Distributed Systems Online

Earlier this week I attended the Editorial Board meeting of the IEEE’s first online-only magazine, DS Online.

This is the third year I have attended this annual meeting of editors and volunteers and as ever they were a fun and interesting group of people who are very committed to making this bleeding edge project a success for the IEEE Computer Society. As in my first two years, one of the most fascinating aspects is delving into the inner-workings of the IEEE and the IEEE-CS. Unfortunately as with any large organisation, achieving change, particularly technical change, seems to be something like a black art and it seems odd that something like an online-only magazine so bleeding edge for a computer society. Of course the part of the project that is really bleeding edge is the business model, not the technology, and as a result the technology that runs the site now seems a bit dated compared to the facilities offered by content management systems, and even blogging tools such as wordpress.

Overall, the editorial board were very enthusiastic about my ideas for the site, which included creating some RSS feeds for some of the content and allowing registered users to personalise their view of the site. The plan for discussion boards and allowing slashdot-style comments on stories seems to have disappeared though — people were much more worried about the need for moderating inappropriate (i.e. political) comments than I remember from previous meetings. I’ve never been convinced of the demand for these sorts of services from the IEEE anyway — the sort of content it publishes just doesn’t endear the same sort of debate as the typical slashdot story!

Anyway, how successful I can be at driving major technical change at an organisation as monolithic and remote as the IEEE-CS remains to be seen, but wish me luck!!