Ralph Anzarouth is Marketing Manager at RSIP Vision and also the Editor of Computer Vision News, the magazine of the algorithm community. He graduated with an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainebleau.
Interview by Ruby Shamir.
Thank you, Ralph, for agreeing to interview with me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. Personally, I think that the newsletter published by RSIP Vision is a great contribution to the community. I think it will be interesting for our readers to learn about you and RSIP Vision and how Computer Vision News actually started.
Thank you very much for inviting me. It’s very satisfying to know that people appreciate our work.
I think it fills a space that was needed. What were your thoughts when you created the newsletter?
“The idea was to fill the void.”
The words that you just used “fill a space” explain the reason why we started, when we started. I began working as the marketing manager for RSIP Vision two years ago, coming from another field. The first question that I asked my CEO Ron Soferman was about magazines in this business in which you generally advertise. He said: “Listen, there are no computer vision magazines in the way that you intend. There is no option to advertise in any magazines the way that you have done before.” You might think that these were bad news for me. It’s exactly the contrary. When there is a void, the marketing guy wants to fill it. So I said: “If there’s no such magazine, I will do it!” I was not joking. Three months later, we published the first issue of Computer Vision News. The idea was to fill the void: on one side, academic journals, which are very technical and focused – they are very precious for what they do; on the other side, hardware commercial magazines, with all kinds of articles and ads about devices. In the middle, there was a void. We decided to fill that void.
I read that there were almost one million readers in the last year.
Almost one million page views, and thousands of readers every month.
In respect to the size of the community, it is a significant portion.
“When I talk to scientists about their work, I notice very often that they have exceptionally interesting content in their mind, but they do not communicate it well enough.”
I agree with you. When, after a couple of months, we reached 400 subscribers, we knew that we were proceeding in the right direction. The community, as you say, is not massive. The fact that people decided to fill in a form, to receive this magazine for free every month in their mailbox, was quite flattering. Of course, readership is now much larger, but the first couple of issues did not have more than a few hundred readers. Still, for us it was enough to start. We saw that our concept was so well-received that we decided to add a second set of publications: the daily magazines of the conferences. We started with the CVPR Daily in Las Vegas. Then we went on with the ECCV Daily. Then the MICCAI Daily. Then the CARS Daily and ICCV Daily. So we have a full series of major conferences that decided to partner with RSIP Vision to produce and circulate great communication in our field.
We want our community to benefit from its own scientific content. In fact, our magazines do not talk about our company. Our focus is not inside. Our focus is actually outside, to share information coming the community. When I talk to scientists about their work, I notice very often that they have exceptionally interesting content in their mind, but they do not communicate it well enough. If they present a poster at CVPR, maybe 50 people will take the time to learn about it. But if I write about it on Computer Vision News or on the CVPR Daily, thousands of people will learn about that work. You guys work so hard and for me it’s a pity to waste all of that knowledge and all of that precious content. I publish it in a magazine because I admire so much what you scientists do. In this way, people can read it not only when I send it out, but also in our archives much later. They “Google” something, and Google shows them an article which I wrote some time ago about somebody’s work. Maybe another scientist on the other side of the world will learn about that paper and say: “Hey, here is an idea for me. I want to work in that direction.” That’s what is behind our thought.
There is a plan, and then there is the “real life”, which is always different. Can you tell us about the first days of the magazine?
I was sure that the idea was good. Since I was new in this market, I didn’t know any scientist to provide the content. I had to go out and say: “Hey, I’m a guy from a software house who is making a magazine. I cannot show you a previous copy of anything. Please let me interview you.” I was lucky enough to find people who cooperated. Of course, I met some rejections. Somebody said: “We are going to work with you when you become a famous, important magazine in our community, but now we don’t care.” It hurt a lot, I have to say, because I’m doing something for free for the benefit of the community. Computer Vision News is a generous gift that my boss, Ron Soferman, gives to the community, and it has no paid advertising. It’s time and effort and energy that we devote to this, only for the benefit of our colleagues. I think that we deserved to be encouraged and I was very lucky because the huge majority of the people that I contacted were eager to help. I could not write by myself about that research, that paper, that application, these codes… I needed content from you guys. I found an overwhelming majority of people who agreed to contribute with their science. This says a lot about the quality of this community. I think that the tiny minority who rejected us did it for the wrong reasons. It hurt a bit, but the success we had later on among the community was such a big satisfaction that I forgot about them until your question.
Can you share how these publications affect RSIP Vision?
Maybe here is the right place to say that we are not a publishing house, but a software company. We do custom outsourcing algorithms for the industry, for whoever needs consulting and expertise in deep learning, computer vision, artificial intelligence, and image processing, especially in the medical field R&D. Knowing what people do is very important for us. We get ideas. We cooperate. We make new research together with hospitals, for instance. Always being more involved with our community is the DNA of our company. On the other hand, these publications take away a big chunk of the marketing manager’s time while, of course, the company would benefit if that time was spent in the field doing business. Luckily enough, our company is successful and our CEO is very generous, so he agrees with it. We also feel that it gives us a lot because we learn from you, scientists and researchers. It is so powerful and so satisfactory that I personally do it with much pleasure and passion.
I can tell you that it is totally reflected in the journal.
Well, thank you very much. That’s lovely to say so.
Do you see any responses from other companies that are interested in joining your efforts?
I have had several communities who asked for advice for their communications. My job is to communicate and I believe I personally understand a bit about mass communication. I try to bring that expertise to my company and to my community. I did it before RSIP Vision, and I do it here. Some people noticed it and asked for our help. When I am asked to give advice to other communities to establish a visible communication, I do so very willingly. I was asked recently to join the Publications & Publicity Committee at IAPR which is the International Association for Pattern Recognition. The idea is that I should give some hints to improve the communication of the association, and I am very happy to do it. That’s the example that comes first to my mind.
Maybe you can share some interesting feedback that you have received from the community.
Sometimes it’s quite funny. You find yourself in some conference, and you say your name, and nobody knows it. Than you say the name of your company, the name of your magazine, and maybe not everyone connects all of this together. Then you say, “You know the daily magazine of this conference?” “Ah, yes of course I know! I read it. I receive it by email. I know what that is.” That’s quite funny when your work is more famous than you. I think that means that what you do is good.
People read and follow you. That’s surely a good sign. Do you remember some feedback that you got?
Last October in Venice I did a daily magazine at ICCV, the International Conference of Computer Vision. The general chair, Marcello Pelillo told me something like “I like very much what you do because you show the human aspect of our work.” I had been doing these magazines for two years without seeing it from that angle. I cannot think of a better answer to your question.
That’s exactly what I think.
That was the feedback that I needed. I learned a lot from that feedback about my work. I learned what value is brought to scientists by these magazines.
Also, for scientists going to conferences, everybody looks so smart. Honestly, it requires some effort to deeply understand a paper in conference. If I go from poster to poster, I need five minutes to really understand what’s new and what’s happening there. With a magazine, in five minutes, I can read about ten projects.
The point is, not being a scientist myself, I have to make an effort to understand things. If I understand something and I write about it, it means that any scientist can understand it without much effort. We are not into the popularization of science, since our target audience is only scientists from the computer vision and medical imaging area. This is clear, but we certainly make things more accessible in terms of time and accessibility of the information.
Can you tell us any interesting anecdotes?
You know that we have a series about women in science. In every magazine, I interview a different woman to help compensate the gender imbalance in our community. We give the microphone to female scientists. They can inspire other female scholars and show that others had to overcome similar difficulties. It serves as a role model to younger female scientists. After I did that for one year, somebody whom I didn’t know told me at CVPR2017: “Hey, I know you! You make the magazine that I read every month.” “Ah, nice, what do you think about it?” He told me the exact thing that I needed: “When you interview these ladies, instead of making them whine about prejudice and harassment or whatever, tell us about their work. The main part of your interview should be about their work, and after that ask them what it is to be a female scientist. We will learn a lot from it.” This is exactly the advice I wanted. I tried it a few times and now I focus mainly on their work. Let’s show how good they are.
What feedback did you get from the women?
Actually, those I heard from were much happier. They said: “I want to show my work. I want to be visible because of my work, and not only because I am a woman.”
What are your plans for the future? You have the Dailies now. You have the Computer Vision News magazine. What’s next?
What’s next might disappoint you a little bit, but I hope not. We could make more partnerships with more conferences, but the problem is very simple: we are a software company. I do not want to transform my company into a publishing house! So I had to turn down offers which were very sweet for us. We are not a publishing house. We have to make our living too.
This is for sure.
We are very glad to give this contribution and help scientists understand that part of their work is the time it takes to communicate your findings to other people. You have to include communications into your time-budget. It must be there. Then your work can circulate and inspire others. I admire what you guys do at ISCAS and other conferences… at the last CARS I interviewed Pierre Jannin, who is the leader of your organization: I admire his and all of other scientists’ work very much. I think that many of you have to allocate time to communicate about it, and to do it in such a form that other people might have access to it. I think that what you do shines, but you must show that it shines. You must show it to the world