What? You want us to be your Dancing Bears?

March 14, 2012

About a 2 min. read

In the most recent issue of ACM Interactions, there was a short article by the ACM CHI Program chair titled “A Cry for More Tech at CHI!”. Since Interaction is not a blog, where you can’t reply, I’m replying here, because the article struck a nerve.

While the column starts well (Let’s get more tech at CHI!), the direction the article heads in at the end isn’t that fruitful.  Here’s my view.

People don’t bring tech to CHI because CHI doesn’t respect tech (in pretty much any form:  novel tech, systems that test new tech, etc)

As a tech-oriented researcher, I can’t easily get papers published at CHI.  I’ve had a few, but those were outliers, and only “squeaked” in.  The metrics CHI reviewers use for tech papers are not appropriate for technology-focused research (where’s the study?  Where’s the killer app for this tech, validated by ethno-whatever studies of some important domain?) so “real” tech papers have such a low chance of acceptance that nobody in the right mind would submit them.

I think the CHI community know and largely accepts this, which is why conferences like UIST were created. Fine.

But, the flip side, the idea that the same folks should bring their demos and show them off, is absurd.

A CHI demo is not refereed, so its not respected by our peers.

Doing a demo at a conference, when you have a paper about the work, is great.  You have a respected contribution, and you are letting folks play with it and try it out.

But just doing a demo at CHI is like paying a ton of money to be a “dancing bear” in a circus.  If the CHI “research” community does not want the work in the papers track (i.e., it’s not good research!), why would technology researchers go to the extreme trouble and** significant expense** of doing a demo at CHI?  The conference is absurdly expensive, and doing a demo requires 2 or 3 people to be there.  If you are going to be there anyway, doing a demo is fine.

It’s much more economical and impactful to go to the conferences that will publish the work, and demo there.    Then post the video to youtube for the folks who don’t  go!

So there you have it.  If you want want technology at CHI, start accepting the work into the papers track, and stop trying to create new venues for those folks to be dancing bears.

What? You want us to be your Dancing Bears? - March 14, 2012 - Blair MacIntyre