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On Communication -- Welcome to the SIGCHI EC Blog (15 May 2005)
One of the reasons that I love the annual CHI Conference is that it is the only time each year that I see so many members of our community. Indeed, even though several of you send me e-mail each week (and I welcome any and all of you to do so--just not all the same week please--at, I hear from more people in one week at CHI than in the rest of the year put together. It can be exhilarating; it can be exhausting; and it can be humiliating. It is particularly humiliating when it takes a community to tell you what you've been doing wrong.

What have I, as SIGCHI's President, and the rest of our leadership been doing wrong? We've been doing a lousy job communicating with you, our members. As I heard loud and clear at CHI, you care. You entrust the organization into the hands of volunteers, but you want--and indeed deserve--to be kept in the loop as we explore challenges and propose changes. Clearly you're right; and in our zeal to fix things that were broken, and to make things better, we were wrong not to slow down and engage the community clearly and consistently.

This message is half mea culpa and half steps towards fixing the problem.

The mea culpa is real. I admit it; I screwed up. Task force reports buried in minutes and vague references to people on a web site aren't real communication. This hit home hardest when, at our annual business meeting, it became clear that lots of people were upset by what they'd heard was happening to the CHI conference, but by the time the conference plans were fully presented, much (though not all) of that concern evaporated. In the absence of clear communication, rumors naturally tend towards the worst-case scenario, and instead of enlisting the community to help make what I believe to be substantial improvements to the conference, we scared them into defending the status quo against an unknown but unwelcome change.

The fix is harder, but here are the first steps. This blog is a test. My goal is to personally write something here at least once a month, and to ask other members of SIGCHI's EC to post as well, so that we have something here at least every other week. More often when we're facing key decisions. Every experiment needs a metric for evaluation; this one will be evaluated by our success in getting people to read this blog, and more important to post comments or e-mail us with feedback. Over the next year, we will find out whether this is an effective way to get ideas out to the community quickly, before they're fully thought through, so we can have the benefit of the community's input.
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