we *owe* the public.
    
    I get that we can have "unofficial" copies on our webpages, but it is the principle of the matter. An organization that locks up public research behind a paywall will never represent me professionally.
  • Ben Collins | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:39:55 UTC

    I have been an ACM member since I was an undergraduate.  I completed a graduate degree and went on to professional work rather than academic.  For a long time, I thought being an ACM member was a mark of a serious professional, but I realized over time that I never used the DL because the most important content for me was available elsewhere in a more open format.  I eventually cancelled by DL subscription.  I continue to keep my membership more-or-less for the @acm.org forwarding address.  
    
    After 10 years as a professional, my perception of the ACM is that it is rigidly academic.  As I said before, the DL is mostly irrelevant.  The non-academic content in the CotA wind up in one of three buckets: pop-sci ("AI is going to revolutionize X"), pragmatic but not technical enough, or industry navel-gazing.
    
    I'm not sure there's a way for the ACM to ever capture professionals as a content consumers, and that's probably OK.  What would be interesting to me is to get some kind of survey of research.  I used to be more academic, and I wish I had a better finger on what's going on in research, but I can't spare the time to go through mountains of papers.  I rarely have the time to really read any papers all the way through.  I'm not sure what format would work best, but if ACM could help me be a little bit informed of that with minimal time investment from me, that would be very helpful.
  • Peter Kelly | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:03:34 UTC

    The paywall has to go.
    
    As researchers, the very purpose behind publishing is to make our work available to as many people as possible. The ACM and other publishers *used* to facilitate this. Now, the role they play has the exact opposite effect - that of *restricting* access to information. Furthermore, requiring authors to hand over copyright, as opposed to licensing their work to ACM under suitable terms (e.g. creative commons) no longer make sense. I note the recent introduction of author-pays publishing, and this is a step in the right direction, but the prices seem way out of line given distribution costs.
    
    I made the decision several years ago that I will not allow my scholarly work to be restricted from those who wish to view it but aren't members. As such, I refuse to publish in any venue that does not allow open access. I see the ACM primarily as a racket, acting like a self-interested, for-profit corporation - not an one that represents the true ethos of the scientific community, which involves openly sharing the results of research.
    
    I encourage anyone who still has any faith in the paywall publishing ecosystem to watch the recent Aaron Swartz documentary, "The Internet's own Boy". This will make you angry and realise how corrupt the system of ACM, IEEE, Elsevier and similar organisations truly is. If ACM wishes to have any relevance going forward, it needs fundamental change, lead from the top.
  • John Mount | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 06:47:25 UTC

    I'd say one issue is ACM doesn't seem to share a strong enough commitment to open dissemination of work and results.   At the bottom of your own article: "© 2014 ACM 1542-7730/14/0700 $10.00".  That can rub some people who value open source and dissemination the wrong way.
  • Ramknas Bal tis | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 06:24:20 UTC

      Alexander Stepanov is spot on in his excellent Programming Conversations lectures ( somewhere around 10th min - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp9iQcE-73Y&list=PLHxtyCq_WDLXFAEA-lYoRNQIezL_vaSX-&index=2 ) : 'No programmer belongs to ACM.  That's the sad and tragic thing.  Professor types, who cannot program, kidnapped our organization. ...  ACM was founded by programmers, for programmers.  They were doing great things, they were publishing code...'  His conclusion - 'ACM abandoned us'.
    
      I assume 'CACM ... section for pragmatic articles of interest to working programmers...' in this article refers to Practice section.  First, it is not enough.  Second, many of the articles that appear in the section are far from 'pragmatic'.
    
      Well, maybe it is not all bad - there is an occasional Kode Vicious piece.  But I can read Kode Vicious on ACM Queue without being a member.  
      
  • Jude Nelson | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 06:10:03 UTC

    I'm a computer science graduate student who is largely fed up with the way we do research.  I agree with the previous comments that there is no excuse for keeping publications behind a paywall.  In systems research in particular (my area), I also think there's no excuse for publishing papers without the accompanying source code.  Making the code available via NDA isn't acceptable--it's not science if the people who claim to have made a discovery get to choose who gets to scrutinize their methodology, and what the skeptics are allowed to say about it afterwards.
    
    It's also frustrating that ACM conferences have a "top-K" paper selection process--even if there are N > K excellent submissions, the nature of paper selection invariably bars otherwise worthy findings from publication.  Worse, every accepted paper that describes a proprietary system *excludes* a paper on a publicly-available system.
    
    I hope that one day the ACM will do away with conferences.  Now that we have the Internet, why should I pay upwards of $1500 to go watch people give talks that they could have just as easily recorded and put on YouTube?  Especially if a significant chunk of the attendees are doing other things on their laptops during the talks anyway?  If the only value of conferences is just to network with other attendees, then why not reduce the "conference" to just that?
    
    What I think the ACM should do instead is create an online tiered publication platform.  Papers would be organized by area (not limited to CS; there would be areas for each computational $SCIENTIFIC_FIELD), and then by quality (tier).  A sufficiently-large group of interested scientists could create an area of interest, and then organize a call for papers and steering committee.  In all areas, there should be no upper bound on the number of accepted papers; all publications that clear a threshold would be accepted.  Accepted papers would be accompanied by a 30-minute video of the authors summarizing the findings, as well as the source code, datasets, and recipes for setting up test environments for re-running the evaluation (where applicable).  There would also be a space for works-in-progress, which could receive early feedback and contributions from the larger interested community and help get papers ready for publication.
  • Tim Schoenheider | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 02:48:48 UTC

    Besides charging $20 per year, ACM mails me a full page advertisement to work for the NSA every month. The website is extremely dysfunctional and offers no meaningful services other than searching for old papers that I can find faster elsewhere. 
  • Sean McDirmid | Thu, 03 Jul 2014 01:26:04 UTC

    I'm an academic researcher who publishes and attends ACM conferences (one per year) but refuses to get ACM membership for practical and ideological reasons. First, all modern papers that are worth being read are available outside of the DL and can easily be found via Google Scholar, which is infinitely better than the DL in terms of performance, features, and coverage. If a recent paper is not provided outside of the DL, one can generally assume that the author doesn't care much about it and its not worth reading. Where I do find the DL necessary is in accessing older work: say a niche overlooked paper written in the 70s; thankfully I have institutional access for those situations (and this institution is also a strong sponsor of the ACM, which I often benefit from also). 
    
    Even though it makes economic sense for me to join the ACM (reduced registration fees), the DL paywall prevents me from doing so in good conscious: why would I support an organization that would seek to make our research more obscure? Additionally, the fact that it is closed means it will never gain the participation and critical mass of other efforts (e.g. Google Scholar); no one bothers with the comment feature on DL because no one will read it, there is no crowd sourcing ala reddit or hackernews, and you will be ostracized in these communities if you ever link to a DL PDF rather than one that people can actually access. Finally, the ACM provides some content via Queue and CACM, but these days, there are many such interesting articles available more frequently from other sources. And would Bret Victor's learnable programming essay ever have a chance of appearing in CACM today like Lieberman's et al. special issue on debugging back in the 90s? 
  • Riley Eller | Wed, 02 Jul 2014 23:08:55 UTC

    There are two ACM organizations. One is a hall of fame of great ideas, great people like Vint Cerf, and great exchange of information. The other hides its member's works behind an access-denying machine, kills trees for mandatory mailings, and treats lapsed membership as a punishing offense. I was excited to join, dismayed to experience, and eventually disgusted enough to leave.
    
    For the record, my eight year membership earned very positive accolades on two occasions that may well have set my career in motion. Those benefits were counterbalanced by the mandatory mailings and the pay-wall. The deciding factor for me is that nothing I do can restore my membership to its original status.
    
    If you would repair the association, make it voluntary and open. Connect people to their areas of focus and get out of their way. Act more like Aaron Swartz and less like Bill Gates.
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