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ACM, anyone?

by t'mo (Pilgrim)
on May 03, 2001 at 07:07 UTC ( #77561=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Monks, I was curious if any of you are members of "professional societies" (e.g., ACM, IEEE, etc.), and if so, why did you join? what are the advantages? disadvantages?

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Re: ACM, anyone?
by footpad (Monsignor) on May 03, 2001 at 08:33 UTC

    Well, I'm *not* a member of any societies, tech related or nor--primarily because the ones I know about are a) way over my head (and would therefore be pointless to join unless I wanted to try to pass myself off as more erudite) or b) so amazingly over-priced that an "Average Joe" (like myself and a few other JAPH's) simply can't justify the cost.

    I freely admit that I am not a formally trained coder...that said, ignore me at your peril--for I know how to learn things.


Re: ACM, anyone?
by grinder (Bishop) on May 03, 2001 at 17:46 UTC

    I was an affiliate of both ACM and IEEE-CS. I never saw the value of becoming a fully paid-up member. The fees are really hefty, especially IEEE. It seems to me that you get much more value out of it in the US (like financial services) but no such goodies exist elsewhere on the planet, which makes it less than interesting.

    The ACM rag Communications is quite good, The IEEE rag is so-so (the ones you get by default with the subscription). I've subscribed to half a dozen IEEE-CS journals over the years but found them way too academic and out of touch with the real world. Give me DDJ any day. This year I let my IEEE subscription go. The only thing I really miss is The Annals of the History of Computing which I hold in the highest regard.

    These days I get all my tech current events from the Web. Right here, even, like Tilly's post yesterday pointing to Beating The Averages. I stuck at the ACM for two years, IEEE for maybe six... but when it comes down to it they did nothing for my career nor for my education. I would not recommend them.

    On the other hand, I would be interested to find out what people's opinions are on more specific-interest groups like Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

    g r i n d e r
Re: ACM, anyone?
by larsen (Parson) on May 03, 2001 at 10:51 UTC
    I was a Student Member of ACM for a couple of years, because of my partecipation at the International Collegiate Programming Contest. No disadvantages: I received monthly Communication of the ACM, I had access to the Digital Library, and yet so far I receive proposals of subscriptions by some scientific magazines (in "recognition of my standing in the scientific community" :)) ).

    Update: Well, the last point could be seen as a disadvantage :)

Re: ACM, anyone? (ISOC, CPSR, and some other outfit)
by ybiC (Prior) on May 03, 2001 at 17:06 UTC

      Nice point!

      I don't want to imply that I consider the Monastery to be less valuable than membership in a professional society. Mostly I wanted to get a sample of other's reasons for/against joining a "professional society", as I've recently been thinking of joining the ACM.

      (Note: I am also fortunate to be working for an employer who will reimburse the dues of joining one such group, which frees me of worry about cost.)

Re: ACM, anyone?
by Dominus (Parson) on May 03, 2001 at 20:09 UTC
    Your membership fee for the ACM gets you essentially two things. The big thing it gets you is the privilege of paying more money for SIG membership and access to the ACM digital library. The other thing it gets you is a subscription to Communications of the ACM, which is perfectly awful.

    I joined because I wanted the CACM subscription, but after a year I let it drop, because it has negative value.

    The digital library subscription might be nice, but not for the amount of money it would cost---I think about $1160 per year once you figure in all the fees. Similarly, I might like to be a member of SIGPLAN, but again it would end up costing a lot more than I am willing to pay.

    Mark Dominus
    Perl Paraphernalia

      Dominus wrote:

      ...Communications of the ACM, which is perfectly awful.

      Interesting... That's one of my principal reasons for wanting to join the ACM. Sometimes it seems that at work, there's not as much motivation to to read/learn/explore as at college, for example. I was thinking that CACM would provide good brain food (and grinder seems to like it too, though not as much as DDJ). Apparently you disagree. Why?

        Says t'mo:
        Apparently you disagree. Why?
        It's hard for me to come up with too many concrete examples, because I threw all my issues of the magazine away, and because towards the end I threw it away without reading it. My recollection is that there were a lot of articles that were heavy on buzzwords and short on technical information. One issue I got was entirely devoted to ERP. But there was no explanation of what ERP was. (It turns out that it stands for "Enterprise Resource Planning" and has something to do with inventory control.)

        One day I said to myself "OK, I'm going to sit down and force myself to read one of these articles all the way through, to find out what it's about. But it wasn't about anything; it was just blather. Afterwads it reminded me of that episode in Richard Feynman's memoirs where he's reading some paragraph-long sentence like "The individual member of the social community often receives information via visual, symbolic channels" and he eventually figures out that it means "People read."

        The ERP stuff was unusually heinous, but not out of character with the rest of the magazine. Each month it would arrive and clutter my doorstep with a lot of blah-blah.

        One particularly crapulent article that stands out in my memory was an article about "distance education" which is when people take college courses via video and submit their assignments via email. This is something I am interested in, and I looked forward to the article because it was advertised as having the results of the authors' research into the efficacy of distance education. But when I acutally read the article, it turned out that this so-called 'research paper' contained no actual research whatsoever---they had gone to few undergraduates and asked them whether they thought it had been effective.

        Even when the articles were on topics I found interesting, there usually wasn't much of substance to be found.

        I asked in whether there was something I was missing, and a surprising number of people agreed with me. For example:

        It's no Dr. Dobb's Journal, that's for sure. CACM's current editorial policy seems to me unfocussed, insufficiently technical, and too accepting of inconsequential vague generalizations.
        In my opinion you'd probably be much better off investing in a subscription to Economist magazine.

        Hope this helps.

        Mark Dominus
        Perl Paraphernalia

Re (tilly) 1: ACM, anyone?
by tilly (Archbishop) on May 03, 2001 at 20:08 UTC
    I am not a member of any, but I have been seriously considering joining.

    One piece of feedback that I heard, both good and bad, is that the articles that you see in their journals preceed what you see in industry by 10-15 years on average. This is great because it lets you think about these ideas in advance, and often the concepts can be useful to you. It is horrible because you won't be able to use it directly for years and years.

    There are other benefits. I am undecided at the moment. What I was told by an off and on member is that it is a valuable thing to do, and he encouraged me to at least think about it (this would come out of my pocket) but admitted that his membership is currently lapsed.

    (I am interested in other opinions as well...)

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