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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Announcements

How do we announce important activities in theoretical computer science? With research results we have pretty good systems through various paper archives. But how about conferences (deadlines, accepted papers, registration), grants, jobs, deaths and other information important to the community. With the Internet we expect easy ways to distribute such information and we have several such schemes but none really do a great job.
  • Email Lists such as Theorynet and DMAnet will deliver all sorts of news directly to your inbox. Though moderated both lists have pretty high volume so many people don't subscribe.
  • Search Engines. Want to know the upcoming deadline for ICALP? Just Google on "ICALP 2006". This only works for conferences you already know and won't help with other information.
  • Websites like the Theory Calendar and CRA Job Announcements. These sites are not always up-to-date or complete and only cover a small segment of announcement topics.
  • Newsletters like SIGACT News have a time lag and not everyone is a SIGACT member (though shame on your who aren't).
  • Graduate Students. Some professors use their students to filter the Internet for them. But students are imperfect filters and not everyone has them available.
  • Weblogs. Some people use this and other weblogs to keep up with what is happening in the community. While I try to make sure important news gets heard I certainly am not comprehensive and you might not share my biases.
What we need is a VGS (Virtual Grad Student), an intelligent program that scours the Internet and reports back to me exactly the information that I would find relevant. Until such agents exist, you'll have to choose your poison from the above or just remain blissfully ignorant.

14 comments:

  1. Actually, I don't think we lack methods for announcing things like conference dates etc, so much so as we lack a central location for placing such information.

    The theory community is still fairly close-knit, in that if there were such a place, most people might start using it.

    In fact I'd even do this if I had full control over my website, which I don't. All someone needs to do is have access to a web server running Apache on which they can install a PHP client. Then, using webDAV and the iCal standard, you can "share" a theory calendar that people can access over the web or via any email/calendar program like Mozilla or Outlook. More importantly, anyone can update this calendar and all changes can be seen by all, decentralizing the effort.

    If there's anyone who'd like to set this up on their server, I can provide all the technical knowhow needed.

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  2. Oh, and my email address is suresh at research dot att dot com.

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  3. ...and not everyone is a SIGACT member (though shame on your who aren't)

    And why precisely, may I ask? What advantages does a memberships to these SIGs (or to ACM) have?

    I do not have to be a member of the ACM to access the digital library if my university has paid ACM for use of the digital library, so I can access papers. Membership to ACM just ensures that I get a monthly copy of CACM, which I can access online anyway.

    I'm just curious as to what value a membership of the ACM or any of the SIGs has.

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  4. cheaper registration fees at ACM conferences...

    otoh, receiving a monthly copy of CACM is a great reason not to become a member. have you seen people who have their unread periodicals stacked 100 deep (= one tree)?

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  5. Membership in the ACM states that you have paid money to the ACM, which does things of value for the entire community (digital library, organization of conferences, political lobbying, dim-witted statements in the New York Times).

    Hence, membership in the ACM is looked-upon favorably by faculty hiring committees.

    Also, if you ever want to take a job abroad, membership in professional societies is pretty much required to get a scientific work permit in most first-world countries.

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  6. Also, if you ever want to take a job abroad, membership in professional societies is pretty much required to get a scientific work permit in most first-world countries.

    What? I have never heard of this having any such influence whatsoever. (Speaking from a first-world country that is "abroad" for most readers of this.)

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  7. I am surprised by the comment that membership in professional societies is viewed favorably by faculty hiring committess. Is this really true? My own experience is that the hiring committee doesn't care. May be they do if some of them are executives of the society. Could people shed light on this?

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  8. I've served on my department's hiring committee for the last 5 years. Not once has membership in professional societies come up when discussing candidates.

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  9. I've recently been looking at green card/citizenship procedures for the US. In the forms, they ask if you are a member of a professional organization (along with, of course, if you are a member of a communist, Nazi, or terrorist organization, and if you are a prostitute...). I was told it is a viewed as a positive thing (unless you are in a professional prostitutes' organization, I guess).

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  10. Like the USA, the work permit app for the United Kingdom asks what professional societies you belong to.

    Also: I was asked at two hiring interviews (for CS positions) what societies I belonged to. At least one of the questioners was a society president. :-)

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  11. A SIGACT only membership is only $18/year ($9 for students) and SIGACT News alone is worth the cost, not to mention conference discounts and supporting the theory community.

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  12. Membership quick-form says $10 regular price, $7 for a student. Still, I don't see why with all these rich corporate sponsored you can't get free membership.

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  13. From Suresh, "Actually, I don't think we lack methods for announcing things like conference dates etc, so much so as we lack a central location for placing such information."

    Why not just set up a Wiki for the Theory community? I know TikiWiki has a lot of features that could be useful, including calendars, blogs, and forums... not to mention the usual wiki features.

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  14. This shows how stupid these faculty hiring committees can be.

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