Words Both Kind and contrary
FOR THE FIRST time in many,
many years I found Commu-
nications (July 2008) both
friendly to the reader and use-
ful. Over the years, the physi-
cal form and font of the issues were
very unfriendly, let alone the content,
which was quite rarified. Not this latest
issue. The redesign makes the physical
attributes—paper (non-glossy, yeah!),
layout, and font very approachable.
And the content is just great. Real con-
crete stuff to learn and use!
Makes me happy to have persevered
as a member during the past 10 years!
Deepak Kenchammana, san Jose, Ca
Thanks for the good work in revising
Communications for readability and at-
tractiveness. The new online format is
very compelling as well. Readability for
me is way up, and I like the catchy use
alex Lancaster, arlington, va
I don’t have time to adequately express
my thoughts on the new design for
Communications. About all I can say is,
“Wow, I am impressed!” The content is
so rich. Definitely a better magazine.
David Brown, denver, Pa
I received my print copy of the July
Communications and wanted to let
Coming Next Month in
in the Enterprise
Design and Code Reviews
in the Internet Age
Beyond Google: Automated
Question Answering on the Web
How Do I Model State?
Plus the latest news on spectral
graph theory, video encoding, and
you know how much I dislike the new
three-column layout and reduced font
size. I have been a member of ACM for
over 25 years and have always enjoyed
thumbing though every issue of Com-
munications, reading articles here and
there. Trying to read the new version
was not enjoyable.
Has your design team forgotten that
a lot of us ACM members are in our 50s,
60s, and 70s, and can’t comfortably
read small, wedged-together print?
Judy Walters, naperville, il
moved). Nothing should be assumed in
advance to be reinforcing or punishing.
Determining which is which is always
an empirical issue. Only by studying
how users actually respond to feedback
from the interface can system develop-
ers truly understand how the interface
affects their behavior. Otherwise, like
a school principal wondering why stu-
dents sent regularly to the “office” for
“punishment” continue to misbehave,
they will be left scratching their heads.
timothy Dunnigan, san diego, Ca
catalan is a Different Latin Language
I found it astonishing that the article
“Web Searching in a Multilingual
World” by Wingyan Chung (May 2008)
included (in Table 2) the following
claim: “Catalan (another version of
Spanish) is widely used as well.” A language spoken in the same country as
another language is not necessarily “a
version” of the other language. Catalan
is, like French, Spanish, and Italian, a
“different” Latin language, spoken not
only in Spain but also in France and Andorra where it is the official language.
alberto Gonzalez tellez,
Thanks to Dunnigan for the correction. The
distinction simply slipped my mind.
Ryan West, round rock, tX
Behavior Reinforcement is
an empirical issue
Although the concepts were presented
correctly in the section called “
Feedback and learning from security-related
decisions” in Ryan West’s article “The
Psychology of Security” (Apr. 2008), the
definitions were incorrect. Reinforcements, both positive and negative, motivate behavior. The nagging messages
regarding, say, Windows update availability can be seen as negative reinforcement. Users then update the operating system, and the message goes
away. The same users would be more
likely to update in the future if the message itself were, indeed, reinforcing.
Consequences that inhibit certain
behavior are punishments, either
positive (something “good” happens)
or negative (something “bad” is re-
the Price of eternal Vigilance
Essentially the same quote was attributed to two different people, one
in an article, the other in a column,
in the same issue (Mar. 2008). The article “The Illusion of Security” by David
Wright et al. ended with: “As Thomas
Jefferson said, ‘The price of freedom is
eternal vigilance.’” The “Inside Risks”
column by Xiaming Lu and George Le-din, Jr., began with: “When Wendell
Phillips...told a Boston audience in
1852 that ‘Eternal vigilance is the price
A bit of Google-sleuthing found that
although the quote is sometimes attributed to Jefferson, Tom Paine, and
Patrick Henry, its first documented
use was probably by Phillips (Bartleby.
com’s Dictionary of Quotations, www.
Further muddying the issue, wiki-quote.org ( en.wikiquote.org/wiki/
Leonard_H._Courtney) claims the
quote originated with Leonard Henry
Courtney (1832–1918), a British baron,
politician, and statistician.
Jeff Johnson, san Francisco
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