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Issue No. 05 - Sept.-Oct. (2012 vol. 29)
ISSN: 0740-7459
pp: 2-5
Forrest Shull , Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering
HAVING JUST RETURNED from the annual meeting of the IEEE Software boards, I thought that this would be an opportune issue in which to do something a little different: rather than use this space to discuss a technical issue, I'd like to share with you some of the priorities and plans we've been making to guide the next year's work on this magazine. We would love to get feedback on how well these match the priorities and interests of our readers, so please do feel free to write me with your reactions, comments, and suggestions.
First, let me give you a little context on the board meeting itself: this is the annual face-to-face meeting of the many volunteers who put energy, creativity, and effort into the magazine. It's our chance to review together the prior year and set the direction for the one coming. The attendees include me, members of our industry advisory board, the associate editors in chief who handle the peer review process in their areas of expertise, and the department editors who produce the columns that appear in each issue.
Transforming How Readers Get Information
As has been the case for the past several years, the data continue to show huge changes in the way that readers access our content: this last year continued a trend in which we see sharp increases in the number of electronic downloads of our content through the digital library, the number of hits on our Computing Now pages, and the number of subscribers to our digital edition. A more recent trend is that we're also reaching more people than ever through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
We've been very gratified to see the substantial increases in all of those metrics, and will continue to work on increasing our reach in these media. Our digital edition ( has been particularly important in giving us an accessible way for people to reach our content in formats that might be more convenient for them and that work well with tablets, iPads, and the like. At the same time, we feel it's important that print not go away because so many readers have let us know that they still find it convenient to browse through the physical magazine, especially on travel.
Successes in the digital arena bring further concerns of their own, of course. For example, one thing that we discussed extensively is what it means to have more readers accessing our content article by article instead of browsing through each issue as it arrives. No one will argue against the convenience of being able to search and find—electronically—the most relevant content for one's current interest, regardless of when it was actually published. Yet, speaking for myself, I still enjoy the ability to flip through a print magazine because I often stumble across compelling articles in areas that I didn't realize I would find interesting. Our boards are concerned about how we can replicate that sense of serendipitous discovery even as more people access digital articles directly.
An ongoing initiative has been to take advantage of digital media to help more readers reach our content and interact with it in richer ways. One of our first experiments has been to podcast some of our departments ( so that readers can access content in an audio format that they can listen to wherever, not just in print. In addition, we're now managing the very successful Software Engineering Radio podcast, which features in-depth interviews (typically about one hour each) that aim to keep software developers up to date on key technologies. As an inhabitant of Washington, DC, I am forever singing the praises of podcasts—they help me reclaim what would otherwise be wasted time during my Beltway commute each day. Apparently, many of you agree with me on that score, and we've seen the popularity of these podcasts grow.
Based on the enthusiastic discussion at our board meeting, we'll continue these efforts as well as branch out in new directions. One of the highest ranked multimedia options, as reported from this year's reader survey, was interviews with thought leaders in the field. You can look forward to seeing these types of interviews starting soon, now that we have a team of interested volunteers who are already starting to create them. We'll use the resulting audio and video files to lend a new dimension to some of the content in future issues, especially once we roll out the enhanced version of our digital edition later this year, with multimedia embedded into the issue itself.
Continued Outreach
One of my goals as editor in chief has been to find even more ways for IEEE Software to actively engage with the software engineering community. One activity that gives me the most enjoyment is our sponsorship of best paper awards at important research and practitioner conferences. Our board members have been very active this year in serving on selection committees, alongside volunteers from the conference organization committees, to make sure that this is done as transparently and rigorously as possible. The results of our latest efforts are featured in the sidebar to this article. It's extremely gratifying to me and our board members to highlight deserving work being done on problems and in contexts of relevance to practitioners.
But we're never satisfied and are currently looking for additional ways to encourage more regular interactions with the community in general and our readership in particular. If you haven't yet friended us on Facebook ( or followed us on twitter (@ieeesoftware), please take a look at our presence there. I've been very pleased at how our efforts in these areas have picked up over the past year or two, spearheaded by Brian Brannon, who has done a great job in highlighting interesting content and upcoming events. We're looking for more ways to get timely information out on these channels on topics such as upcoming special issues and calls for papers—stay tuned!
We're also trying hard to reach out to geographic areas where we're currently under-represented. Last year, editorial board member Taku Fujii began an effort to get the word out about our content in Japan by posting translated copies of our table of contents, along with short abstracts of the technical articles. If interested, you can see some prior examples here: Such translations rely on volunteers with good language skills who also care about up-to-date technical content, so we're happy to see this Japanese project taking off and gathering additional interest. If you're interested in volunteering for our Japanese translation project or the Chinese one that we hope to launch later this year, please let me know—ditto if you're interested in spearheading such an effort in another language.
Special Issue Topics
A major goal at every board meeting is to produce a short list of our desired special issue topics for the coming year. Not all of these pan out, and sometimes we receive timely proposals that are even more interesting than anything that we had thought up, but this is always a useful exercise for setting future wish list priorities. (If you're interested in submitting a special issue proposal, please visit our author center for instructions:
This year, our short list included topics such as the ones below. Expect these to evolve and become refined as our guest editors start working on how best to turn these into compelling special issues:

    Green software development. This issue plans to focus on topics related to both making software itself greener and making the world greener via software.

    The latest in software language development. Have important new languages been developed and in search of a niche? Are languages that have been around for a while undergoing a revitalization that makes them even more relevant in today's context?

    The user experience. This issue plans to focus on how the design of the user experience can be effectively incorporated into software development practice. It also intends to explore topics such as how organizations can train developers to undertake this task effectively.

    Engineering scalability. In many contexts, software engineers have been able to attack scalability in fairly straightforward ways that often boil down to throwing more hardware at the problem. But what can be done when adding resources is not an option? How do we specify scalability requirements? What about modeling and predicting scalability needs?

    Big data and smart analytics. Industries from transportation to healthcare have an abundance of data. But making meaningful use of it is a challenge. This issue will look at a range of related topics such as software products that incorporate useful data mining techniques and whether there's a crucial skill shortage among developers for related areas of expertise.

    The reflective software engineer. This magazine intends to serve reflective software engineers who care about assessing the latest trends and understanding how new technologies can improve their products. This issue would take a look at what that phrase—reflective software engineers—actually means in practice. How do software developers reflect on their work? What do they do to learn? How do they learn? How can their organizations support that effectively?

What's missing here? If you have a topic or two you're really interested in reading about, let me know. And if you'd like to express your enthusiasm for one of these, be sure to let me know that as well.
The board meeting is an important event for us—software engineering is such a broad and constantly changing field that no one viewpoint or stakeholder could ever be sufficient for covering everything of importance. By having this conversation together, however, we inspire each other and do a better job at covering the landscape. Let your voice be heard as well: feel free to send me your feedback on any of the ideas described here by emailing me at
Forrest Shull is a division director at the Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering in Maryland, a nonprofit research and tech transfer organization, where he leads the Measurement and Knowledge Management Division. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland College Park and editor in chief of IEEE Software. Contact him at
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