Monthly Archives: April 2006

Nick Randolph on the ACS!

Nick Randolph is a friend of mine and an active member of the ACS. He took the time to respond to my recent post on the Australian Computer Society (it was also in response to this other post of mine). Since Nick didn’t post them on his blog (I wish you did Nick . . .) I’ll just try and recap his points here as best I can:

  • Unlike me he does want a professional society.
  • He doesn’t believe that entry requirements should be limited to tertiary education (and points out that isn’t currently the case).
  • He outlines a possible streamlined process for obtaining membership.
  • He would also like $0 membership costs.
  • He points out that the ACS is already influential and doesn’t NEED to grow.
  • He thinks that the ACS may have relied to heavily on the internal certification program to stay relevant.
  • He disagrees with Kevin Daly and I about IT being a trade and that he believes we will see divergence between those practicing IT as a trade and those practicing IT as a profession (but also points out that this is independent of his comments on the ACS).

Thanks for taking the time to reply Nick, you should post this stuff on your blog though, it makes you more linkable. I’m going to more or less try and tackle your points but more in the hope that it’ll spin of some more discussion – besides, I have a brand new battery in my laptop and a comfy couch.

What does professionalism get you?

What does being recognised as a professional in the ICT business really get you? I guess this is what I really can’t understand. Does it get you some leverage with the policy makers that you wouldn’t get by having a more open membership or is it just the desire to be somehow recognised by your peers?

I can tell you now Nick, that the reason that I recognise you and respect your skills has nothing to do with your ACS membership, it has to do with the passion you show for the technology that you work with and your dedication to building technical communities – open technical communities like the usergroup over there in Perth.

Perhaps the only thing I can really get about the whole professionalism thing is having a code of ethics – but if thats all it is then point me to the holy list and if I agree with them then I’ll sign something saying that I do, and that I’ll conduct myself according to them.

Tertiary Education

I have to admit that I have to stop myself laughing out loud when someone recites to me the virtues of a tertiary education, particularly in computer science (I know you didn’t Nick, but I still want to tell this story).

Believe it or not I do not have a university degree in anything, I’ve tried a couple of times – first when I left school, and later via distance education. The first time around I left and resume a practical hands on role in the field (it seemed more relevant to me at the time) and the second time I got disgusted with the curriculum.

Of course people have often told me (as you did Nick) that “University is about learning how to think” – and by that I figure they are talking about the ability to critically analyse and react accordingly.

Well – when I was at university for the second time around I was working on a submission for marking that required me to submit a document showed a manual desk check of a relatively simple selection of code. I did the excercise but I started a discussion on one of the newsgroups attached to the module and asked what the purpose of the excercise was.

Right on queue the lecturer came back and said that the purpose of the excercise is to verify that the code that was written is correct. I was baffled – I commented that most modern development platforms include an integrated debugger which would make this process much much faster and quite frankly – less error prone, which would seem to assist the stated objective.

To that the lecturer responded that no debugger existed for the pseudo code that we were executing. Its a good point, but in the real world the development platform is incumbent or selected through a vendor selection process long before the algorithms are developed – and even in scientific computing a favourite language is selected.

I pointed the above out to the lecturer and the response was basically – well, you are going to have to do it that way or I’ll fail the excercise. I guess I wasn’t learning to think the way they wanted me to . . .

ACS doesn’t need to grow to gain influence?

“There is no such thing as a contradiction, if you should find one, check your premises” – Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

Thats a quote from Atlas Shrugged (as indicated) which basically says that if you encounter a contradiction something that you have taken to be true is not true and you should “check your premises”.

I thought the whole point of this discussion was that the ACS needs to grow its membership in order to stay relevant by influencing the policy makers here in Australia. Why would you even bother trying to broaden the membership base if there was no need – it sounds like a monumental waste of money and effort, and the current ACS members must be really scratching their heads – but there not.

The current drives for membership aren’t just to get funds to support a big geeky party at the end of the year, they are to fund the actiivities associated with lobbying to the government and industry about the issues that the organisation believes in.

Its also true (from what I understand) that the ACS membership is aging (faster than the Australian population) which would seem to indicate that the membership will be moving into decline – when that happens so will the influence that the ACS can apply. It occurs to me that the ACS needs to grow its membership just to survive.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to respond Nick, I think by airing this issues people will come to understand more what the ACS is about, and maybe the ACS will come to understand more about what the majority working in the ICT industry want from them in order to become members.

Philip Argy joins the conversation – almost :)

I’d like to thank Philip Argy for taking the time to respond to my blog post about his session at Code Camp Oz just passed. Just to summarise Philip’s key points:

  • ACP told ACS they would never be admitted as an official professionl unless an entry threshold was set.
  • ACS believes the benefits of being recognised as a profession outweighs the disadvantages of being less than inclusive – but the decision was not taken lightly.
  • One of the reasons for the membership fee is to support members in remote areas and there is no government funding or corporate donations.
  • The membership fees are less than half of other professional societies and benefits of membership more than pay for themselves (aside: if thats the case, doesn’t that constitute a donation from external organisations that provide those benefits?).

The first things that I need to say to you Phil is that you really need to get a blog (and publish to it). You can set up a blog very easily at any of these fine online establishments:

Now – our friends at Microsoft would like you to choose MSN Spaces, but between you and I Blogger or TypePad is the way to go (with Blogger having the slight edge). If none of those options suit you then you could get a blog setup at something like using a blogging platform like Community Server. Either way – if you don’t have the time to jump through the hoops, let me know, I’ll help you get started.

But why do I want you to blog in the first place? Well – I want you to join this great big online discussion happening in the world today. To make it easier, think of it as a two-way press release where the ACS can throw some ideas out there and the world can respond via comments and trackbacks. I think that it will enable you to:

  • Reach thought leaders in the Australian ICT sector. Many bloggers are great communicators and influencers, you are going to need these people to evangelise the ACS – once you answer their tough questions of course.
  • Let people know who you really are. To be honest, in the communities that I hang with, you have a bit of an image problem. In fact when we scheduled your talk one developer called me up specifically and chewed my ear off for about you and the ACS for about half an hour – I was going to suggest that you wear a bullet proof vest on stage!
  • Quote an easier to remember URL than your Mallesons Stephen Jaques bio page. Do you type that in everytime you respond to a blog post (or was this your first)?
  • Have little tirades like this one.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I want to look back at what I consider to be one of the key points you made.

Membership to Professions Australia vs. Open Membership

During your talk you mentioned that the government is basically just looking at voter numbers when it comes to policy making. I don’t know if that was just a throw away comment or not _but_ if its true then restricting membership based on Professions Australia requirements just doesn’t make sense.

Professions Australia may represent over 400,000 individual professionals but how often do these professionals vote together? What it really represents is around 2% of the Australian voter population – but its worse, because the goals of the those professions aren’t aligned that 2% is actually further fractured on a great many issues.

My point – why would the ACS limit their membership (severely) to join them?

The Come As You Are Approach

There is nothing more representative of the ICT industry than those who work in the ICT industry. Interestingly – by the ACP definition, most of these people are not professionals, yet like Lawyers and Accountants, Australia has come to rely upon them. We may not be professionals – but maybe we are something else? Rather than try and bash the industry into a hole that it doesn’t fit, lets accept that we are different.

Rather than require strict entry requirements build a social networking web-site which allows people to input their personal details and what they consider to be their technical competencies, and like other social networking sites allow others to vouch for the abilities. Hook it into the blogosphere and e-mail discussion lists and allow people to talk about the non-technical ICT subjects like ethics.

Give up on trying to present a unified face to Senator Coonan, instead, build the worlds biggest temperature gauge there the senator can pose questions to the ICT community directly and get a response (for/against/maybe). Don’t try and make the decisions for her, thats her job, just give her the facts.

What about operating costs?

Why don’t you get creative here? What percentage of ICT folks have a mobile phone? I would bet its a pretty high percentage. If you managed to get lots of people signed up to a new come-as-you-are-ACS and gave them the ability to give direct feedback to the Senator I would be that they would vote with their phones – with SMS! If you made it premium SMS then the proceeds could be used to keep the society running (infrastructure, a few perm bods) – I don’t know, its just an idea.

End of Rant

Philip, I am very serious about helping out, but I am interested in helping ACS grow into a society that I would join, at the moment its not and it doesn’t seem to be doing much to change, given the current membership is only around 10,000–12,000, then I may not be in the minority.

The Proposition

The Australian Computer Society has been around since 1966 and its growth _has not_ mirrored the growth of the number of people working within the ICT field. If it was possible to grow that membership to double that size within two years would you take it? Even if it drastically changed the way the ACS operated?

The Denny Family Curse

No, its not one of those “you get a disease and your arms fall off” kinds of curses – that would suck, but its nothing compared to The Denny Family Curse. So how did the Denny’s come to have a curse on them I hear you ask? Well – sit down, drink your slushy and let me tell you.

It all started in 1959 when Danny’s Donuts changed their name to Denny’s Restaurants. Like many curses the Dennys of the time didn’t take it seriously until out of the blue it struck.

You see, for the last couple of months I’ve been getting Technorati search hits on RSS feeds about people called “Mitch” going to restaurants called “Denny’s”. Sure – I get the lions share of hits, but what is the deal with this Mitch guy – why on earth would you go to a Denny’s restaurant anyway?


How to turn off UAP?

So thats how you turn off UAP! I felt dirty even linking to that and Rocky may never forgive me, but then again, Darren did it first! Like Darren I’ll try not to use this, but unfortunately there are going to be times where a developer is going to have to actually work as an administrator.

Sure – you can start up Visual Studio under an administrator account, but one limitation with that is that you can’t drag and drop files from the desktop into Visual Studio (according to Darren – at his Vista session at Code Camp Oz 2006).

Anyway – since I know I am going to need this someday so I thought I would up the GoogleJuice on those posts!

Pack your bags for TechEd 2006 (in Australia!)

Michael Kleef has blogged about the registration for TechEd 2006 Australia now being live – cool! The site looks pretty schmick with its glassy look and feel (although the the trained eye can spot a few reflection mistakes).

If you are wondering whats going to be on the agenda this year take a look at this category feed on Kleefy’s blog. I think with it being in Sydney this year even more people may make it to the event.

See you there!

Installing Windows Vista 5365

I’m not sure how much I can talk about this but since Sam has already blurted it out I figure its OK for me to talk a little bit about it as well (queue nasty e-mail from Microsoft Legal).

Anyway, I’m installing Windows Vista 5365, although in my case I am dropping it down onto a Virtual PC configuration. So far so good. There have been some screenshots of this build posted here.

Please don’t make “Windows PowerShell” the official codename for Monad.

This is terrible. And there are lots of reasons why if you sit down and read the comments you’ll find lots of reasons why, but here is my number one reason.

  • PowerShell = PS = 204,000,000 irrelevant hits on Google.

Monad obviously had issues with leading character substitution but at least it was largely searchable. MSH wasn’t two bad, but it is also a segment from a HL7 formatted message which made it near useless for searches.

This is a call to arms, bloggers unite and let Microsoft know that they need to go back to the drawing board on this one.