XIII.2 March + April 2006
Page: 56
Digital Citation

Volunteers for ACM/SIGCHI

Jonathan Arnowitz, Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson

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With another CHI conference upon us, the editors would like to pause and salute the people who make the conference possible: volunteers. The necessity of volunteers is true for every ACM conference, whether it is CHI, DUX, CSCW, UIST, or one of the many events that ACM cosponsors with other societies. Regardless of how we may feel about the individual conferences themselves (they all cater to different groups), the volunteers of these conferences are worthy of our unqualified rave. To pay for professional services instead of using a devoted and talented team of volunteers would put the conference fees at ten to 20 times the current rates. Clearly that's not going to attract many attendees and bars entry to any students and attendees from developing countries.

Volunteers do everything from managing the conference organization to reviewing submissions. Regardless of the scope of effort, the volunteer is key. The conference managers are truly an inspiration to us all; they sacrifice over a year of their time and effort for a cause they believe in passionately: making technology accessible for everyone. They are responsible for setting a vision for their areas and seeing it realized.

Reviewers are subject-matter experts who dedicate themselves to making sure the content of the conference is worthy of our attention. They face difficult challenges, reviewing for multiple audiences: academics, practitioners, researchers, designers, software engineers, usability engineers, students, consultants, etc. Without their efforts, the content of SIGCHI's archives would not be among the download leaders in ACM's Digital Library.

Herein lies the most vulnerable aspect of the conference: Volunteers are volunteers. They do this because they believe in it. It is important that both ACM and SIGCHI do everything in their power to ensure they still have an organization and profession they believe in.

Sure, volunteers need to be rewarded: Recognition and some acknowledgements are essential for volunteer retention. However, a far greater problem would be to lose the community's respect for SIGCHI and its conferences. Volunteers need to feel involved—so help them figure out how! Conference attendees need to talk directly to conference organizers and other volunteers—they're very approachable! We need new volunteers to continually step forward and take on the next crazy challenges, just because they care—and they can.

So step up! We've had a few ideas in mind...—<eic>

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