SIGWEB Annual Report

The last year has been an exciting one for SIGWEB. From the sponsorship of the large Web Science Conference, to that of the small Social Network Working Group; from the increase in student travel sponsorship (to $25,000pa), to our increasing volunteer effort; the SIG has been at work at all levels of our domain.

We have forged links with multiple (≈20) conferences and workshops across our field, building a better website for our members, changing our bylaws to cement our relationship with our conferences, while still maintaining our low membership dues. In short, it has been an active and productive year.

However, we have faced some challenges too, with a small reduction in membership numbers (to 535). But, we have an increasing funds balance (to $560,000), and are still increasing the amount we have to spend on each member, from $590 last year to $618 this year; with member benefits of: Reduced rates at SIGWEB sponsored, co-sponsored, and co-operating events; Free access to ACM DL content of events sponsored by SIGWEB; Reduced subscription rates to New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia; Free subscription to the SIGWEB members email list, with calls, advance and final event programs; and news of interest to the community posted regularly; we still have an excellent membership offering.

In short SIGWEB has successfully expanded its range of conference sponsorships, is working hard on membership and volunteer development and benefits, and is financially healthy with a solid leadership.

SIGWEB

ACM SIGWEB

SIGWEB represents a unique interdisciplinary research community centred on the technical and human issues that arise from systems of linked information. This idea of explicitly linking pieces of information gave birth to a rich well of research trying to augment the human intellect, a vision articulated by the legendary computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart nearly half a century ago. Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and other early researchers realised this vision through hypermedia systems, which are still of interest to the SIGWEB community today, including the World Wide Web, the largest hypermedia system ever built.
Modern researchers have found a host of other realisations of this vision, ranging from digital libraries to knowledge management systems. SIGWEB includes more than just computer researchers and professionals, though. From cognitive psychologists to ethnographers to anthropologists to hypertext writers, SIGWEB embraces those researchers and practitioners that address how people use computers, so that better tools for augmenting the human intellect can be built. SIGWEB also balances the findings of the research world with the experiences of the practical world, in which our ideas and theories are tested daily.
SIGWEB (originally SIGLINK) was founded 22 years ago to provide a home for the hypertext community and the ACM Hypertext conference. Over the years, SIGWEB has changed its name and has begun to sponsor a wide range of conferences encompassing hypertext, Web science, document engineering, digital libraries, knowledge management and Web search.

1.    OFFICERS, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, & VOLUNTEERISM

The Elected Officers are:

  • Simon Harper (Chair & Hypertext)
  • Dick Bulterman (Vice-Chair & CIKM)
  • Maria de Grac ̧a C. Pimentel (Secretary/Treasurer & DocEng)

This year we changed the bylaws to facilitate better communications between the conferences and the SIG, and to smooth the transition between chairs (by including the past chair as a named member of the executive. The bylaw now states that:

‘The Executive Committee comprises the officers, the Information director, the past Chair, and between one and six additional members. The additional members will be active SIG members and may have assigned responsibilities for the SIG, such as representing the SIG on one or more steering commit- tees of each sponsored conference. In general, the intention for the additional members is to ensure that each sponsored conference steering committee has a SIGWEB representative. All appointments of additional members are to be made by the Chair – in consultation with the other officers and the current executive committee.’

This means that the Appointed Executive Committee are:

  • Ethan Munson (Past Chair, DocEng & WebSci)
  • Yeliz Yesilada (Information Director)
  • Jessica Rubart (Newsletter Editor)
  • Bebo White (WebSci)
  • David Hicks (JCDL)
  • Charles Nicholas (CIKM)
  • Peter Brusilovsky (at-Large)
  • Claus Atzenbeck (at-Large)

Volunteer development has historically been a challenge for SIGWEB. However, the elections that were completed last June showed that this is no longer a serious issue. The nominating committee easily found two solid candidates for each of the three offices and elections proceeded smoothly. Further, we have new volunteers handling regular columns in the newsletter, and increasing numbers of people working around the publicity/social media area. We are always on the lookout for newsletter contributors and we are still looking for a Membership Co-ordinator to chase lapsed memberships and promote the SIG into getting more (see later).

2.    FY 2012 TECHNICAL MEETINGS AND AWARDS

The technical meetings sponsored by SIGWEB were:

  • ACM Symposium on Document Engineering (DocEng) 2011 – held in September 2011 in Mountain View, CA, USA.
  • ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management 2011 – held in October 2011 in Glasgow, UK.
  • ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM 2012) – held February 2012 in Seattle, WA, USA.
  • ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL 2012) – held June 2012 in Washington, DC, USA.
  • ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia (HT 2012) – held June 2012 in Milwaukee, WI, USA.
  • ACM International Web Science Conference (WebSci 2012) – held June 2012 in Evanston, IL, USA.

The awards presented by SIGWEB in FY 2012 were:

  • The Douglas C. Engelbart Best Paper Award for 2012 (HT 2012). To Be Announced
  • The Theodor Holm Nelson Newcomer Award for 2012 (HT 2012). To Be Announced
  • The Vannevar Bush Award for 2012 (JCDL 2012). To Be Announced
  • The DocEng Best Paper Award for 2011 (DocEng 2011). Niranjan Damera-Venkata, Jose ́ Bento and Eamonn O’Brien-Strain for ‘Probabilistic Document Model for Automated Document Composition’ – http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2034691.2034695.

3. PARTNERSHIPS

SIGWEB shares sponsorship of three conferences: JCDL is co-sponsored with SIGIR and the IEEE TCDL; CIKM is co-sponsored with SIGIR; and WSDM is co-sponsored with SIGIR, SIGKDD, and SIGMOD. Also, while the WebSci conference series is entirely sponsored by SIGWEB, it is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding with the Web Science Trust and its steering committee includes a representative from the International Communications Association.

4. FINANCES

SIGWEB’s finances are stable and strong. The SIG’s fund balance stands at over $560,000. This is a $58,000 increase from the preceding year, and we now have funds which are sub- stantially higher than several years ago. The fund balance is more than adequate to support SIGWEB’s planned activities under ACM’s formula. Indeed, SIGWEB’s conferences have generally been making profits and in some cases have made large profits. However, in the past year some very small losses were made. SIGWEB runs a surplus on its basic operational expenses, largely due to Digital Library income. In the last three years, the SIG has initiated a system of student travel awards, paid out of the operational budget (or the fund balance, depending on your viewpoint) and this substantial new expense has reduced the operational surplus.

5. MEMBERS

In June 2012, SIGWEB had 535 members (416 professional, 41 student, and 75 affiliate). This is about the same as that in June 2011. Previous membership totals were:
June 2012:. 535 (Provisional) June 2011:. 555 June 2010:. 666 June 2009:. 699
June 2008:. 644 June 2007:. 534
Clearly, membership has fallen back to the levels of June 2007. The reasons are not clear. The current best guess is that the SIG has not been as efficient in processing the free memberships given to attendees of 100%-sponsored events as we were in 2008 and 2009.
It is worth mentioning SIGWEB’s system of free memberships for conference attendees, because it is a topic of some controversy in ACM SIG circles. Clearly, giving away memberships can increase membership totals. However, the additional members are less ‘sticky’ because they haven’t decided to join on their own. As a result, membership totals can be more variable. SIGWEB chooses to offer free memberships because it appears to us to be a meaningful benefit to our community. Much of SIGWEB’s active conference attendance comes from Europe. European academics, in general, are not allowed to pay for society memberships from university funds, even when doing so would reduce the total cost of attending a conference.
One argument is that attending a SIGWEB conference MEANS that attendees are de-facto SIGWEB Members – so let’s acknowledge this with a membership; the contrary argument is that we lose direct funding. If no one paid we would lose $15,000 pa. We are still discussing the ideas of: No conference memberships; memberships free to conference attendees; Additional conference class’ (ACM Member Early-Bird + ACM Membership) but this could be dangerous as we may then not get any Non-ACM Members (which make the conference more money); or Attendees, paying Non-Member fees, get the membership included after they have paid.
So, the SIGWEB Exec Comm believes that the SIG can support its natural members by giving them memberships automatically when they attend conferences that only SIGWEB sponsors, but there is still some discussion to be had around how this is accomplished.

6. COMMUNITY

In June 2011, SIGWEB signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the Web Science Trust establishing SIGWEB sponsorship of the International Web Science Conference. The agreement sets up a trial period through 2013. The SIGWEB Exec Comm is very pleased with this expansion of SIGWEBs conference offerings. The WebSci conference is very much in SIGWEBs tradition of interdisciplinary events, since it brings together computer scientists with social scientists and other scholars interested in the Webs impact on society and human life.
In addition, SIGWEB sponsors or co-sponsors the ACM Hypertext Conference (HT), ACM Symposium on Document Engineering (DocEng), ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL), ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM), and ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM). We also hold in-cooperation and sponsorship agreements and provide other support for several related conferences, symposia, and workshops (including a five year agreement with the Web4All conference). Finally we sponsor or co-sponsor the Douglas C. Engelbart Best Paper Award, Theodore H. Nelson Newcomer Award, Vannevar Bush Best Paper Award, and the SIGWEB DocEng Best Paper Award. By supporting the community, SIGWEB feels it is performing a vital role in encouraging up and coming research areas and agendas which may well be beneficial to both SIGWEB and the wider community in the future. Indeed, we also have a program to confer small grants to new conference and workshop initiatives – the first being the Social Network Working Group.

7. CONCLUSION

SIGWEB has a cross disciplinary (inter disciplinary) stable of conferences. There were some conference losses last year – but these are being more closely scrutinised this year. We see a slightly reduced membership – as no conference memberships have been processed over the last year or so. We see a moderate funds increase. However, we also see the beginnings of an expected bounce back in membership this year. This means that SIGWEB has successfully expanded its range of conference sponsorships. SIGWEB is also working hard on membership and volunteer development. SIGWEB is financially healthy and has solid leadership.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Id like to thank Ethan Munson and Irene Frawley for some of the text, facts, and figures for this article.

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