Disappointed with the British Computer Society

The British Computer Society (BCS) is supposedly the professional institution in the UK which represents anyone working in the field of Information Technology (IT). I have been an associate member for many years, and most years I consider upgrading my membership to become a full member but have never actually done so. Usually the problem I face is that, despite having worked in software development for at least 15 years, I don’t actually know anyone else in the society to act as my sponsor.

This year, though, I face a different problem – my disappointment with the attitude of the society, particularly as expressed in two recent articles, published on their web site and notified to members via an email “magazine”.

The two articles in question are:

I urge you to read them and make up your own mind.

My problem with both of these articles is that they seem to express a one-sided attitude which I had hoped had been banished from the BCS many years ago.

When I first encountered the BCS (during my university time in the mid 1980s) it was seen as the bastion of IT middle management, and in particular middle management in large corporate environments. There seemed little or no representation of or for the people actually doing the work of producing and maintaining information systems, and an almost pathological ignorance of the concerns of contractors and people working for small businesses.

Over the years, my concerns waned. The society seemed to re-invent itself to become more in-line with its charter and thus more inclusive of software developers and contractors. It still struggled with the idea of small IT businesses, and of small departments or lone IT workers in other organisations, but I had hopes that this would improve, too.

But then I received these two articles, and all my concerns about the emphasis of the society came flooding back. Both articles appear riddled with the view that developers are lazy and selfish creatures who will always choose to produce rubbish unless forced by managers or testers. This is an appalling stereotypical slur, and completely at odds with the stated, inclusive, intent of the society.

I understand that both these articles were published through the society’s “blog” initiative, and thus have not had the editorial oversight that one might expect from a more formal publication. However, this does not exempt them from reflecting on the BCS. Since reading these articles a few days ago I have already had one forwarded to me by a colleague. The damage has been done.

Maybe I won’t be upgrading my membership this year, either.

One Comment

  1. I was a full member of the BCS 5 years ago but let my membership lapse. The main reason was because of their total lack of relevance.

    Just take a look at the list of Special Interest Groups at http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.5878 – six groups dedicated to Health Informatics, one for Fortran, yet nothing for C, C++, Java, Systems Administration (my own area!), Linux, UNIX or Windows. Hardly reflective of modern computing. All the topics seem to focus either on niche-areas (Geospatial, Payroll) or the middle-management topics that you mentioned.

    The growth of the internet has seen the growth of other forums for these conversations to be held and the BCS, being a closed shop, is hardly likely to make any new inroads there because of network effect.

    I’m more likely to become a member of the USENIX SAGE Special Interest Group, because it reflects the industry I work in far better than the BCS does.

    Plus, the BCS Car Insurance policy isn’t anywhere near as low as my current car quote 🙂

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