I had the opportunity recently to interact with the British Computer Society (BCS). It reminded me strongly why I don't want to join them.
Last night, I attended the BCS Event "Are You Social or Anti-Social?". (The fact that I can't link directly to the event should already show you the BCS's attitude to good web-keeping).
Before I get on to the even itself, I'd like to go through a little history.
10 years ago(!), when I was at university, we had a talk from the BCS. The number one question we all had was "What are the benefits?" Never mind the long, illustrious history - do I get discounts like my NUS card, or something better.
We never got a straight answer. There were vague mumblings about being part of a wider community, being able to represent our views to government, etc. Nothing tangible. Nothing useful.
I can't think of anything that the BCS do. I've barely heard of them in the news for the last decade. I've been working in the high-tech sector my whole adult life - I don't think I ever came across a CV which mentioned them.
So, to echo your question - what do they do? If whatever it happens to be is going well, they shouldn't change and leave me in my ignorance. Considering how they're currently perceived, I think they do need urgent change.
Perhaps they could start by sponsoring a BarCamp!
What's The Date?
Here's the current footer of the BCS Website.
This raises several questions.
- Has the content on the site really stayed static for around 2 years?
- Does their webmaster not know about PHP's getdate() functionality?
- Surely, as computer professionals, they should have a continuing project plan in place to update the footer once a year.
- Finally, does no one at the BCS use their own site? Surely someone must have noticed it during 2010.
Validating Email Addresses
Checking an email address for validity is a complex business - yet one that is increasingly common. One would expect the BCS to provide leadership in this area - or at least follow best practice.
When I went to register for one of their events, I was told that my email address was invalid. Why? Because it ended .mobi.
In the old days, you could reasonably assume that all email addresses ended with a two or three character tld. That's not the case today. The canonical list of tlds show at least 10 which are longer than three caracters - that's before we even consider the non-English tlds.
In fairness, once I emailed them, this problem seems to have been corrected.
Securing the WiFi
I'll write up my notes from the event later - but here's the first thing I noticed when I got to the BCS building.
Like any geek, I scan for WiFi in order to get my fix. This is the list of WiFi access points in the BCS.
Now, I realise that computing isn't solely confined to web pages and Internet hotspots - but I think that's a pretty big part of it. Overall, it doesn't give me much faith in the BCS as an organisation.
Where The BCS Is Today
I did a quick search of BBC News for mentions of the BCS. The results are disappointing. As are the search results from The Register. I realise that this isn't an extensive survey - but for an organisation which is meant to represent the computing society to the world it's inexcusable.
I chatted to several BCS members at the event. I asked each of them the same question - "What are the benefits of joining the BCS?"
I got a variety of answers - mostly around networking (ironic as it was an event about social media) and a few comments around putting letters after your name (is anyone impressed by that?).
So, my question to you, gentle reader, is what's the point of joining the BCS? Answers in the comments please.